>> Here’s one accessory that I’ve not had the opportunity to touch upon in all of Style Bubble’s ten year history.  The fan.  There are many an instance where it’s required but so often, forgotten as a handbag essential.  In the un-airconditioned environment of London, primarily on the tube for instance.  Or at fashion show venues in the hotter months of July and September where guests end up collectively fanning themselves furiously with folded up press releases.  Or lately in any crowded situation because of my pregnancy.   And yet, despite the practicalities of a fan, the very act of fanning oneself especially with a traditional fan shape can recall frothy characters in period dramas.  Therefore are they FANciful or functional?  It’s a bit of both according to fashion PR Daisy Hoppen, who has paired up with Danish textile designer Amanda Borberg to create Fern Fans.  “I have always loved fans and have bought them whenever I have been on holiday – you can get ones with the most amazing prints and also they are excellent if you are constantly fidgeting like me” explains Hoppen.  “I felt for sometime there was a real gap in the market – finding fans that didn’t feel gimmicky but elegant, well priced and chic. The historical history of them has also been really important- it’s a personal area of interest and there are few fashion items today that have existed for as long as the simple fan.”

And so Fern’s first collection doesn’t stray too far from tradition.  In that recognisable pleated concertina construction made out of traditional birch wood and textured cotton, Borberg and Hoppen found a classic framework that suited Fern’s subtly contemporary designs.  “As a designer I find it interesting to work with a very set frame – a fan is a fan, and even though they come in many shapes and sizes, they all have the same purpose,” says Borberg.  “It’s the color, print and material that can make a fan unique. So we chose to work with those factors and go with the classic fan construction, which I find to be both beautiful and genius as it folds.  I hope that everyone can find a fan from our collection that feels appealing to them. It should be a joyful, but elegant accessory – its not a costume, but an everyday friend.”

Whether it’s in a beautifully dyed gradient, solid coloured cotton or adorned with hand painted florals, Fern pays homage to both the perceived tradition and the enduring practicality of a fan.  Fern’s first look book is accompanied by a set “fan language” – to hold it opened, covering the mouth denotes one’s singleton status, to hold the fan with the right hand in front of the face is to invite onlookers to follow them.  And of course, to physically throw the fan is a petulant declaration of hate.  Whimsical historics aside, Hoppen also acknowledges simple pleasures of carrying a fan such as the sound it makes when they snap shut.  Or when you thrust it open in dramatic fashion.  Whatever your fanning etiquette, there’s no doubt that with Fern, Borberg and Hoppen are fulfilling a niche.  Their first collection will be in-stores from spring 2017 onwards in time for the summer months. 

>> How to alleviate the tiresome feeling of waddling around town with what feels like a 3 kilo bag of rice strapped to your belly?  By doing the conga with a human sized dinosaur mascot and Bryan Boy, which got the bump jiggling along too.  And as I hit my final days of being quite uncomfortably pregnant, I thought I’d look back to more jovial times when me, bump and Rexy were havin’ it large at the Coach House flagship store opening in London’s Regent Street back in November.

As this belatedly posted set of photographs attest, touring new stores – more often than not a solemn activity, peppered with facts about marble finishings and architecture waffle – can indeed be fun.  That is the key word of course that has underpinned Stuart Vevers’ turnaround of the brand, particularly in the runway Coach 1941 collections.  But even as T-rexes and stegosauruses waggle their leather puzzle piece tails about and kitschy Brit-themed badges that peppered a special capsule collection of accessories and varsity jackets (scoured from eBay by Vevers’ team apparently), there’s heft to back up the frivolity.  At the Craftsmanship Bar, there’s a wall of emojis to choose from to monogram Coach classics, in addition to the normal initial stamping.  Downstairs, there’s now a Made-to-Order service where a bespoke Rogue bag can be created in over one million possible colour combinations.  And throughout the store, Coach’s hometown of New York is evident in black steel fixtures, mahogany wood and a central mechanised conveyor belt that actually moves – a symbol of the chugging along of Coach’s upward trajectory.  Even Bryan and I play acting with a baseball glove and ball bears some significance, as they’re pertinent reminders of the glove-tanned leather that the founder of Coach was inspired to create because of the well-worn patina and buttery feel of a pitcher’s glove.

For Vevers, London is a chance to come home and officiate Regent Street with a proper retail incarnation of what he has achieved at Coach.  It’s a concept that has rolled out in New York and is likely to do so in the future in other cities.  The word “House” as opposed to “Maison” is fitting for a store that sits on what a street that straddles between contemporary, high street and designer.

A giant Rexy near the entrance is there to invite gawkers in for a gander and a feel of what are in essence, comparatively accessible products.  Incidentally, did you know Rexy’s a “she”?  According to Vevers, “she’s” not strictly speaking part of Coach’s 75 year history but has become an apt character and mascot, representing the sort of japes that now goes down in Coach design team.  Nope it’s not that dignified or necessarily “luxurious” to be hugging a lycra-clad female dressed up as a T-Rex.  But it is a laugh – and nestled in amongst all that leather and shearling – it’s providing a formula that’s working for Coach’s newfound customer base.

 

This post is part of an on-going social media partnership with Coach

sticker

>> After a long and hard look at the dreadful state of my office slash gubbins-keeping slash spare room, which is soon to be the nursery, I’ve decided to try and cut down on keeping paper-based paraphernalia.  I’ve accumulated a substantial statsh of handwritten notes, greetings cards and lookbooks with a paperstock that I like the feel of, that sadly must either be recycled or go into storage.  In the latest batch of all things papier from the last round of shows, I found this note from Stuart Vevers of Coach.  It doesn’t say anything particularly significant but it does have an array of stickers on it (metallics/jellies/bumpies – no felties alas).  Which apparently was enough of a reason for me to hang onto it.  The cuteness of it of course correlates with the sort of accessories that Coach have been delving into that get inner kids in both men and women excited.  There’s sturdiness in robust bags like their glove-tanned Rogue, which comes in a myriad of colours, but then they’ve introduced a host of motifs and characters – creatures that roamed the earth long long ago and an alphabet of varsity patches that underline the AW16 collection.

And so I played around with my own set of Coach-inspired digi-stickers.  Photoshop isn’t quite the same as a Lisa Frank sticker album but it does make it easy to dawdle away an hour or so, making static leather dinosaurs and teddy heads bop about the page.  Wait…. wasn’t I upstairs in the spare room supposedly clearing out paper miscellany?  Procrastination due to leather patches.  Whatever next…

coachdinosmallCoach AW 16 dress and Coach Dinosaur Turnlock Wristlet

coachpatchCoach AW 16 dress worn with vintage Courreges jacket and Coach Rogue patch bag

coachkeyCoach AW 16 dress and Coach Rogue bag in grey suede

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.

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