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Roth's Risky Business

Francis by Christian Francis Roth polo dress detail

If nothing unites like a common enemy, then polo shirt titans Lacoste and Ralph Lauren may soon be the best of friends.  Or at least temporary allies.

Today's WWD celebrates the return of early 90s favorite Christian Frances Roth to the fashion scene.  His style incorporates wit and whimsy in the tradition of Elsa Schiaparelli's surrealism or Franco Moschino's clever spoofs on fashion classics.  Roth himself has a longstanding penchant for incorporating brand images, most famously the Crayola crayon label, into his work. 

This time around Roth has imagined a blue bloodbath, pitting preppy icons against one another in a battle to the death.  The Lacoste alligator grips the Ralph Lauren polo pony in its jaws, while the polo player's mallet is poised to deliver a crushing blow to the reptile's skull.  No doubt similar metaphorical social struggles are occurring on Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard at this very moment. Francis by Christian Francis Roth polo dress

If history is any guide, however, neither Lacoste nor Ralph Lauren may be particularly appreciative of this daring duel.  Back in the 80s, at the height of preppy predominance, a parodist by the name of Barry Gottlieb, a.k.a. Mad Dog, featured a dead alligator and a polo pony dragging a fallen rider on separate shirts. Both designs resulted in lawsuits and the withdrawal of the garments from sale. 

Of course, parody cases have a reputation for being unpredictable, and Roth may well argue that this standout from the "Twill Seekers" group of his spring "Gangs of New York" collection is a humorous commentary on the bigger brands and their ongoing competition for the allegiance of the patchwork madras set.  Alternatively, both Lacoste and Ralph Lauren could conclude that a legal challenge and the accompanying publicity are not worthwhile.

Roth would be wise, however, to ensure that in the event of a lawsuit or two his financial backers are possessed of that most stylish attribute of all:  deep pockets.