Cartoon characters crawling across sweaters and decorating leather bags. Parkas made from pastel synthetic fur fluff. Shower slides and platform clogs. Stuart Vevers isn’t holding anything back in his repositioning of Coach. On the runway, at least, this is not the classic, all-American brand that your mother and your grandmother knew. Revisiting the archives was a route that Vevers, installed as creative director last year, could’ve chosen, but so far that doesn’t seem to be his plan. Yes, he’s looking at American iconography (see: the gas station set and the photos of the Texas Panhandle lining the runway). And he’s a keen observer of the country’s iconic youth cultures—he mentioned music, surfing, and skating backstage. But he sees those things with an expat’s eyes. Vevers, who is British, is bringing his London vibe to Coach; it’s youthful, playful, a bit twisted.
As shifts go, the one Vevers is attempting is fairly seismic, and for us old-timers who carried Coach bags in the positively staid shades of navy, burgundy, and brown in the (gasp) 1980s, it might take a bit of getting used to. That’s OK, we’re probably not the intended audience. The kids? Bags with studs that look like they’ve been painted over with nail polish should prove fairly irresistible to them. Same goes for Gary Baseman’s comic book creatures, which appear not just on sweaters but also on outerwear, T-shirts, and bags. And ditto the leopard-spot peacoats and candy-colored leather miniskirts. As befits a collection aimed at the hearts of teens and twentysomethings, the look was seriously leggy. Ankle-scraping flares looked particularly great. Vevers said he did some informal internal polling when he was designing the collection. “The young people in the office didn’t have the same hang-ups or references I did at 40 [years old] about flares, and that appealed to me: that Coach could speak to a generation that doesn’t have all these automatic references.” If Instagram is anything to go by—it lit up after this morning’s show—Vevers has definitely got their attention now.