#SuzyNYFW: A Gothic Prairie at Coach

Skinny trees forming a winter landscape were the backdrop to the Coach show – and artistic director Stuart Vevers had a name for this fairy tale gone wild

‘Gothic prairie’ was his description of the set, but it might equally have applied to the clothes – the ankle-length dresses as less innocent versions of Woodstock’s hippy days, and menswear that was big on leather jackets and furry coats.

Only in hipsters’ dreams would there be such colour coordination of burnt orange, mustard and tangerine all flowing together above python shoes and under leather fringes. And front row star Selena Gomez letting her long hair down on a leather jacket and flower girl dress.

That all sounds a lot to absorb in the wild wood, but Vevers had a vision in his fifth year at Coach, which began life as an accessories brand and still has an important focus on bags.

“We started ready-to-wear and fashion from scratch. First outerwear, then shearlings and our novelty sweaters, adding more categories each season,” the designer said. “It feels authentic. We didn’t do it in one go.”

“Then I saw something interesting about the juxtaposition between New York and the South West – the idea of American luxury versus American utility,” the designer continued. “That’s the kind of tension I started with – and it led to a dark romance.”

So Vevers shifted the show’s focus to dresses, sour rather than sweet, while the male look was built on leather with tailored jackets and coats, also on the dark side. For both sexes, the outfits were rich and dense with decoration.

Vevers had worked tirelessly for imaginative changes in texture, with jacquard prints, lace inserts and hand-done decoration. But there was no challenge to the fashion status quo in an outfit that listed 14 pieces – from leather wrap earrings, through toggle bracelets to signature buckle boots. And there were still more accessories on this one outfit.

The Coach strategy works precisely because the process is straight forward and Vevers is smart enough to bring constant change to the bags that are the core business. He found on Instagram a designer called Chelsea Champlain who was painting on vintage Sixties Coach bags, and invited her to decorate some bags.

The Coach strategy is to feed the core business with outside ideas without veering too far from the heartland – hence a continuing ‘relationship’ with the late Bonnie Cashin, the mid-century modernist who Vevers describes as a real ‘guardian angel’ of Coach.

If the spooky trees dusted with glitter seemed familiar, that consistency of style and content is what defines a strong brand.