felipe oliveira baptista
Felipe Oliveira Baptista during fittings for his spring show

My mother first gave me a Lacoste polo at eight, it was the bourgeois thing to do,”

Felipe Oliveira Baptista, director of the storied sportswear brand rooted in the genteel pastimes of tennis and golf (founder René Lacoste and his wife, Simone, were accomplished athletes).

The company’s status-symbol crocodiles on pastel polos once epitomized preppy chic, but Baptista, with his debut spring collection, has elevated that iconicism for a new generation.

It was about twisting signature pieces, but staying practical,” he explains. Which meant giving trademark piqués a body-clingin wink, and re-imagining rugby shirts into cutout dresses that might distract a potential opponent. But these designs were never intended for competition; Baptista simply “wanted to create an everyday wardrobe.”

Combining function and sport comes easily to the portuguese-bred, Paris-based Baptista, who designed for Max Mara before consulting for Nike and setting up his directional eight-year-old, self-titled line.

As a former golfer and wakeboarder himself, this designer understands that exercise is a lifestyle, reflected in our ever more casual wardrobes.

Take the golf bag of scion Catherine Lacoste, who won the 1967 U.S. Open championship in the sport: “It was so modern that I thought, This is it!” says Baptista, who used its curvilinear lines and gold piping on cathy totes and heels, which, collaged in ocher, cobalt, and lipstick red, allude to amped-up sneakers.

In essence, Baptista has infused Lacoste with érotisme–aligning the brand with the athletic mood on spring’s runways (Givenchy and Stella McCartney).

As for the reptile motif? “We moved it inside,” he says. “Nobody wants to wear six crocodiles in one look!”

Felipe Oliveira Baptista was born in 1975 on the Portuguese Atlantic archipelago of the Azores. Thereafter he worked for Max Mara, Christophe Lemaire and Cerruti. In 2003, he founded his own label. In 2005, he was invited to show in the official calendar of Couture for the first time. His collections have been sold in stores such as Colette and Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Podium in Moscow. He is a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. In 2010 he was appointed creative manager of Lacoste. In 2014, Felipe Oliveira Baptista stopped his ready-to-wear line for his brand.

© Esther Adam @ Vogue Magazine December 2011

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