Even though Felipe Oliveira Baptista is Portuguese, his first collection for Lacoste showed he has a real instinct for the Frenchness of the brand. He was partly inspired by the ease and grace of the
proto-jet set whose leisured, cultured existence revolved around the Villa Noailles in the south of France in the twenties (the same place where Baptista won the top prize at the Hyères fashion and photography festival nine years ago). This was a world that René Lacoste himself knew well, though you wonder what he'd have made of Baptista's update. If predecessor Christophe Lemaire mastered the sportiness, the new guy has brought the sex. Lacoste
turned sleek, chic, and urban in body-limning knits cut out to revealing
effect—or slashed, in the case of one floor-length jersey dress. There was a hint of twenties girl-boyishness in dropped waists, sleeveless shifts, elongated rugby shirts, and a vintage-swimsuitlike onesie. And France's long-term love affair with North African style was reflected in ponchos-cum-scarf-dresses in orange, yellow, and the deepest navy of a desert sky (though that particular impression may have been influenced by Omar Souleyman's Arab-tinged remix of Björk's "Crystalline" on the soundtrack).
At the same time, Baptista injected a thoroughly contemporary edge. Collages of jersey and mesh made sportily Parisienne dresses in a Ghesquière vein. The classic croc-tagged polo was cropped to nothing, as was a parka in white leather. The designer's mantra was reconstruction, and it's true: There was a sensual architecture at work. For men, Baptista also pared things down, but here he stuck with the classics: navy parka, white cotton canvas peacoat, olive blouson. Again, there was an appealing physicality to the clothes. All in all, a promising start.