DAMAN Style Designer Interview: Stuart Vevers of Coach

GOTHIC DREAMS – One of the most memorable shows—and collections—for the fall/winter ’18/’19 season came from Coach. DAMAN chats with the man behind it all: Stuart Vevers

British fashion designer Stuart Vevers described the set of his last fall/winter runway show for Coach using the phrase “Gothic prairie.” And somehow, this feels like a most apt description for the collection on display as well. In a way, it feels very much like a Coach collection deeply rooted in its DNA, but there’s also the notion of constant change interwoven into the pieces. Of course, bringing change in the best possible way is nothing new for Vevers, who now leads all creative aspects of the Coach brand, from designing both men’s and women’s products, developing the brand’s image and managing store environments.

DAMAN: Let’s begin the backdrop of Coach’s fall 2018 runway, with its dark and gloomy feel, decorated with green-less trees. Are there any particular sources of inspiration behind the set?
Stuart Vevers: I always want the experience of the show to feel transportive. I was inspired by the idea of a “Gothic Prairie”—nature transposed to the urban.

DAMAN:  Overall, the mood for Coach’s fall 2018 collection is pretty Goth and dark, especially compared to the spring 2018 collection. Is there a specific message, or point, that you want to convey through the fall 2018 collection?
Stuart Vevers: This season we explored the tension between luxury and utilitarian—what’s from the country and what’s from the city—and you see that reflected throughout. We embraced unexpected juxtapositions, imperfections and personalization. There’s whipstitching, thorny roses, found objects and feathers, highlighting our craftsmanship but applied as if they were found by the wearer. Individuality and personality is important to the Coach guy and girl.

DAMAN: In the show notes, you also described the show as “romantic.” How does these two opposing concepts come together in the collection?
Stuart Vevers: We described it as a dark romance and you definitely see this come together in the dresses. A lot of the dresses this season capture the essence of the collection overall. There’s a romance and femininity that’s inherent in a dress. They have a gossamer-like movement, taking the rich texture jacquard and devore velvet, overprint thorny roses, metallic threads and mixing them with romantic, feminine touches of lace and ribbon.

DAMAN: And talking of opposing concepts, the collection is also described as a tension between New York City and the American Southwest. Can you give us an example how this idea come together in the clothes?
SV: We’re often inspired by ideas as pieces from more rural America but the Coach guy and girl always put their look together in the city.

DAMAN: We’ve noted through your previous collections that there is almost always an American Southwest vibe in your vibes. Seeing that you’re originally from the United Kingdom, what is it that fascinates you the most about that region?
Stuart Vevers: I sometimes think that not being from the country where the house originated can actually be helpful. It means that you can explore obvious or more known references and not be too precious with them, since you didn’t grow up with them. I love the American West: The nature, the prairie landscapes, the idea of the open road. I like the juxtaposition between New York and the South West, the idea of the urban versus American utility.

DAMAN: Outerwear seems to be one of the highlights of the fall 2018 collection—like the shearling coats, hoodies and parkas, which were embellished by tassels. What is the idea behind these pieces?
Stuart Vevers: Shearling is a signature material for Coach. We treated it in an un-precious, utilitarian way. The idea of personalization can be seen throughout the outerwear. The added tassels and leather embellishments highlight Coach’s leather knowledge.

DAMAN: Western-inspired prints—including tattoos and rodeos—also added a tribal feel to some of the clothes. How do you take these elements and transform them into something more modern?
Stuart Vevers: The prints or motifs are often nostalgic but the pieces they are used for are the colorways we created for a guys wardrobe today.

DAMAN: Are there any specific accessories that you’d like to highlight out of the menswear collection for this season?
Stuart Vevers: I thought the small pouches that we attached to all the men’s bags were fun. Often three or four hanging from a bag. They were playful but we also created the sizes with specific pieces of tech in mind.

DAMAN: How would you describe the personality and style of the figure—the “Coach Man,” if you will—that you had in mind when you designed the fall/winter collection?
Stuart Vevers: He’s the quintessential cool guy. There’s attitude but there is also charm. A maverick with a nostalgic heart, so to speak.

DAMAN: Coach has also rolled out several exciting collaborations, including with Keith Haring and Disney. What do you look for in potential artists to collaborate with?
Stuart Vevers: They connect through me. They are ideas that I love. Keith Haring is a hero of mine. I genuinely love Disney. I love the classic animated films and characters and the pop culture immediacy. I also love the Disney parks. With a creative collaboration I’m always looking to surprise our client and challenge myself. I think collaborations are a great way to push our boundaries and to do something new.

DAMAN: Do you have any other collaboration projects lined up for the future?
Stuart Vevers: Stay tuned! Lots of interesting ideas planned but I want them to be a surprise.

DAMAN: Moving on to current trends in fashion, sportswear has taken the industry by storm. Is this something that Coach will also explore more of in upcoming collections?
Stuart Vevers: We played with American heritage sportswear this season. I love the Signature hoodie. We continued to re-contextualize our signature print. The hoodie features Western tassles and spiky whipstitching highlighting our leather craft.

DAMAN: On that note, what is your opinion of athleisure?
Stuart Vevers: I think the new codes of luxury are being defined by the next generation that want to spend their money on a sneaker, a t-shirt or a fun handbag. They want something that reflects their lives and personalities but still has the fantasy of fashion.

DAMAN: If Coach were to ever dive into the more sporty trends of today, how would you do it while staying true to the brand’s DNA?
Stuart Vevers: You see a lot of our Signature print throughout the collection – it’s treated in an irreverent way, as a base that’s over-printed, customized and becomes a kind of canvas for the season’s ideas. We’ve created an amped up luxe take on the traditional hoodie, t-shirt, backpack and sneaker. They feature lavish embellishments, leather and shearling, that highlight our leather craft.

DAMAN: Speaking of the brand’s DNA, what would you say are the most basic principles that define Coach?
Stuart Vevers: Coach is about challenging the old world ideas of what luxury is. I design for our modern lives and create with the next generation in mind. Coach is inclusive rather than exclusive. It’s playful, charming and friendly. Coach is for the dreamer in all of us.

DAMAN: Looking a bit far ahead, how do you think would Coach evolve as a brand in, say, five years from now?
Stuart Vevers: I am proud that Coach is now first and foremost a fashion house. As we continue to define and set the direction for Coach, I am excited to expand and encompass a more modern vision of America.