Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Reinvention of Coach: From Trite to Semi-Twisted

 Opening looks from the Spring 2015 collection

What's in a name? Or the name of a brand, for that matter? Even though Reed Krakoff spent a whopping 18 years working to revive Coach as their executive creative director, nothing the accessories-focused designer did could shake the image of suburban preteens and uninspired twenty-somethings with their logo-stamped wristlet clutches and miniature shoulder bags, likely snapped up at the local outlet mall, smugly on display (often accompanied by "going-out" tops and ill-fitting, semi-bootcut jeans). At least, not for me. The company's chairman said upon Krakoff's departure, "His contribution in evolving Coach from a house of American leather goods to a leading international accessories is immeasurable," but what does that even mean, anyway, other than he made the brand a lot more money?

 From left: Gwyneth Paltrow in September 2011, Eva Longoria in November 2011, and Zoe Saldana in March 2006, all carrying Coach

At one time, Coach bags were cool, but for the better part of the last several decades, they were for those who either did not know better or who did not care to know better. At best, the label produced some simplistic leather bucket bags that could be carried with success, as long as savvy styling and a sense of irony were also in tow.

Looks from the Fall 2014 collection

Enter a new era: the British Stuart Vevers, formerly of Loewe and Mulberry, replaced Reed Krakoff in time for Fall 2014 fashion week, and the change he brought was delightfully drastic. When initially asked what makes Coach unique, Vevers' response was its undeniable Americanness. His takeover has proven we don't know Coach. He moved to New York City to take the job, and the influence of the sometimes exhausting and often invigorating city, complete with trying winter weather, was evident in his first collection. 

Street-treading skins, high-protection shearling, toggle coats to hide out in, and blanket-heavy plaid prints sent the message: a brand is only as dull as its director, and preconceived notions can be washed away with little more than a tuft of leather fringe, a few pairs of lug-soled boots, and some laidback styling (nothing says, "I don't give a shit," like a giant, toasty coat and bare legs). 

 Looks from the Spring 2015 collection

Jacketys that look swiped right out of Fraggle Rock, leather and patent miniskirts in popsicle colors, and funky magnified leopard prints: for his second collection, Vevers reaped inspiration from David Lynch films and Patricia Arquette as Alabama Whitman in True Romance. The result isn't merely fun yet quirky clothes that hint at the spontaneous thrill of a freewheeling road trip. It's a mood that's  seasoned with London street style (it's also not dissimilar from the recent tone at Mulberry: pastel-laden, offbeat, high-energy) and founded upon the youthful's illogical reasoning. Who other than the young (aside from the crazy) would rationalize pairing summery slide-on sandals with a fuzzy, furry, hooded overcoat? 

California-based artist and animator Gary Baseman etched the cartoon creatures emblazoned on the tees and sweaters, and they could serve as an analogy for the whole collection. At first glance, it's innocent, playful, and frothy, but look a little closer, and this friskiness isn't saccharine but slightly sour. Like the pretty blonde girl who catches you off-guard by cursing like a sailor and telling the raunchiest joke you've ever heard. But perhaps Vevers describes it best; when discussing the collection's leisure suit-meets-'90s-inspired flared pants, he said they possess the "twisted nostalgic feel that is, in essence, what this collection is all about."

 Looks from the Spring 2015 collection

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