Some show venues are like abstract art: You get it or you don’t. That there is apparently a creative thrill in having guests arrive to a pitch-black show space and worry about tripping while feeling their way to their seats continues to confound after many years of pondering.
That out of the way, guests to Stuart Vevers’ Coach 1941 show at Basketball City on the East River found themselves in a weird forest, its trees devoid of greenery and any signs of life but for video monitors projecting the trees, which would go haywire once the show started. “A spectral charm,” the show notes promised. And charm it did, in its moody-broody way. Soon, the wooded den was populated by a brigade of goth prairie girls, glum but ever so stylish, joined by layered up male companions, their own disaffected-youth getups integrating some sports-derived pieces here and there.
Since his arrival at Coach, Vevers has built a strong, engaging identity for the brand, grounded in his outsider’s fascination with the American West, which he interprets in a manner suited to urban realities. “I love the American West,” he said during a preview. “But it’s seen through the eyes of a house that’s in Manhattan, and where I live.” For fall, Vevers found that essential urban element in the goth vibe with “a touch of the Nineties riot kind of thing — more a feeling than anything specific.” He kept the prints dark and the attitude darker.
Vevers’ singularity of message over time aligns with that of Gucci’s Alessandro Michele. Whether the approach will ultimately emerge as a new normal in fashion remains to be seen. For now, Vevers is focusing on strengthening the collection’s core elements each season. For his debut, he started with outerwear and what he thought would look good with Coach leather goods. Soon thereafter, he introduced dresses. For fall, he upped the craft ante with easy yet intense constructions, the dresses often cut from multiple fabrics and inset with laces and other trimmings and finished with leather ties or whipstitching. The outerwear was also intensely detailed.
As for the bags, Vevers’ models carried them in twos: huge leather carryalls — some with artwork by Chelsea Champlain, whom Vevers found on Instagram — with little lady bags, in unmatched combinations he finds “very odd together.” But then, the point of Vevers’ Coach, he said, “isn’t just about making things feel perfect, it’s about also giving them attitude.” For fall, he achieved that goal with a strong collection. But there’s a fine line between highly developed identity and excess familiarity. At some point, Vevers may want to take a page from those intrepid Western settlers and move on, if only a little.