WITCHY WOMAN

RAVEN HAIR & RUBY LIPS, SPARKS FLY FROM HER FIN­GER­TIPS…

ELLE (Australia) - - Contents -

En­ter the cool new cult of Coach (and its must-have dress).

TEM­PO­RAR­ILY DOWN FOR SPIR­I­TUAL MAIN­TE­NANCE.

That’s the mes­sage Coach’s 2.8 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers re­ceived on June 9 be­fore be­ing hit with one sim­ple sum­mons: “Hello… your fu­ture is call­ing. Are you go­ing to pick up?” Cue #Life­coachny, six days of life-coach appointments, sound bath med­i­ta­tion led by mod­ern mys­tic The Hood­witch, tarot read­ings, midyear astrol­ogy fore­casts from The Astrotwins and, be­cause the ac­tion con­verged at the brand’s hip Soho store in down­town New York, live graf­fiti and daily DJ sets. An im­mer­sive multi-sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence cre­ated to “wake up all the feels”, the week was trained on help­ing the brand’s fol­low­ers find their truest po­ten­tial, live their best lives. And the peo­ple, they came. Such is the pull of the cult of Coach. And the guru spread­ing the mes­sage of mys­ti­cal cool? Cre­ative di­rec­tor Stu­art Vevers, leader of a ded­i­cated co­terie of fash­ion dis­ci­ples.

To un­der­stand this sar­to­rial spir­i­tual awak­en­ing we need to go back four months ear­lier to Pier 36 on the Lower East Side of Man­hat­tan, where some of Vevers’ most de­voted be­liev­ers, in­clud­ing Se­lena Gomez, Storm Reid, Sasha Lane, Vic Mensa, Joey Bada$$, Goldlink, Kiko Mizuhara and Win­nie Har­low gath­ered to wit­ness Vevers’ darkly ro­man­tic vi­sion of goth­ictinged Amer­i­cana. The spec­tral au­tum­n­win­ter 18-19 show was set on a mood­ily lit run­way scat­tered with for­est de­bris and shrouded in smoke that swirled over­head as mod­els in rich, just-this-side-of-twisted prairie dresses swept by. With their eyes rimmed in kohl, talismans swing­ing from their neck and ears, and rings on ev­ery fin­ger, these ghostly fig­ures marked a turn­around from the sea­son be­fore, where the run­way was paved in glit­ter and pretty pas­tel slip dresses stole the show. But then, that was the point.

“I think some­times you do re­act to a lit­tle bit to the pre­vi­ous col­lec­tion,” says Vevers, his York­shire lilt and warm de­meanour the very qual­i­ties ev­ery cult leader should have if they pos­si­bly can. Since land­ing the top job in 2014, he’s sys­tem­at­i­cally won over a no­to­ri­ously hard-to-im­press in­dus­try, restored the house’s lux­ury rep­u­ta­tion and sent sales sky­ward. “When I joined Coach, it was re­ally about in­tro­duc­ing fash­ion to Coach. It’s most known for its leather goods, but I re­ally wanted to in­tro­duce ready-to-wear for the first time. I was very de­lib­er­ate about the ap­proach, de­vel­op­ing more cat­e­gories into our reper­toire from one sea­son to the next. So re­ally, at the be­gin­ning, it started with an out­er­wear fo­cus and we’ve be­come most known for our shear­lings, our bik­ers and our var­sity jack­ets. Then the last cou­ple of sea­sons I re­ally wanted to find an au­then­tic way to do a Coach dress. This was a big dress sea­son.”

His cho­sen one: a shim­mer­ing lamé pleated dress worn by flame-haired model of the mo­ment, Amer­i­can Rem­ing­ton Wil­liams – black lace run­ning down her arms and up her throat, and black stomp­ing boots kick­ing up au­tumn leaves as she walked. Squint and your mind could be for­given for wan­der­ing back to an­other time when red­heads were be­lieved to pos­sess su­per­nat­u­ral pow­ers (see the Red Priest­ess, Melisan­dre, in Game Of Thrones) and women of witch­craft were the out­liers of so­ci­ety, re­bel­lious in their wicked ways. Only on Vevers’ run­way, re­bel­lion is cel­e­brated. And the oth­er­worldly dress, long on hem­line and loaded with de­tail, is a wardrobe must. “There’s some­thing great about the dress. At the end of the day, you can say a lot about your brand, tell sto­ries about your brand in a sin­gle piece. It can have a cer­tain power to it.”

