NEW YORK — A makeover is in the works for Coach stores.

This story first appeared in the April 7, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The accessories-centric lifestyle brand has commissioned creative firm Studio Sofield to develop its new retail concept. “[The name] William Sofield came up, to me, straight away,” said Stuart Vevers, executive creative director. “He’s designed some of my favorite spaces. He’s American, he’s based in New York, and I just had a feeling that the references I was going to talk about could make sense to him.”

The new concept marks the first retail overhaul with Vevers in place as creative director, and will be unveiled as his first full collection for the brand hits stores for fall. “As soon as you start working on the collection, you start thinking about the environment it’s going to be in,” he said. “Linking those becomes super important. It’s really important to have an environment that works with the collection, supports it, and to have somewhere that tells the new story.”

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The look will first roll out at the brand’s 3,909-square-foot Rodeo Drive flagship in Beverly Hills and is expected to open for fall. “It’s a really well-placed and important store,” Vevers said of the location. “It’s an important store for America, and it’s also a very visible store internationally. There was something very natural about [the decision].” New York City’s Time Warner Center store will be the next to get the makeover, due to open shortly after its Beverly Hills counterpart. Additionally, the company will open a new location in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo as the first completely new store to be modeled under the new concept.

Vevers himself has been instrumental in the design process, working in partnership with Studio Sofield to execute his vision. “We have conversations and talk through ideas, and then William and his team present their ideas” he said. “It’s a really nice and fluid process. We’re finessing the kind of idea and working through it. We know what we want to do.”

Coach last underwent retail renovations in November at its Fifth Avenue post in New York. The reimagined space was considered a “lab” for future in-store changes, with a goal of creating a more intimate and sophisticated shopping experience. While the upcoming design will differ from that of the “lab,” the Fifth Avenue experiment did provide an important learning opportunity for the brand. “The biggest lesson is that the customer responds to a new space very well,” said Vevers. “But the concept is a new concept. There’s nothing necessary in terms of design that is carried through [from Fifth Avenue].

“I wanted this to feel like a change. It was important for me to make that clear. When we first met [with Studio Sofield], that’s what we talked about. I want this to feel new. This is a new Coach, and making sure that was understood was really the key thing.”

Vevers’ vision is well under way (“We have stores opening later this year, so you’d hope so,” he quips), but the designer is not ready to share all the details just yet. “I don’t want to give too much away,” he said. “It plays homage to what makes Coach unique. It’s about doing something that feels genuinely authentic to Coach, but very much looks to the future. It’s a bold departure. It’s going to feel like a new message from Coach.”

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