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The winds of change are blowing at Coach Inc.
The New York-based handbag and accessories maker has named Stuart Vevers, former creative director of Loewe, as its new executive creative director.
Vevers replaces executive creative director and president Reed Krakoff, who told WWD two months ago that he would not renew his employment contract with Coach, opting instead to focus on growing his namesake line.
Although Krakoff’s contract expires next June, Coach was unable to provide a definitive start date for Vevers, who will report directly to Coach president and chief commercial officer Victor Luis.
For Coach, Vever’s hire is an integral part of the brand’s evolution. In February, longtime chairman and chief executive officer Lew Frankfort said he would resign as ceo but remain executive chairman. The company anointed Luis as ceo, effective January 2014. The changing of the guard, so to speak, after 33 years at Coach for Frankfort, and 16 for Krakoff, closes the chapter on one of retail’s most successful duos.
“Stuart is recognized as one of the world’s leading accessories designers. His passion, leadership skills and broad luxury brand experience, focused on leather goods, uniquely qualify him to lead the next chapter of Coach,” Luis said. “I am confident that his creative expertise — grounded in accessories — will enable him to draw upon Coach’s rich history to create innovative product and brand imagery, elevating the customer experience and creating a fuller expression of the brand.” Frankfort added, “The appointment of Stuart Vevers marks an important milestone in our brand transformation, currently under way. We are extremely pleased that he will be leading our strong creative team already in place, bringing his unique aesthetic and personal style to Coach. His depth and breadth of experience will be an invaluable asset to the business in general — and the design team in particular — as we continue to evolve the brand.”
Vevers will be responsible for leading all creative aspects of Coach, including women’s and men’s design, brand imagery and store environments. Prior to his five-year stint at Loewe, Vevers served as creative director of Mulberry from 2005 to 2008. Vevers’ early stomping grounds included Calvin Klein, Bottega Veneta, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton. In 2006, the designer won the British Council’s Accessory Designer of the Year award.
At Loewe, the 167-year-old Madrid-based brand that was acquired by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 1996, Vevers had a keen focus on developing the men’s bag business. That category grew 40 percent in 2012 over the prior year, according to reports from WWD, which said that market sources estimated that Loewe generates annual sales of 250 million euros, or $327.9 million.
The search was conducted by Karen Harvey Consulting.
For Coach, men’s has been a growth driver and a major focus in key markets such as Asia, where a bag is one of the go-to accessories for both genders.
As a result, Coach has not only been opening men’s boutiques, but it has also revamped its store layout to include a dual-gender format. This has paid dividends, as the firm is on track to generate at least $400 million in sales this year in China, and its men’s business is on course to earn sales of more than $600 million globally in fiscal 2013, up 50 percent from last year.
Coach, which earned $1.04 billion in annual net income, or $3.53 a diluted share, on $4.76 billion in sales in fiscal 2012, is in the process of turning the brand into more of a lifestyle player. It hopes to do that with the addition of quarterly capsule collections that integrate all of its offerings — from bags and footwear to outerwear, apparel, small leather goods and jewelry. The brand, which has to wrangle with tough competitors such as Michael Kors and Tory Burch, is also in the process of elevating its product in terms of design and price. Vevers should know a thing or two about that, as the best-selling bag at Loewe is priced at 1,600 euros, or $2,099 at current exchange.
A key reason Vevers was selected over perhaps flashier candidates was the fact that he could devote all his time to the brand.
“A primary focus for Coach was working with someone who could be exclusively focused on Coach,” a source familiar with the situation told WWD.
In Krakoff’s case, the balancing act of working with Coach and on his own line became increasingly difficult.
“Coach is an exceptional brand and company that I’ve long admired for its rich heritage,” offered Vevers. “I am excited to drive Coach’s next stage of transformation.”