Apologies if this is a bit chronologically out of sync. During shows, the blog and I exist on an alternative time zone, ruled by deadlines. I’m writing up for Dazed Digital and BBC (can only be read from outside the UK), if you’re up for perusing more formal reports on all things fashion week.
In this realm though, I’ve rewound back to the beginning of New York Fashion Week when I was still waxing lyrical about my brief adventure in India. When I finally got to New York, three days into proceedings, I asked around to see what I had missed. “Coach was GREAT!” was the general consensus. Now there’s an answer that I wasn’t expecting. That just shows how in just three seasons Stuart Vevers has created and injected an evocative fashion identity into the all-American much-loved leather goods brand. The same conclusion was drawn from their debut menswear collection presented during London Menswear Collections in January.
Not that we should be that surprised that Vevers is shaking things up in the right way at Coach. He’s a consummate designer fitting into houses and giving them an appropriate identity. He doesn’t enforce his aesthetic on a brand, for the sake of his vanity. Instead, each brand is its own separate project and he designs to brief in a way that feels intelligent. For Coach, Vevers has been exploring different strands of Americana. From the California anything-goes kook of last season, Vevers turns to the great cross-state road trip – the imaginary open road that exists in most people’s mindsets whether they’ve been to America or not. It’s a great thematic vehicle to express notions of freedom and individuality. The collection recalls Life Magazine photos of female Hell’s Angels and Richard Prince’s later repurposing of advertisement images to centralise the female figure in these male dominated scenarios.
Vevers honed in on the literal monikers of a biker girl with her indulgently generous shearling jackets to more kawaii abstractions like little skulls worked into a bandana print. It’s the biker jackets though that really grabs your eyeballs not least because of the words “Wanted” and “Nomad” on the back but also because of the myriad of badges that recall everyone’s own customising attempts. These symbols and slogans are the perfect way of building up a Coach lexicography that people can identify with. Ditto for the blooming-skull print that is a new take on the ditzy floral.
Following on from my inquest into who is the new Gucci girl, similarly, Coach now has an identifiable character. She skews younger than any other customer that Vevers has designed for previously, as befits a brand that sells fairly affordable bags to the contemporary and aspiring-luxury customers. And it’s to his credit that he can handle the responsibility of designing for a contemporary brand. And whilst Coach’s fashion identity is fully kitted out with personality and verve, the bags, which Vevers is of course fully well versed in, have also been pepped up with American sports detailing and charms. Soon there’ll be no need to say that Coach is good with a question mark at the end because Vevers has made a positive and emphatic statement of intent.
All backstage photography by Evan Schreiber for Dazed Digital