There were no dragons or embroidery in the traditional sense. Instead, whether it was in the cast, set or design elements, Coach brought a little bit New York to Shanghai, for its Pre-fall 2019 collection. True to the house’s collaborative nature, four creatives were invited by Coach creative director Stuart Vevers to reimagine the brand’s well-loved mascot, Rexy, in completely different ways.
Sculptor, Sui Jianguo’s 3-D take involved a distorted photo print. Graphic artist, Guang Yu, on the other hand, gave the dinosaur a graffiti twist. Ink painter, Zhu Jingyi rendered an arty Rexy with brush strokes, while music duo YETI OUT incorporated the mascot into a round face graphic. The version 2.0 Rexy motifs are found on Coach’s Pre-fall 2019 garments and accessories, which are available in stores this month.
A day after the visual extravaganza that was Coach’s Pre-fall 2019 show (that was attended even by K-pop phenom Blackpink’s Rose and Jisoo), Vevers sat down with L’Officiel Singapore and fielded some tough questions…
Why the decision to celebrate Coach’s 15th anniversary in China with a show in Shanghai?
Stuart Vevers: I think that of all the things that have driven the more casual style in fashion now, one of the most important things has been China. It’s the fact that the newer generation that were introduced to luxury fashion have really broken down what luxury can be – a T-shirt and backpack can be considered luxury. What used to be formal and “investment” have gone to the streets.
How did you come to the decision of working with local contemporary artists on reinterpreting Rexy?
I knew that I wanted to work with Chinese artists when I found out that we were showing in Shanghai. I came here on a plane, knowing that I wanted to connect with the city. I spent two days in Shanghai, and two days in Beijing, visiting museums. Angelica Cheung hosted me at her home, and talked to me about the creatives. I’ve visited Shanghai a few times, but had never seen the contemporary artists here. When I saw the scale of the exhibitions and things like the architecture here, I knew I had to do something with Chinese creatives. I left and I did research, looked online, and asked for advice. In the end, I chose to work with people of different styles, and invited them to interpret Rexy. Technology is amazing – I met all of them in person only on this trip!
Is there a reason why the collection is a combination of New York and Shanghai?
Coach was about the American spirit from the start. It was born in 1941 in New York City. It is a place where people come for inspiration, and it’s also natural to be inspired by where the brand’s studio is. There’s nothing like it – what’s interesting about New York City is that there are people from all over the world there, and that’s what makes it NYC. Every collection is about evaluating how I feel creatively and what’s happening. The collection is also about Americana in Asia – Coach is an American house, we explore ideas of American style. The sweatshirt, sneaker and T-shirt all come from America – and yet people from all over the world are seen to wear American style.
Do you think you’ve consolidated your five years at Coach with this collection?
Five years is an important milestone. There are things that I’ve established as the Coach codes like shearling, Rexy and floral prairie dresses, which you see in this Pre-fall collection. It’s a little bit of a continuation from the Spring/Summer 2019 show, with the ruffles – now in rich silks. I think it’s also important to evolve, and move forwards and say something new. So for the order of the show, we went through a strict rotation of colour so it was like a rainbow, and presenting in a less eclectic way.
One of the changes you’ve brought about since you joined the brand is that the clothes aren’t just a byproduct.
My point of view from the start is that Coach should embrace fashion. Coach had never done New York Fashion Week, and I thought that Coach should have a show to say that it’s a new day and era. My background is that I was a leather goods designer, and this is something that Coach is also known for. We will always be most known for the bags, and I have a lot of respect for Coach’s heritage and archives, but my role is also about looking forward. For a leather goods house, I wanted the clothes to be authentic and believable. It’s important to me that we see Coach’s clothes on the street – on people who have style that we admire. And I think it is important that we didn’t want to do too much to quickly – the first collection was about shearling looks, and there were just 19. We didn’t try to build a complete wardrobe in just one season. And today, you still think of Coach as a place you go for shearling.
Do you think about how well collections will be received on digital platforms?
I don’t think about that. I’m more instinctive and don’t plan collections around that. I do like pop fashion, and that happens to resonate online. The main thing is to connect with the city and country where we are showing – and that’s the thing I spend the most time thinking about. That’s why for this collection I decided on working with four contemporary creatives who connect with where we are showing the collection, in a modern way.
There are many cool girls who are associated with Coach – you’ve worked with Selena Gomez and Kiko Mizuhara, who was present at this show. Did any cool girls inspire this particular collection?
Alice Cooper was on our first mood board for the collection. There was no specific contemporary person though – I couldn’t think of one!
Where the accessories are concerned, were any of the bags inspired by the archives?
There’s a horse and carriage bag, which has metal handles and was inspired by glam rock and early Alice Cooper. It has very intricate details and is composed of many individual pieces. It’s rich and lavish, but in a cool way. The horse and carriage motif was one of the first ones of the house – I always enjoy using motifs, and in recent collections we’ve used the signature pattern as well.
Do you have a favourite look from the collection?
I think it’s look 1. It’s fresh and cool, and I was inspired by abstract modern painting. We also opened with this menswear look, which is quite different. Menswear is very important for us in China so we had this last minute idea to open with it.
How about your favourite ready-to-wear piece?
Probably the Rexy hoodie. It has the ease of a Coach shearling with a hoodie feel. It’s a super lightweight piece of shearling and it just makes me smile.
Tell us a little about the casting process of this show.
We flew in our Coach girls and guys, and also saved space for a local cast. You’ll notice that we opened with Huang Siyuan and Mengge Yi, whom I met only this week. I think one of the things that’s great is meeting new faces – people with amazing personal styles and haircuts.
What do you think is the reason for your success at Coach?
Fashion is always changing and it’s instinctive. In a way, fashion is at the forefront of change. A designer needs to listen and understand, and use that as a starting point. The youth culture of today is a natural inspiration. It’s vital for me to understand what’s going on. That’s what I feel is important about being a designer.