New York Fashion Week: Athletic endeavors win big at Lacoste, Robert Geller

New York Fashion Week: Athletic endeavors win big at Lacoste, Robert Geller
Lacoste's collection uses sharp, angular lines. (Joshua Lott / AFP/Getty Images)

Even before the first footfall hit the runway Saturday morning, Lacoste sent a pretty strong hint that it would be doubling-down on its roots as tennis brand for fall 2015. The hint came in the form of show notes placed at each seat bearing the words "René did it first," on a card that could be read through a laser-cut paper sleeve that called to mind the strings of a tennis racket.

René, of course, is namesake and founder René Lacoste, a professional tennis player of the 1920s whose nickname "le Crocodile" would result in the brand's emblem, and the fall 2015 men's and women's "winter tennis" collection references that heritage by emblazoning slogans including "René did it first," and "Tennis Anyone?" in deliciously retro '70s-era fonts on pullover track jackets and long-sleeved polo shirts.

The tracksuit silhouette was in heavy rotation here, rendered in a range of weights from thick jersey to billowing silk. Also in evidence were plenty of pleated tennis skirts layered under fitted bodices with asymmetrical hems or overcoats, others paired with polos or V-neck and cable knit sweaters. In addition to the '70s-inspired polos and track suits, there was a grab bag of references to other pieces in the Lacoste archives including a black-and-white checkerboard pattern on zip-front hoodies and bags from a 2008 collaboration with Comme des Garcons. (In case anyone missed the connection, photos and descriptions of the original pieces were helpfully included in the show notes.)

It's a smart move for the label in an era where the athleisure trend shows no signs of abating, but designer Felipe Oliveira Baptista didn't just trot out retreads from the last 90 years, he added a layer over it – in the form of sharp, angular lines as bold as the edges marked on a tennis court, served up on club stripe blazers, polo shirts, skirts, sweaterdresses and in the bold contrast-taped seams of reversible raincoats – that, particularly in the case of the raincoats, felt very modern.

Robert Geller's fall and winter 2015 menswear collection, also presented Saturday, was inspired by athletic endeavors too – specifically a pair of Olympic fencer brothers from the 1920s, Also and Nedo Nadi. In his show notes, Geller explained that he was interested in exploring the kind of clothes the brothers Nadi would wear "apres match."

The result, shown against the backdrop of a chain link fence (no, the set-dressing pun was not lost on us) included oversized coats (intended to resemble the ones fencers layer over their uniforms), knits meant to reference the mesh of a fencer's mask, tank-style undershirts, boxy T-shirts layered over turtlenecks, fencing blazers and varsity jackets.

Where the shirts and jackets were roomy to the point of voluminous, things got a lot more tailored south of the belt buckle (well, south of where the belt buckle should be -- many of the looks were accessorized not with belts but leather suspenders) with lots of high-waisted, high-water pants paired with two-tone high socks. There was a surfeit of stripes here too – button-front dress shirts with narrow vertical stripes, knit pants with wide horizontal stripes, and an assortment of silky lounge shirts, robes and scarves with wide alternating stripes of charcoal gray and beige.

Where Lacoste's collection was heavy on the bright hues – tennis court green, bold reds and blues – Geller's palette was full of muted shades; beiges, charcoals, browns and dusty oranges.

Two  distinctly different approaches to the sporting life to be sure, but both managed to score big nonetheless.

We're calling it a win-win.