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With the big transformational restructuring programme now behind them, Coach is beginning to see some positive results. In August, the company reported a full-year sales growth of 7 per cent, and positive comparable-store sales in North America for the first time in three years. The company, which includes the accessories brand Stuart Weitzman, reported a 15 per cent year-on-year increase to $1.15bn in the last quarter.
The figures may not be astonishing, but the brand has stolen a significant march on its US competitors, brands like Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren, the American behemoth that is only now tackling the necessary housework it needs to do in order to secure its future health. After a challenging time, Coach is pulling ahead. No wonder its chief executive Victor Luis was grinning amid the Cadillac-stacked showspace that made up the brand’s SS17 set. The house has an unmistakable momentum about it. And when so many other major American brands are experiencing major turbulence — creative handovers at Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein, a radical financial and strategic overhaul at Ralph Lauren, and a complete change of ownership at DKNY (which was sold by LVMH to G-III Apparel for $650m in July) — that’s been no easy achievement.
One of the key reasons for that success has come via Stuart Vevers, the incredibly charming Yorkshireman appointed by the brand in 2013 to oversee its men’s and women’s collections. Vevers has been instrumental in redirecting the brand’s somewhat staid, middling, mall-mom status to something younger and more urgent. He’s been very persuasive. Serena Williams, Millie Bobby Brown, the 12-year-old lead in the Netflix drama Stranger Things, and her 44-year-old co-star Winona Ryder sat front row: it doesn’t get more zeitgeisty than that.
“These latest results have given us the licence to push everything a bit further,” said Vevers, by way of introducing his SS17 collection, a cross-section of Santa Fe and New York references featuring sheer floral prairie dresses, Easy Rider leathers and Elvis Presley shoes. The shoes were actually a hybrid of moccasin and brothel creeper, or “broccasins”, said Vevers, and they were all variously accessorised and embellished with multiple shiny details.
“I wanted to explore the idea of the Coach gang,” explained Vevers of the show’s uniformity. “So that there’s a sense of belonging, but there are also different personalities within the group.”
Certainly, the idea of the fashion gang is nothing unusual. What’s surprising is that Vevers has managed to create such a distinct identity for his gang in so few seasons — he only staged his first catwalk show last September, after all. Already, Vevers’ girl has a look: busy with references, unashamedly American in spirit and highly commercial.
A meaner spirit might find it a little ersatz. The punky studded bikers were devoid of dirt, and there was no getting away from the fact that these vintage-style varsity jackets and washed-out floral dresses were in fact brand spanking new. But it’s hard to disdain Vevers’ enthusiasm for the more obvious tropes of Americana when they include things like a Jaws sweater, rhinestone-studded cat-eye glasses and a scarlet silky varsity jacket. Besides, the dresses were really pretty.