Lacoste's new artistic director showcases 2012 line

A more discreet crocodile, now in silk, a touch of leather and plenty of flow: Lacoste presented its Spring 2012 collection on Saturday with a focus on women, the first under its new artistic director Felipe Oliveira Baptista.

After the show, presented at New York's annual Fashion Week, the 36-year-old creator beamed as reporters and fashion industry insiders clamored for the attention of the Portuguese designer.

Oliveira Baptista said his vision in designing the line of clothes was that of a woman who was "energetic, casual and chic."

Rene Lacoste, the French tennis player and businessman who founded the clothing empire in 1933, "was a visionary," Oliveira told AFP. "It was pretty easy and obvious for me" to create this "new look for the future," he said.

Lacoste, the French company that invented the polo shirt and today has 1,200 stores around the world, is increasingly focusing on reaching out to female customers.

Women "represent 80 percent of our clients, but just 20 percent of our revenue," said Lacoste CEO Christophe Chenut, who came to New York for the presentation. Women come to the stores to buy clothes mainly for men, he said.

"Our big strategic goal for 2012 is to reach out to women," Chenut said.

While male models strutted the catwalks along with the women, the female models were clearly the stars of the show.

The iconic polo shirt was given a new twist as a wide-striped mini-skirt, while there were mini-shorts and voluminous hooded raincoats, or long-flowing dresses buttoned down the back.

Cotton married with silk for flowing ponchos, while silk blouses made dramatic statements with art-deco geometric designs of yellow on navy blue.

With an eye on the booming Asian market, about one-third of the 1,200 guests invited to the event were members of the Asian fashion press.

Late Friday another sportswear king, Tommy Hilfiger, presented his new line of fashionwear.

Impeccably coiffed models strutted in polo shirts and camouflage-patterned cashmere sweaters, wide-striped trousers and yellow leather trench coats - Hilfiger's latest interpretation of the preppy, sporty student. The neatly-tailored suits were in sky blue or with pinstripes.

More than 25 shows were on tap Saturday from designers including Prabal Gurung and Monique Lhuillier.

The shows continue Sunday, the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

While President Barack Obama and former president George W. Bush will be at a solemn ceremony at the site of attacks, Victoria Beckham will be opening the day of fashion shows, presenting her designs at the New York Public Library.

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