It’s worth mentioning somewhere that Coach held it’s first full menswear show during the first day of London Collections: Men late last week. We won’t delve into too many of the obvious questions, like, Why did an American brand show in London? (Presumably because all the cool American kids are doing it, think: Rag & Bone and Tom Ford). But rather, we want to focus on: Why is Coach starting a menswear line and, now that it seems determined to do so, should we be paying any attention to it?
To answer the first question, as our friend Alexander Fury over at The Independent put it in his objectively excellent summary of the first round of London menswear shows, because Coach is a company driven by profits. When they suffered logo fatigue after selling too many of their monogrammed bags for years on end, it took steeply declining profits to force the brand to right their ship. So, a creative force, a la Jonathan Anderson, they are not. But that’s fine, because Anderson is busy being Anderson at his eponymous label and revamping LVMH-owned Loewe, as well. Coach is, or, could ultimately be, a totally satisfactory destination for people willing to pay a little bit more for decently made, well designed accessory, and now, full collections of men’s clothing, as well.
On to part 2 of our inquiry: Should we, the general public and consumers, be paying any attention? Other accessories lines have attempted growth in the past few years to varying degrees of success: Tumi (likely their closest competitor, especially given the pending lawsuit between the two) hired a creative director and made a few pieces of menswear but ultimately decided to just continue being Tumi; Cole Haan experimented with becoming a high-grade leather good company but has since decided to reign that in as well and just focus on … Lunargrands, I guess?
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! A competent creative director can accomplish wonders for brands at any price point (We're looking at you J.Crew). That said, Coach’s first foray into the high fashion game is puzzling. Their unique place in the market, no longer a competitor AT ALL to Louis Vuitton and co., and proudly(?) standing one rung or so on the price point latter below them (which is FINE), expectations are hard to nail down. They could blow the doors off this market and make it totally cool to be expensive but not the most expensive. But that’s really what it would take - an emotionally impactful show, full of wearable, unique designs. The kind of show that makes you want to run out and buy everything - no matter the price.
What Coach has chosen to do this go-round is give us more of a sampling of a few of the current trends in menswear and then also tons of shearling. There’s faux-underlaying and camo hits on sneakers and a few bombers and varsity jackets; so, obviously Stuart Vevers has done his homework and knows what the kids of today like. However, this collection fails to prove little more than that. And that’s precisely what Coach needed to avoid: namely, offering nothing terribly unique while still asking for a little more money than their next lowest competitor. And maybe that’s where the real problem lies, to answer our first question. Coach currently does not exist not to push design forward; it is, instead, a large corporate entity looking to maximize their profits (which is totally FINE). But when you’re showing a full men’s collection at LC:M, maybe you need to reconcile the two concepts. In the simplest terms: give us good, unique design and you’ll be rewarded when you tally your profits for the quarter. Any brand that’s made it in the last decade, from Alexander Wang to Proenza Schouler, can tell you this. And it’s totally possible Vevers is the man for the job. After all, packing those sneakers full of shearling isn’t the move of a weak-willed man.