Of the four major fashion capitals, New York ranks as the city where boundless energy and infinite possibilities are most palpable in the air. It is no coincidence then, that American heritage brand, Coach, has published a book to celebrate its 75th anniversary and its birthplace—the bustling city where dreams are made.
The 336-page book features new and archival photography, design sketches, landmark editorials, ad campaigns and images of celebrities that Coach considers “inspirational icons of cool.” Coach’s tale of transformation is told through the eyes of the brand’s devoted clients and New York’s iconic figures—some of the familiar faces in the scrapbook-style tome include Madonna, Robert Redford, Chloë Grace Moretz shot against the electrifying background of New York City.
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Designed by esteemed art director Fabien Baron (of ex-BAZAAR fame) and written by Joel Dinerstein, Coach: A Story of New York Cool depicts the brand’s humble beginnings in 1941 in a Soho workshop, when only six artisans toiled at their work tables to produce men’s wallets and billfolds. Today, Coach is a globally-recognised leather goods behemoth, but not before American sportswear designer Bonnie Cashin entered the company’s ranks in the 1960s, shook things up and introduced the brand to a bigger market by offering women’s handbags and accessories.
It was a game-changing moment for the brand, one echoed decades later by the arrival of Englishman Stuart Vevers in 2013. Charged to press the reset button at Coach, the new Creative Director gamely declared his commitment to redefining “American cool.”
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“I knew even before I arrived that I wanted to be very careful about how I approached Coach’s heritage because my pitch was about change, fashion, newness, and the next generation,” Vevers explained. “I felt it was about doing a very bold, forward-looking vision. Any discussion or approach about the archive had to be more as a touchstone to understand why Coach has been around for 75 years. What are the things that people have come to love about the brand? What were the best moments?”
From refurbishing its stores with a contemporary vibe (the handrails, for example, are covered in leather as a subtle nod to its know-how), to collaborations with American artist Gary Baseman (that project yielded a series of clothing pieces and accessories decorated with adorable monster illustrations), and most recently, Disney’s Mickey Mouse, Vevers and his team are steadily repositioning Coach as the new bastion of American classics with a dash of insouciance.
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But it is Vevers’ ready-to-wear collections—all steeped in an appealing, youthful sense of Americana—that really set the tone and pace of his revolution of Coach. Launching in fall/winter 2014, the debut of this upmarket line saw a crowd-pleasing turnout of baseball jackets, shearling coats and checked skirts to add to your packing list for a road trip through America.
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Last September, Vevers solidified his bold intentions even more by adding Coach’s first-ever runway show to the spring/summer 2016 calendar. Held on New York’s famous High Line, models walked along a mirrored course flanked by a prairie field, while guests perched on wooden blocks took in sights of leather jackets and tea dresses done up in patchwork florals or soft, supple leather.
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He followed up with a fall/winter 2016 showing by upping Coach’s take on Americana in large doses through oversized varsity jackets, flirty dresses and naval-inspired coats. The varsity jacket, in particular, has made its mark on both the street style and social media circuits, on #OOTDs both online and in real life. The season also saw his move to rechristen the line to “Coach 1941”—a simple yet effective way to hammer home Coach’s heritage to the consumer, while at the same time ensuring that each season’s updated offerings stand distinct from the classics of the brand.
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Cruise—yet another a historic first for Coach—saw Vevers build on that momentum with rebellious jackets and skin-tight leather trousers that welcomed everyone to come along on the trip with him. These are exciting times for Coach, one marked by pieces that are vessels of American style that exemplify the ideal: It’s not about the labels you wear, but the attitude you wear it with. Buckle up,
it’s going to be a fun ride.
Coach: A Story of New York Cool retails at $165. Fifty copies will be available only at Coach Takashimaya from 21 October 2016.