Not just any brand, but a veritable American institution and mega label that Vevers has reimagined as a unique crossroads between Indie attitude and lived-in cool.
The location? The British-born designer celebrated his decade-long helming of Coach – which boasts a six-billion-dollar annual turnover – with a powerful show and charming dinner inside another iconic marque – the New York Public Library.
Presenting a very fine collection, and one defiantly more stripped back. A long and lean silhouette with a series of ankle-length coats and dusters made of upcycled leather biker jackets. Clothes composed of yards of post-consumer wool and regenerative cotton – overdyed and pressed to give textural elements.
“Echoes of Nan Goldin, Mariupol even Maysles, but abstractly and very oversized. Coach has to offer something different from the world of traditional luxury,” explained Stuart.
Pre-show we spoke with Stuart in his new home on the Upper West Side. After spending his first half decade in Manhattan living in the West Village, Vevers and husband Ben moved up town with their young twins River and Vivienne, enjoying the proximity to Central Park.
Vevers arrived at Coach with an impressive CV, having directed LVMH’s Spanish label Loewe, after two years in charge at Mulberry. That followed from stints at Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton and Calvin Klein.
“I told Stuart when he was young that there was no future in fashion. His dreams could end up with him working behind the counter in a supermarket. And then he calls me and says he has a job with Calvin Klein right out of college. And here we are today. I could not be prouder of him!” said father Paul Vevers.
Before dinner a string quartet played versions of classic rock, as Lil’ Buck performed a brilliant rap dance in cunning synch.
Famously polite and modest in an industry known for its arrogance, the 49-year-old Stuart has never lost the easy charm and unpretentious manner of a provincial city in the West Riding.
And he remains boyishly excited about his latest collection, as he enthused when discussing his mood-board.
Fashion Network: What is this collection all about?
Stuart Vevers: Well, now that I look again at the mood board, it’s very moody. When I was reviewing it last night, I rewrote all my notes. The board is right at the beginning of the creation process with color palette, material and inkling of silhouette. When I first started at Coach I dug into archives. In this story I wanted to look forward.
I did not want a retrospective but a moment of reflection where I thought about what was cool and inspired me about my time at Coach. It brought me back to New York City. I am not a native – it is a really inspiring city with its history, stories and characters. So, I explored the archetypes of New York fashion, especially the time of my first job right after school. I came here first in the 90s for Calvin Klein and even skipped my graduation to start early.
People forget that when I joined Coach it did not have any clothing. So, what was interesting was the vintage American idea. This season, it is about my memories and I am free not to look at vintage. My memories of girls dancing in the Pyramid Bar in slip dresses and young execs post power dressing suits.
FN: What was your dream when you came to Coach?
ST: I knew that it was a challenge. There is always a question when a leather large house ventures into fashion. People question that. And I very deliberately started slowly and we did get pushed back. Some people wondered if this was the right approach. So, my first show had just 18 looks! Set in a sound stage in the West 50s with a little tunnel to represent coming into a new Coach world. With two huge Joel Stone photos from his book American Prospects.
I recall seven days of interviews that week. It was freezing that February. Snow piled outside and the collection had a lot of shearling and a lot of people responded I wish I could wear that now!
FN: But eventually you moved on to mega shows in a giant hanger on the East River?
ST: Yes, finally, there was a moment when I felt the universe was on my side. It let me and the company move forward. People said, “maybe he knows what he is doing?”
FN: How does it feel to have reached a decade?
ST: It feels great. I am as engaged and excited as ever about going to the studio like I first started. Ready-to-wear is now real business. We dress people and it is not a marketing exercise. Go to our 5th avenue store and people are shopping for our clothes!
FN: You once took trains around the USA to imbibe the culture and get inspiration? What do you do today?
ST: My biggest inspiration today is youth culture, counterculture and the current generation. To my mind, we are going through one of those huge shifts and there are very substantial differences from our generation and the next one. So, our first show after the pandemic – spring 2022 – was reinvestigation heritage though the lens of next generation, which had great impact.
FN: A key part of your strategy has been brand ambassadors – and quite wide ranging: Lil Nas X joins a Jennifer Lopez, Megan Thee Stallion, Michael B. Jordan, Selena Gomez. What are the parameters when you chose them? And what do you hope this bring to Coach?
ST: I usually pick by instinct honestly – and whether it feels authentic. I was really fascinated by Megan – she looked amazing. So, if you find there’s a connection and there was, then you got it. Plus, we like to celebrate individuality. And the way creative people love to make the clothes their own. During the pandemic we shot Coach Forever in with Juergen Teller. And for that shoot, Megan crafted a hair band from bits of an umbrella we sent with her hit look. That’s why we call it the Coach family.
FN: What are you most proud of at Coach?
ST: I am proud of how we connect with people, establishing a real head to toe look and a real following. But in the end, it’s about moments. Creating a collection with the family of Basquiat and seeing Debbie Harry wear it. Heroes of mine coming together.
FN: Define the DNA of Coach?
New York City attitude, where heritage and pop culture joyfully collide.
FN: Define the DNA of Stuart Vevers?
St: Work hard and be nice to people. I had that up the studio wall.
FN: Why the Public Library tonight?
ST: We dove from our last two shows in Armory. I like the juxtaposition of counter culture and history. It’s a great space to have a New York evening. Have the show in the library’s oldest reading room is exciting. A string quarter playing my fave Indie tracks in the grand gallery. And leaving by the famous iconic lions.
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