Coach's Stuart Vevers Awarded 2017 Designer of the Year

PLUS: An exclusive Q&A with the designer on his SS17 collection and his upcoming plans for Coach

BY sarah chong | Apr 27, 2017 | Fashion

It’s no surprise that Stuart Vevers, Creative Director for Coach was awarded 2017 Designer of the Year by The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) at the American Image Awards. Since joining in 2013, he has brought the American label to great heights and even greater profits by putting in his own (outsider) take of American luxury – without compromising the heritage of the brand. Here he tells us what Coach’s heritage means to him and how he’s planning to soar with the label.


ESQUIRE: Tell us more about the concept behind Coach House.
STUART VEVERS: Coach House is the fullest expression of the brand. It is where you have access to the complete men’s and women’s runway collections. At its heart, Coach is a very inclusive brand, so I wanted the stores to be inviting, warm and friendly.

ESQ: You were brought in to renew the brand. Do you think the transformation is complete now?
SV: I wanted to make a strong change. It felt necessary to create a complete reset for the house. At Coach, the strongest idea is essentially about exploring the values of the house and what makes them different, and making that feel current.

ESQ: With last year’s 75th anniversary in mind, how do you embrace Coach’s heritage?
SV: My favourite moments in the archive are when risks were taken and the aesthetic moved forward. That inspires me to be bold and focus on the future. I want to trust my instinct about how Coach can be relevant today. The heritage is there, but it’s in the past.

ESQ: What does “American luxury” mean to Coach?
SV: Coach is special. It’s unique as the iconic American leather goods house. Coach’s roots in New York guide the attitude of our girl and guy. They have an effortless ease and a light-hearted spirit that inform the way we approach our collections. 

ESQ: Coach has been called a “millennial magnet”. What do you think millennials want now in terms of fashion and style?
SV: I think the new codes of luxury are being defined by the next generation that want to spend their money on a sneaker, a T-shirt or a fun handbag. They want something that reflects their lives and personalities, but still has the fantasy of fashion. And I think Coach is a fresh alternative.

ESQ: What are the preconceptions about luxury goods, and how do you think Coach is challenging them?
SV: I feel less constrained by the old codes of luxury, like formality or the idea that an investment piece needs to be classical, rather than something personal. It feels right for Coach, but it’s also the direction that the world is moving in. I think our designs need to express a sense of freedom and feel fresh. This is what Coach is about: pieces that are inherently cool with an informal attitude.

ESQ: What was the inspiration for the collection?
SV: We explored the juxtaposition of belonging and rebellion that comes with gang culture—and looked at how those influences play into today’s cult-ish obsession with archetypal American men’s wardrobe pieces.

ESQ: How did the collaboration and the looks centred on the cartoonish artwork of Gary Baseman come about?
SV: We first worked with Gary Baseman for our women’s Spring 2015 collection. This time, we’ve taken American iconography related to surfing and westerns to create imagery that disrupts those ideas.

ESQ: What can we expect from Coach in the coming years?
SV: I want Coach to feel very much about today, and talk to what the next generation cares about.
There are lots of biker jackets and leather pants in black and red for SS17.

ESQ: You’ve adopted the tagline, “See now, buy now—or else!” with limited-edition pieces that are sold immediately after the show. What made you choose this method?
SV: Offering a few pieces for sale after the show is a fun extra, rather than a new business strategy. The anticipation of waiting for a runway piece to arrive in stores can be exciting and is part of the magic of fashion, at least for me, it is.