It’s no ques­tion the bold young trail­blaz­ers Vevers has at­tracted to the brand have helped speed along the tran­si­tion from 76-year-old leather house to hot-prop­erty lux­ury la­bel. There’s Se­lena Gomez, voice of a gen­er­a­tion, who of­fi­cially an­nounced her part­ner­ship with the brand as the new face for the au­tumn/win­ter 17-18 cam­paign and a sea­son later was cel­e­brat­ing the launch of her Coach x Se­lena Gomez col­lec­tion, cre­ated in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the de­signer. Strong and smart Black Pan­ther break-out star Leti­tia Wright chose Coach above any other la­bel for her first Met Gala red car­pet this year – her ban­dana-printed gold dress cus­tomised with em­broi­dered Ethiopian crosses and one of the ac­tress’s favourite Bi­ble scrip­tures, “You are the light of the world”, in­scribed across the back. And Anna Collins, bal­let teacher and lit­tle sis­ter of artist and Gucci muse Pe­tra Collins, who made her cat­walk de­but for Coach this sea­son and has de­scribed friend Vevers as “one of the fun­ni­est peo­ple I’ve met… so sweet and car­ing”.

Sur­round­ing him­self with a di­verse group of smart, in­spir­ing, cre­ative peo­ple, it seems, is his rai­son d’être. Born in the north of Eng­land and study­ing in Lon­don, Vevers’ ca­reer has taken him all over the world, first with Calvin Klein then Bot­tega Veneta, Givenchy, Louis Vuit­ton and Loewe. “I’ve been for­tu­nate to live and work in so many coun­tries, the UK, of course, but France and Italy and Spain and now the US, and I get to travel and see so many places in Asia – wher­ever you go you meet amaz­ing peo­ple and amaz­ing char­ac­ters… I think one of the things I love about New York City is that you meet peo­ple from all over the world and you meet such unique in­di­vid­u­als. I’ve al­ways wanted to cel­e­brate that.”

“MOD­ELS IN RICH, JUST-THIS-SIDEOF-TWISTED PRAIRIE DRESSES SWEPT

BY… THEIR EYES RIMMED IN KOHL, TALISMANS SWING­ING, RINGS ON EV­ERY FIN­GER”

The most re­cent Coach col­lec­tion looks to Vevers’ adopted home and rep­re­sents an evo­lu­tion of his cel­e­bra­tion of all things Amer­i­cana. A trip to the South­west state of New Mex­ico last sum­mer (the cul­mi­na­tion of five sum­mers in a row spent ex­plor­ing dif­fer­ent parts of the US), and the cap­i­tal Santa Fe – des­ig­nated a UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art – pro­vided a start­ing point. “I was look­ing a lot at that kind of ten­sion be­tween the city and the coun­try. A lot of my ref­er­ences have come from the coun­try, but I re­ally wanted the sea­son to feel very ur­ban, and I think that au­to­mat­i­cally brought in a cer­tain so­phis­ti­ca­tion.” So while there was an ar­ti­sanal, home­spun feel to pieced-to­gether fab­rics, leather and metal work, tas­sels, braid­ing, whip­stitch­ing, found ob­jects and feath­ers, it was all fil­tered through the one ques­tion: “How would they work in New York City?”

