Coach has been in limbo since at least June 2013, when its current creative director, British-born Stuart Vevers, joined from LVMH-owned brand, Loewe. Since then, the brand has been hard at work scrapping its dusty middle American image, and trying to undo some of the damage of years of over-branding and rapid expansion-turned-market saturation. And while the hard work is far from over, the result - at least on a micro level - has been positive: In October, for instance, Coach posted a first-quarter profit that topped analysts’ estimates, as new styles and fewer discounts boosted results.
So, what about Fall/Winter 2016? The classic American leather goods brand, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, grabbed the fashion crowd's attention this week with its luxury collection called Coach 1941. This marked the second full-scale runway show for the line (prior outings consisted of smaller presentation-type stagings), which made its debut in stores this month.
“This time, its executive creative director Stuart Vevers reimagined Americana looks, for example mixing team sport uniforms with feminine touches like ruffles. There were oversized varsity jackets paired with floral dresses or ruffled blouses. The collection also highlighted lots of shearling coats or vests shown with leather or floral skirts. There were all types of handbags from shoulder strap versions to satchels,” per the Associated Press.
"What really appealed to me was the idea of this juxtaposition between something quite tough and then a softness," said Vevers in a post-show interview. "There is a certain nostalgia about a varsity jacket and these very nostalgic dresses with the frills, very feminine."
Maybe more interestingly, Vevers spoke to the uphill battle he has faced since he joined the American brand just over two years ago, when revenues were way down and the brand had a stigma associated with middle American malls and outlet shops. He acknowledged it's not easy to reinvent a label, saying: "Changing someone's perception of a brand is a feat. People have a fun nostalgic place for Coach.”
We’ll have to wait quite awhile to see how this latest round of runway offerings fare in terms of sales but in the meantime, there are some tangible victories we can hang on to, one of which being the front row, a crowd of young Hollywood starlets, like Emma Roberts, Chloe Moretz and Riley Keough. This is noteworthy given Coach’s turn towards the more youthful.
There are other takeaways, as well. As Vogue’s Chioma Nnadi noted: “It’s been two years since Stuart Vevers was charged with giving Coach a reset. In that time he’s honed in on new brand signatures to go with the much-loved handbags, and made a particularly compelling case for the pretty little Coach summer dress last season—whimsical festival-ready frocks that have since been snapped by Colette, arguably one of the coolest stores in Paris.”