Spring 2016 Ready-to-Wear
Stuart Vevers walks to work at Coach along the High Line every day, lucky thing. The aerial park, with its grasses and fig trees and urban butterflies, tracks across the west side of Manhattan as one of the most joyously human examples of industrial repurposing in our times. The new Coach offices are under construction near the end of the High Line at 30th Street, as it happens, and it was adjacent to that location, on a perfectly sunny September afternoon, that the company invited the press, buyers, and celebrities to step along the old railway tracks and into a temporary grass-planted space to see the first big runway show Coach has staged for New York Fashion Week.
As it also happens, 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of Coach, “So,” said Vevers, “it felt like a good moment to show we have confidence.” The values of Coach have always been purely American and pragmatic, a company proud to fulfill everyday needs. But in the 21st century, Vevers is one of those designers who questions how, and whether, that democratic ideal in fashion is reaching young people at attainable prices, and in ways that will excite them. His answer was to think about “a magpie girl who goes on road trips, picking up Western things, but also might steal from her granny’s closet on the Upper East Side.”
If so, granny was a bit of a ’70s bohemian, because this girl’s dresses were all made from micro-floral multicolored patchworks, though they were definitely a lot shorter than they were at Woodstock, and with an easily relatable pull-on-and-go attitude about them. Still, Vevers is not someone who will go off on narrative raptures about fictional muses. Refreshingly, he’s a down-to-earth product designer who is good at thinking about such things as what a functional cut-down cowboy boot should look like for a customer’s money: i.e., comfortable, with a lot of collaged fun thrown into the bargain. “I don’t think I’ve ever put a heel on the runway at Coach,” he said, laughing. “I just want to make it feel light in spirit and bring some joy to it, and maybe a sense of the American outdoors.”
It worked. Coach is, of course, a great American bag company—and there were plenty of respectfully traditional saddle-leather hobo shapes reprised in the show—but it also needs to convert a new generation to its faith. And, oddly, on the High Line today it felt as if Stuart Vevers, an Englishman abroad, is the person who might be able to see exactly how to do that.