September 22, 2023


Let your Fashion

Venus Williams and Lacoste on Taking Tennis Clothes Off the Court


Pleated skirts, polo skirts, white sneakers: Fashion’s obsession with all things tenniscore exploded last spring and hasn’t faded. The trend is giving every closet a touch of Wimbledon whites, whether you play the sport or not, and it’s driving renewed interest in brands with tennis in their DNA, like Lacoste.

Timing is everything, on and off the court. Under creative director Louise Trotter, the first female design lead in the brand’s history, Lacoste is reinventing its approach to tennis fashion and treating it more like a lifestyle than a sport. It’s not abandoning the preppy polos it’s arguably best known for, but it’s also experimenting with “fashion-sport” silhouettes like structural trench coats and colorblocked matching sets. And to back up the brand’s vision, Lacoste tapped tennis phenomenon Venus Williams to serve as its latest global ambassador.

Last week, ahead of an intimate Miami dinner celebrating Williams’ new role, the seven-time Grand Slam champion joined Trotter and to share how the new Lacoste’s vibe translates from the tennis court to and beyond. The pair discusses how courtside style influences their personal style, the Lacoste items they’re wearing most often, and why they think tennis fashion is bigger than ever.

Fashion has had an ongoing infatuation with tennis for some time now. What do you think is driving the recent surge in tennis looks—and how do you feel about it, being so intertwined with the sport?

Venus Williams: I’m absolutely obsessed with the tennis fashions and the surge in tennis skirts. I’m watching it in real time, watching everyone wear them at the courts to work out in but also in ready-to-wear. This fashion does come around now every so often, but I do think it’s come around in the biggest way it’s ever had, ever before. And of course, we can credit the people wanting to work out outside, trying to find safe ways to work, and it just translated into all places in life.

Louise Trotter: I totally echo what Venus says. But also, I came into Lacoste three year and a half years ago. It was just at the beginning of what was going to become a massive obsession from a fashion point of view on tennis.

I think it’s also the fact that we are, from a fashion point of view, really going through a wave of heritage and really responding to things that have an iconic heritage—they come from someplace real and authentic. I think that’s part of the reason. But I also think that with everything that we’ve gone through, sport is a way to live life. And I think tennis also plays into that, because it’s a game that you can play anywhere.

Venus, you’ve worn a lot of tennis brands on and off the court over your career. When and how did Lacoste enter your tennis wardrobe? Do you remember your first piece from the brand?

VW: The first discovery of it, for me, was as a child. I’ve obviously played tennis forever and I know the Lacoste brand, and I know the history behind it from tennis. So I’ve always been very familiar with it.

Were you a Lacoste polo girl?

VW: I mean, of course, everyone loves a polo. Everyone needs a basic polo, whether it’s white or black or a crazy color. That’s like a necessary thing. So of course a polo is the moment, but now it’s so much more.

lacoste celebrates global ambassador venus williams, hosted by creative director louise trotter at the surf club

Jason KoernerGetty Images

Louise, Lacoste is expanding in a lot of new directions beyond those classic shirts. Tell us a little more about the fashion-sport direction you’re taking the brand in, and your biggest design influences for the new era.

LT: I’m not going to credit myself, because I think René [Lacoste] was doing that from the beginning. I think he was, from the beginning, bridging fashion and sport. And I think he saw the polo beyond just a piece he wore to play tennis. I think he saw it as a lifestyle. So, I am going to put René as the person who inspired me for that.

I think my job is to really channel him and what he set for this brand, and try to bring that into today. I don’t think I’m creating something new—I’m just making it relevant.

How much of the new look comes from existing brand motifs, versus pieces that are totally new to Lacoste?

LT: It’s always a combination of both. Because first of all, I’m a firm believer René was a man who was looking to the future. I don’t think he was someone who was really mentally living life in the past. So I look to the archive a lot to inspire. But then at the same time, I think you have to be aware of, that you have to bring an eclectic approach, not just one filter. I think today the way we live our lives are quite eclectic and the reference points are quite eclectic, so I try to bring in different sport codes and elements that I think Renee would be doing if he were here.

Which piece do you each see yourself wearing most from Lacoste’s new silhouette range—and how are you wearing it?

VW: I love bodysuits. We did a spread for British Vogue and I got to wear this amazing bodysuit. My ponytail was flying and I just felt like a superhero. There are so many moments, but that one was everything.

LT: In an opposite sense, I’m quite into classics. I love designing fashion pieces but I live in classic pieces. I tend to wear a uniform, so I often gravitate toward the perfect stripe shirt, the perfect white polo. So I think we keep each other quite balanced. We sort of have this bit where you’re more interesting, right? [Laughs]

VW: For me, I find that my wardrobe is about reinventing myself, and finding these new moments with different pieces and different ways. I drive myself crazy with it, actually. I don’t even know if it’s more inventive or anything—it’s just about how you feel, right?

LT: When we first started working together, I put together 20 looks for Venus because we’d just started to work and you know, I wanted to see what she naturally gravitated towards. And you’re incredibly decisive: You knew exactly what you wanted.

And was what she wanted a bodysuit?

LT: It was a bodysuit. [To Venus:] I was really impressed in how assured and direct you were in what you wanted to wear. And when you do wear it, how much you own it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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