With five years under his belt as creative director at Coach, Stuart Vevers is thinking outside of the (black) box. For fall, he left the American heartland behind and hit the Coast, showing a new vision of gritty-glam in a stripped-back Wall Street venue that let the light in on some fabulous clothes.

“For me, it was about opening my mind,” Vevers said of his inspiration, which stemmed from a road trip up California’s scenic Route 1 that had him stopping at Nepenthe, the famous Big Sur restaurant that opened in 1949 and is still a must for sweeping views, Ambrosia burgers and shopping for tie-dyes and wind chimes.

Inspiration led to collaboration, with Vevers tapping artist Kaffe Fassett, whose family has owned and operated Nepenthe since the start. The designer used Fassett’s Sixties-era psychedelic florals on prints that were a collection through line. But this wasn’t any hippie-dippie outing; it was equal parts Santa Cruz boardwalk (another one of Vevers’ stops along the way) with a muted color palette (nearly all the prints were against a black background) and with the feel-good vibe tempered by rock n’ roll and punk grit.

Tailoring was a more significant part of the collection than usual, with mannish, rockabilly-style blazers balancing grungy-glam patchwork floral print dresses with swishy hems, and western booties or cool platform creeper sneakers anchoring everything in the now. Grandpa cardigans in a mohair leopard pattern or buttery-thin leather added to the layered look.

But it was board shorts, in lingerie lace or leather, that really added the X factor. “We liked the idea of the Coach girl hitching up her skirt, and putting her hands in her pockets, with the surfer shorts peeking out underneath,” explained Vevers of the styling flourish. It looked great.

There was even an evening look in the mix (H.E.R. wore a custom Coach look to the Grammys), a charming exploded-floral sheath edged in beads, and finished with a grosgrain bow tie with silver tips. Other extras included bowling bags and attachés that picked up Fassett’s prints beautifully.

And as usual, outerwear was an emphasis, including an oversize patchwork floral coat with Bonnie’s turn-lock hardware, and a shearling hem with signature Coach c’s in case you forget who you are wearing. A cutout vest swinging black leather fringe felt tough but also light, which in a nutshell is what made this collection soar — no mind-altering substances necessary.

As for the men’s wear, it was especially on point this time. In the past, Vevers has gone a bit too far into costume-y territory, but this offering was cool and modern. “We took American archetypes and modernized them with a thread of sport,” the designer said.

That was evident in the reversible jackets that featured checks or buffalo plaids on one side and a bright shot of nylon on the other. He also managed to strike a balance between Americana retro influences and modernity in the use of dark floral prints that he employed on military-inspired outerwear. And while the designer embraced the brand’s leather legacy in shearlings, parkas and jackets, the pieces in this collection were clearly targeted to a fearless hipster who seeks to be a street style star rather than a fashion victim.   

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