I’ve written about many a collaboration over the years with the all-important “x” becoming indicative of a cross-field, cross-price-bracket, cross-genre way of working that noughties fashion has thrown up. We’ve come to expect (dare we say tire?) collabs of the high street-high end nature as well as ones where fashion intersects with art, film or music. Peer to peer designer collaborations though are fewer and far between. A tie-up between a behemoth brand and a young-ish independent designer is even more unexpected. And so the collaboration between Coach and Rodarte is a pleasantly curious one. From a conversation surrounding the logistics of both parties showing on the same day during New York Fashion Week, a friendship was struck up between Stuart Vevers and Kate and Laura Mulleavy. Which by itself wouldn’t lead you to believe that a collaboration was on the cards but after a few fluid meetings at Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, a Coach & Rodarte capsule collection came to fruition. Vevers has been sending the Coach gang on a never ending American road trip since he came to the American leather goods house and naturally the Mulleavys’ West Coast location would make a prominent pit stop.
At first glance, the collaboration might seem like an unlikely one but upon further inspection, it’s really the coming together of two designers obsessed with a hazily lensed and imagined vision of America, often filtered through cinematic references. The Mulleavy sisters took Vevers under their nuanced Californian wing and in turn, Vevers unlocked Coach’s leather goods expertise for them to produce a collection of bags (a first for the sisters), leather garments and more accessible tees and sweatshirts. Rodarte’s dreamer aesthetic plays out across a heavy dose of dusky pink, pearly daisies and metallic leather pailette applique, that has been applied to Coach’s down to earth glove tanned universe. There’s also a cheeky nod to their previous dabblings in “Radarte” slogan tees, with the resurrection of 1970s Coach slogan ‘This is A Coach bag’, paired with intarsia renderings of the advertising imagery.
All in all, it’s an equal footed exchange of both like-minded inspiration as well as rare show of a helping hand from a corporate giant to an independent entity. Moreover, it’s a capsule collection that doesn’t dumb down Rodarte’s aesthetic, nor does it compromise the language of Coach – and thus makes for a successful mash-up between the two American houses, despite the gulf in size.