Venus Williams and Lacoste on removing tennis clothes from the court


Pleated skirts, polo skirts, white trainers: fashion’s obsession with all things tenniscore exploded last spring and hasn’t waned. The trend is to give every wardrobe a splash of Wimbledon white, whether you play the sport or not, and that’s sparking renewed interest in brands with tennis in their DNA, like Lacoste.

Timing is everything, on and off the pitch. Under the direction of Louise Trotter, the first female head of design in the brand’s history, Lacoste reinvents its approach to tennis fashion and treats it more as a lifestyle than a sport. He’s not ditching the preppy polo shirts he’s arguably best known for, but he’s also been experimenting with “fashion-sport” silhouettes like structured trench coats and color-block matching sets. And to support the brand’s vision, Lacoste has tapped tennis phenom Venus Williams as its latest global ambassador.

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

Fashion has had an ongoing tennis craze for quite some time now. What do you think is driving the recent increase in tennis looks and what do you think about it, being so closely tied to the sport?

Venus Williams: I am absolutely obsessed with tennis fashion and the rise of tennis skirts. I watch it in real time, I watch everyone wear them on the courts to train but also in ready-to-wear. This fad now happens from time to time, but I think it’s come in the biggest way it’s ever had, ever before. And of course we can credit the people wanting to train outdoors, trying to find safe ways to work out, and that just translated into all walks of life.

Louise Trotter: I totally echo what Venus is saying. But also, I arrived at Lacoste three and a half years ago. It was just the start of what would become a huge fashion obsession in tennis.

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

Venus, you have worn many brands of tennis on and off the court during your career. When and how did Lacoste enter your tennis wardrobe? Do you remember your first piece of the brand?

VW: The first discovery for me was when I was a child. Obviously I’ve always played tennis and I know the Lacoste brand, and I know the history behind it thanks to tennis. So I have always known him very well.

Were you a Lacoste polo girl?

VW: I mean, of course, everyone loves a polo shirt. Everyone needs a basic polo shirt, whether it’s white or black or a crazy color. It’s like a necessary thing. So of course a polo shirt 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 many new directions beyond those classic shirts. Tell us a bit more about the fashion-sports direction you’re taking the brand in and your biggest design influences for the new era.

LT: I will not credit myself, because I think that René [Lacoste] did that from the start. I think he was, from the beginning, a bridge between fashion and sport. And I think he saw the polo as more than just a piece he wore to play tennis. I think he saw it as a lifestyle. So, I’m going to put Rene as the person who inspired me for this.

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

How much of the new look comes from existing branded designs, versus completely new pieces for Lacoste?

LT: It’s always a combination of the two. Because first of all, I have the firm conviction that René was a man looking to the future. I don’t think he was someone who really lived mentally in the past. So I look a lot at the archives for inspiration. But at the same time, I think you have to be aware, you have to bring an eclectic approach, not just a filter. I think today the way we live our lives is pretty eclectic and the benchmarks are pretty eclectic so I try to bring in different sporting codes and elements that I think Renee would do if he was here .

Which piece do you see yourself wearing the most in Lacoste’s new range of silhouettes and how do you wear it?

VW: I love combinations. We did a broadcast for British vogue and I have to wear this amazing bodysuit. My ponytail was flying and I just felt like a superhero. There are so many moments, but this was it.

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

VW: For me, I find my wardrobe is all about reinventing myself and finding those new moments with different pieces and in different ways. I’m driving myself crazy with it, actually. I don’t even know if that’s more inventive or anything – that’s just how you feel, isn’t it?

LT: When we first started working together, I created 20 looks for Venus because we had just started working and you know, I wanted to see what she naturally gravitated towards. And you are incredibly decisive: you knew exactly what you wanted.

And did she want a bodysuit?

LT: This has been a body. [To Venus:] I was really impressed with how assertive and direct you were in what you wanted to wear. And when you wear it, how much you own it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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