he quirky girl is having a moment in fashion—and one of her champions is Stuart Vevers. The affable British-born executive creative director for Coach is credited with reimagining this 75-year-old American brand, but he humbly suggests that he’s only bringing back the eclectic charm that designer Bonnie Cashin brought to the house in the ’60s.
“I wanted to capture her idiosyncrasies,” he says. “When you go into the Coach archive, you can see the moment she walked in the door. Her names for products were charming and fun like the ‘Cashin’ carry bag. You can also see the moment she leaves the house because things start to get brown and black.”
Vevers’s affection for Cashin—who is considered one of the pioneers of American sportswear—isn’t merely for show. There’s a photograph of her on the mood board behind his desk. “I feel like she’s keeping an eye on me,” he says with a smile. She passed away in 2000, but if Vevers could have lunch with her today, he would thank her for being such an inspiration. “I’d want her to know about the legacy she left—not just for Coach but for American women,” he says. “I’d also give her a big hug—and I’d introduce her to Rexy. I think she’d fall in love with her.”
Rexy is the playful T. Rex mascot that Vevers unveiled in 2015. She appears on everything from key chains to bags. There’s even a giant inflatable Rexy in the corner of Vevers’s New York office. Like the photo of Cashin, it’s there to remind Vevers to infuse the brand’s approach to luxury with a certain whimsy.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF COACH“I think we’re much more open to contradictions of style,” explains Vevers. “You can have a beautifully styled leather bag with a playful space graphic or bottle-cap-inspired embellishments. As an American luxury brand we can do things differently.”
Vevers has a rather sepia-toned attachment to the idea of America. Growing up in England, he says he was obsessed with American film, music and TV. “I loved Fame,” he says, laughing. “I loved Little House on the Prairie, Working Girl and Jaws. I also love Terrence Malick films. I get swept up in the romance of those big, open landscapes.”
That romantic view was celebrated last December at the Coach 1941 Pre-Fall 2017 show at Pier 94 in New York. The set was an evocative recreation of a late-’60s roadside diner and motel, complete with Cutlass and Continental rides. Vevers says he wanted the show—which happened weeks after Trump’s presidential win—to be a celebration of American optimism.
“I wanted to create a setting where cinema and romance come into play. The beautiful and airy photos from William Eggleston, Joel Sternfeld and Stephen Shore also influenced me. You never know what is going to spark moments of creativity and culture. I think a shift—whether political or whatever—can have a big impact on creativity.”
In light of the global protest marches following Trump’s election and subsequent controversial executive orders, the “Give a Damn” embroidered patch—which is stitched onto the collection’s shearling biker jacket—seems especially prescient.