Le Coq Sportif commissions Olympic Games collections to Stéphane Ashpool
Who better than Pigalle’s designer Stéphane Ashpool to style the outfits for the Paris Olympic Games? Le Coq Sportif, official outfitter of the French athletes at the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, has commissioned its Olympic collections to an external creative director, choosing Ashpool, the founder of Pigalle, a label that blends Parisian urban culture, sportswear and French fashion spirit.
It is a new milestone for the French sportswear brand, working alongside a designer who, with his label’s runway shows and stage performances, has for many years presented his creative vision at the Paris fashion weeks.
“We want to assert ourselves for the next 10 years in the performance segment, but always with a designer approach, something we haven’t been able to do regularly in recent years," said Marc-Henri Beausire, owner of the Swiss investment firm Airesis, a majority shareholder in the Le Coq Sportif, adding "Our focus has been on manufacturing: being able to create a circular, sustainable supply chain. We have succeeded in doing so with our model-making and prototyping factory in Romilly [in France], where we also manufacture some of our products, and with our [production] partner in Morocco, one of the best factories in the world. Today we need both performance and style, and Stéphane ticks absolutely all the boxes. His approach resonates with us, and has done so for some time, with his desire to bring people together, to create spaces where they can have fun, experiment. Besides his creative savvy, ever since we began to talk and work together, I’ve discovered his great rigour and his ability to establish a relationship with embroiderers, seamstresses and model-makers. He’s inspirational. He will take us further!”
It is a significant undertaking, both for Le Coq Sportif and for Ashpool. Together they will produce the training and competition kit for French Olympians active in some 60 disciplines, as well as the official products associated with these kits and the representation outfits, worn by the athletes at the Olympic Village and the opening and closing ceremonies. Outfits that can have quite an impact.
“For me, the starting point, the motivation, is that it’s the Olympic Games, and the French team. It's a major project!” said Ashpool. He went on to add that “we’ll need to follow a specific design brief, because not all sports can be treated the same way. I had little time to absorb as much information as possible. I had the opportunity to interact with athletes and I visited the facilities in Romilly. Putting all these elements quickly together allowed me to move on to what I call the free creativity phase, without constraints. There were two areas to consider. First, the Olympic kit for all Olympic and Paralympic athletes, i.e. the outfits they’ll wear at the Olympic Village when interacting with the media and at medal award ceremonies. A great number of garments, that must fit the different profiles of male and female athletes. Then we needed to develop the performance outfits, for sports as diverse as gymnastics, judo or track cycling. Le Coq Sportif is an expert in this field, especially in team sports, as it outfits the French rugby union team, but the whole package can range from very straightforward to highly specific items.”
Le Coq Sportif is developing these collections by tapping its links with high-level sport, which the brand began to revive just over a decade ago. Le Coq Sportif has in fact been a partner to the Tour de France, to French top-tier football club AS Saint-Étienne, to rugby union club Aviron Bayonnais, and France’s federation of athletes with disabilities. Le Coq Sportif also said it sponsors some 100 individual athletes, and has agreements with some 1,000 amateur sporting clubs.
A web of connections that enables the brand to be well aware of athletes’ expectations. After listening to competition athletes, and combining this with the know-how of the brand’s Romilly staff and with Ashpool’s creativity, ideas have started to germinate. “We need to juggle creativity and technical constraints, getting to grips with these elements. But there is plenty of room for details that give a new take on [France’s] red, white and blue, while drawing inspiration from key words provided by athletes, such as fusion, ambition, energy, adrenaline and more. And beyond these, from terms like bright, modern, disruptive and elegant. Then we worked on the idea of representing a nation with its diversity of body shapes, colours, identities and cultures. I think this is what best represents contemporary France and its athletes. In my career, I have done a lot of work on colour gradations. It’s the perfect approach for blurring a flag’s sharp colour boundaries, and introduce the idea of fusion,” said Ashpool.
The collection’s various outfits use colours differently. For the competition kits, hundreds of athletes from 33 sport federations are set to wear red and blue. The representation outfits will instead be more understated, produced in ecru cotton by Le Coq Sportif’s French partners. “We wanted to strike a balance between rigour and imagination, in order to be attractive to athletes. I wanted to respect the fact that they will be there to best represent their country in a sporting competition. So we opted for ecru, for authenticity, elegance and a chic touch, and worked on details to add creativity. And the idea is that, at the Games’ ceremonies, there will be a French flag flying above them.”
For Le Coq Sportif, which generated a revenue just shy of €150 million in 2022, the Olympic and Paralympic Games are an opportunity to gain international visibility and justify its manufacturing efforts. “The Olympics and Stéphane’s arrival will enable us to continue our work on re-localising performance fabrics we previously sourced from Asia. Some time ago, it seemed that only Asia knew how to manufacture performance products. [In this collection], 30% to 50% of performance fabrics will be made in France, and 90% to 100% of them with near-shore sourcing,” said Beausire. “This is a real challenge, because we’re also working with the [sport] federations to demonstrate that our materials, which in some cases use fewer chemicals, are interesting. The Olympic Games and Stéphane's arrival are giving us a boost to expand further,” he added.
The first products of Le Coq Sportif’s Olympic Games collections will be commercialised at the end of 2023, with a planned sales surge before the start of the Games.
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