Fashion week done. 140 shows and presentations (not including appointments) done. Time to breathe, digest and debrief. The one thing that I’ve been thinking a lot about over the course of the month is this idea of control. How much of it do creative directors have. How do they exercise it. And if a great deal of control is ceded to said creative directors, does that make for more fruitful collections.
Stuart Vevers at Coach is one of those partnerships that is yielding results after a three year gestating period of resetting and remoulding this American stalwart brand. Profits are up and that passing over of creative control to Vevers is reaping rewards. But now it’s time to rev things up. Quite literally, in amongst a set of piled up greaser cars, yet another one of Vevers’ girl gangs. One that perhaps is his most extreme yet at Coach.
It’s interesting that in amongst Vevers’ like-minded, similar-generation of cohorts including longtime stylist Katie Grand, Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier all have longtime fascinations with this idea of girlhood, with wildly different results. It’s only at Coach though, that Vevers seems to have taken this idea and fled with it, imagining and re-imagining aspects of Americana until it becomes something else.
To take the latest SS17 collection as an example, teenage fandom of Elvis Presley doesn’t mean 1950s poodle skirts and letterman cardis. You could see more of a direct link with the photographs of Karlheinz Weinberger of rockabilly fans in Switzerland, laden with hammered hardware and Elvis memorabilia. Elvis’ face may have been collaged onto rocker tees but they were paired with fringed leather, studded denim, bikers and vests signed off with Bobcat Rebels insignia. Underneath it all were sheer floral slips and baby doll dresses, embroidered and crocheted with ric-rack trim and roses. They looked like something Courtney Love – who happened to be in the audience for the show – might have worn in the nineties. Coach’s signature leather was rendered into fringed kilt skirts and patched up with Liberty florals to give a different spin to the Coach outerwear, which has become something of a hit category for the brand. The distinction between the folkloric, rock ‘n’ roll, and grunge are blurred so that you can’t pin the girl to one particular era. That genre mixing is best summed up in the shoes – moccasin, creeper and bovver boot – all rolled into one stomping hybrid. Chains, studs and grommets toughen up the plastic flowers that adorn the Dinky bags swinging from their hands.
And so as you pick your way through this rich mix, it’s hard not to draw comparisons with the girl gangs that labels like Luella or the now-consolidated Marc by Marc Jacobs exemplified. Coach’s ready to wear, backed by its leather goods empire, now fills that much-missed gap – that tangible and covetable kawaii and girlie but not saccharine intersection between contemporary and luxury fashion – that gets the hearts of girls and the forever teen women racing. Vevers being given the freedom to push the Coach ready to wear agenda to enable say sheer slips, studded cats and leather fringed kilts is a boon to this forever teen.