“I’ve always had a great passion for brands,” declared Coach’s Stuart Vevers to begin his presentation. A mere glance at the designer’s résumé would confirm that statement; over the past 19 years, Vevers has designed for the likes of Bottega Veneta, Givenchy, Mulberry, Louis Vuitton, Loewe and, now, Coach, where Vevers has served as executive creative director since June 2013.
“The soul and uniqueness in great fashion houses is what really excites me, and it’s what drew me to Coach,” Vevers said. “I think Coach is truly special as the American leather goods house, and interestingly, Coach actually began as a men’s brand, with a workshop of six craftspeople here in New York City in 1941. Almost 75 years later, my focus is to establish a fresh, new vision that explores what it is about the brand that is unique and has drawn customers around the world to Coach.”
Vevers described his vision for men’s wear as “easy, inherently cool, youthful and uncontrived.” Among his inspirations: the Beastie Boys, the Kennedy boys, Steve McQueen and the imagery of Gus Van Sant. “I think of the Coach guy as solid; he’s not fragile,” said Vevers. “He wants to get dressed fast. He’s straightforward, but he wants to celebrate his character and individuality….It was important that [the collection] wasn’t a re-creation of the past or tied to traditional assumptions of what luxury men’s means, such as formality, somber color and the idea that an investment piece has to be classical. When we decided what was right, we went for it boldly.”
For Vevers, what was right was a focus on casual items — including oversize outerwear, suede jackets, T-shirts and denim — that can be either worn together as a full look or individually as a stand-alone piece. “The reason we are focusing on casual pieces is because it is where the world is moving,” he said. “There has been a cultural shift in men’s — I get the sense there are fewer jobs each year that require a working guy to adopt tailoring and formality. The wardrobe of the workplace space has and continues to change.”
While moving toward the future, Vevers also looked to Coach’s heritage, incorporating iconic brand signatures in unexpected ways — the turn lock closure used to embellish a pair of sneakers, whip-stitch leather detailing, and so forth. “We deliberately didn’t limit ourselves to the past, but we explored and listened to our instincts based on what categories made sense,” he said. “The heritage inspired our point of view.”
Of course, at the center of the Coach brand heritage is leather goods, and in keeping with the ready-to-wear, Vevers has kept them casual. “I have actively avoided the formal briefcase because I don’t see many younger guys carrying them,” he said. “Our bags are focused on construction and details. Is a guy more comfortable carrying a bag today? I do think so. Something about a modern lifestyle implies some necessity — a vessel for his gym gear and technology…. American style is about relaxed, and it’s about ease, function, utility — and that in itself can bring a new perspective on luxury.”
Interestingly enough, as one audience member pointed out, Vevers chose to debut his admittedly American-influenced men’s collection during London’s men’s fashion week last January. “People thought it was just because of my nationality and because I just wanted to go home, but up until recently New York hasn’t had a specific, men’s focused fashion week moment — obviously that is changing,” he explained.” I felt we had to take ourselves out of context, to show something in a new environment. Sometimes when you go somewhere different, people are more curious, and I think that helped.”
So would he be showing in July during New York Fashion Week: Men’s? “To be confirmed.”