Just like any young pro­tégé flour­ishes un­der its men­tor, the Coach woman (and man, be­cause for the first sea­son, both were on the run­way) is grow­ing up, or at least dress­ing up, now that Vevers has truly hit his stride. But that doesn’t mean she’s lost any of her ca­sual Coach edge. She’s still styling her look with a hoodie, she’s still shrug­ging on a leather jacket, and she’s still got a cer­tain swag­ger, only now it comes with a more mys­te­ri­ous air. “I like it when she makes play­ful choices,” he says. “And you know, I think she can. There’s a lot of at­ti­tude, a tough­ness, but

“FASH­ION IS ABOUT EMO­TION. IT’S ABOUT HOW IT MAKES YOU FEEL. AND SO I HAVE TO TRUST MY IN­STINCT”

then there’s also al­ways a lot of ro­mance and fem­i­nin­ity, so I think she plays with jux­ta­po­si­tions, a mix of nos­tal­gia with moder­nity, with a cer­tain sense of ease.”

It would be tempt­ing to get caught up in all the sparkly new­ness of this freshly formed Coach gang, with their shared sym­bols of be­long­ing in no small part ow­ing to Vevers’ weak­ness for an artis­tic col­lab­o­ra­tion and his ubiq­ui­tous char­ac­ter jumpers (the “Rexy” di­nosaur sweater is a street-style main­stay). But for all his ef­forts to move the brand for­ward, Vevers re­mains re­spect­ful of its rich past, nam­ing his ready-to-wear line Coach 1941 in a nod to the year the house was founded, and keep­ing bags – the be­drock the house was built on – front and cen­tre. “In fact, this sea­son we made prob­a­bly the most overt ref­er­ence to our archive. I recre­ated a bag that Bon­nie Cashin [one of the pi­o­neer­ing de­sign­ers of Amer­i­can sports­wear who de­signed for Coach dur­ing the ‘60s and ‘70s] had cre­ated here. Like, stitch for stitch es­sen­tially, I didn’t change any­thing be­cause I liked it just as it was. I didn’t want to al­ter her idea. And in the end we did some­thing quite fun and we ac­tu­ally hung her name from the side of the bag.” The styling though, was all Vevers. A man after our own heart, he sent bags in duos down the run­way, link­ing small purses to­gether with mas­sively roomy totes in homage to the busy lives we all lead. “Fast, easy, sim­ple.”

There’s a kind of alchemy to the so­cial me­dia-fu­elled suc­cess Coach is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing un­der Vevers’ cre­ative di­rec­tion. A well-oiled, profit-fo­cused ma­chine be­hind it for sure (com­pany prof­its were re­ported to have nearly dou­bled late last year). But the magic lies in his abil­ity to trust his in­tu­ition. “You’ve got to keep things per­sonal and emo­tional,” he says. “At the end of the day, fash­ion is about emo­tion. It’s about how it makes you feel. And so I have to trust my in­stinct. I al­ways think it’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to take risks and to push your­self be­cause I of­ten find the things that made me most ner­vous when I was do­ing them, they ended up be­ing the things I’m most proud of, be­cause I was do­ing some­thing new. It’s about mak­ing sure that you’re per­son­ally coura­geous and then hope­fully other peo­ple will see that and it will in­spire them.”

It would be a rare aes­thete who wasn’t in­spired in some way, by those dark flo­ral prints and pais­ley scarf pat­terns, slim trousers and hand-tooled suede jack­ets, su­per­sized sweaters and slouchy bags that speak to the very soul of what it means to dress to face the world in 2018. All due to a man who has taken the time to con­sider the cur­rent cul­tural land­scape we’re nav­i­gat­ing and iden­ti­fied the de­sire for some­thing tran­scen­dent, fash­ion that el­e­vates the ev­ery­day. “I was for­tu­nate,” he says, sim­ply. “I think one of the rea­sons we’ve been able to progress rel­a­tively quickly was be­cause that first sea­son peo­ple were so en­thu­si­as­tic. Ul­ti­mately it gave me, and also the com­pany, the con­fi­dence to just be like, okay, so peo­ple think this works, so we’re gonna go for it… I think some­times the stars are aligned.”

RUN­WAY MAGIC: Lace, lamé and pais­ley print de­fined Coach 1941 AW18-19

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