NEW YORK, United States — “The best ideas come from nightclubs,” said Stuart Vevers as he mused on the origins of his latest offering for Coach. On a road trip to Santa Fe, he discovered El Matador: no one over 25 and everyone dressed in a hybrid of Western wear and New Romantic. It was a Eureka! moment for Vevers. Who was the ultimate New Romantic? PRINCE! Thus was a new collection born.
The “revolution” so promisingly referred to in Vevers' shownotes was really just a tip of the cap to Prince’s band, but at least that Revolution had a distinct style which filtered into the show in frills, ruffles, jabots and a drummer boy jacket. The designer talked about the Coach girl and guy scavenging their look from the detritus of civilisation, but he insisted it was a more optimistic notion than the post-apocalyptic dystopia suggested by such an idea.
Autumn/Winter’s sweeping prairie proportions were retained, but that collection’s dark gothiness was lightened. Pre-apocalypse perhaps. Vevers did, after all, talk about “relics for the future”, and the giant junkyard brontosaurus in the centre of the catwalk was a benign, if well-rusted, presence. This Max wasn’t mad. Maybe just mildly irritated.
In Shanghai recently, Vevers had the disorienting experience of viewing “The Sound of Music” projected upside down and back to front. Everything is grist to a designer’s creative mill. For his fourth collab with Disney, he turned critters from “Bambi”, “Dumbo”, “Pinocchio”, “Peter Pan” and more upside down and printed or intarsia-ed them on sweats and knits. He also chopped and collaged them into prints.
The result was a disorienting, twisted innocence which seemed like a pretty accurate summation of Vevers' reconceptualisation of Coach. Under his stewardship, America’s iconic leather goods house has become the home of youthful style dissidents. The soundtrack was grunge-y. The show opened and closed with shaven-headed young women. I thought of Emma Gonzalez. But the revolution wasn’t starting here. It was merely being artfully co-opted.