So I snuck a peak at the notes prior to the show and saw the word psychedelic. I was worried. I then saw the name Kaffe Fassett. Knitting??? Worry turned to concern. Trippy woollen prairie dresses? Buzz-cut, then knitted – or knotted – into some kind of dreadfully locked fringe and dyed pink? If Bonnie Cashin was hired to design handbags, then Stuart Vevers was hired to increase the fashion credibility of Coach, but this seems a step too far away from Coach’s roots.
If this merger of artisans wasn’t perplexing enough for a guy on 3 hours sleep, my confusion turned to curiosity when entering the new venue for Coach Fall 2019 at the American Stock Exchange. Raw wooden floating floorboards and unsealed benches carved out a cold, nude room. Nothing here seems permanent. Nude, except for two kinetic sculptures, covered in gold leafing, spinning ever so slowly. Ambient, operatic chill music filled the room. And boy was it cold inside.
Then came the lightbulb moment. And I mean literally. Floodlights so bright I was actually envious of Anna’s glasses (yes, she was there). Ambient beats were swallowed by a wave of warm synthesis and the show began. Suddenly everything made sense.
The collection was designed with magic and logic. The momentum Vevers has been building with his Americana/Western archetypes in previous seasons carries over with a harder edge. Coach signature prints are layered atop materials creating sophisticated branding in a new textile. Vevers, not having grown up in the culture in which Coach was born has allowed him to leave behind judgement and see possibilities in creating ready to wear. This iteration, however is a new story in the Coach narrative.
The prairie dresses that have helped define the brand’s transformation were themselves re-invented. Shorter, grittier, and sometimes paired with shorts. Big scale florals sat atop Fassett’s Sixties-era psychedelic colours and were balanced with cleanly pleated necklines. Although the company name is a metaphor, Vevers brought a literal manifestation of individual threads of colours working together to create a colourful tapestry of Fassett’s yarn and Coach’s signature leather.
As expected, it was a strong outerwear showing, but in a slightly more complex, and considered composition. Colour bursts through material in layers, in a worn kind of way. Crombie and car coats are trimmed with graphic borders. The result is Vevers’ most shiny, bright and modern outerwear to date.
Although Kaffe Fassett is known as a technicolour textile artist, I was surprised to learn he started out as a painter, painting white still life of all subjects. It was only when this American artist moved to England and discovered coloured yarns of wool that lead him to designing knitwear and a career in textiles. And colour. The unfinished flooring and bare set design for Coach was a deliberate choice as an art studio; the easel upon which the tapestry would be displayed.
Different shades of green – from glowing emerald, to light moss accents, to deep olive settings -paint the runway most notably. The femininity of the tea rose signature has exploded into a foliage of chrysanthemums and is made masculine in stand out military-inspired pieces that feature Fassett’s prints. These will be a sure-fire hit in any street style wardrobe (including mine).
The OG Coach language continues to evolve, with Bonnie Cashin’s turn lock – originally inspired by the mechanism that was the closure for her soft top convertible – is exaggerated into super-closures. The signature supple glove-tanned leather is fully expressed in a much more urban rhythm than Vevers has presented in the past.
Then came the bags… Once the only offering from Coach, handbags have taken an undeserved second seat to the excitement that has been building in the last few seasons around ready to wear. Now, Vevers firmly stewards a sharp refocus. Structured. Graphic. Even sporty. Patterns are textured, prints are embossed, then debossed. I’m obsessed.
Vevers’ punk trip moves his fashion aesthetic forward, and the shearlings, parkas and jackets are earning centre-frame position in instagram feeds. This time, with a colour-burst knit-twist.