INTERVIEW | Coach’s Love Letter to Keith Haring’s New York

On his fourth year as executive creative director at Coach, Stuart Vevers continues to elevate the brand, adapting to the desire of Millennials while never losing sight of what makes design alluring and timeless. Like with his previous collection, the British designer stated his emphatic and personal connection with Americana, and paid homage yet again to New York. Most importantly, he took inspiration from one of the Big Apple’s iconic creatives, this time around taking a bow to Keith Haring's legacy.


Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION

 

The first line of the show notes was a quote from the artist himself: “Art is for Everyone.” It would seem the British designer took the statement quite literally to heart, delivering a collection that felt both like his interpretation of Haring’s edgy New York and a customization of Coach classics tastefully appropriating the artist’s visual palette. Whether more blatantly layering archival Haring graphics on Hawaiian and prairie prints, inserting his cartoonish characters on leather sweatshirts or sweaters, placing his signature love hearts on bags, or more imperceptibly using Haring’s signature squiggles as an overall motif for beautiful pastel slip dresses, Vevers take on Keith Haring’s work was refreshing and reverential.

The set embodied New York City’s landscape as well and, like many of the outfits shown on the runway, suggested juxtaposition. Fire escapes, what appeared to be a muscle car, and street lamps, all of which suggested a typical dim downtown corner, were joyfully covered in glitter from top to bottom. Likewise, many of the pieces shown were an intended push and pull between femininity and toughness, boyish and girly, coolness and classic. “Unexpected juxtapositions and contradictions that are always personal and individualistic,” read the show notes, “celebrating American dreamers – and their endless spirit of possibility, boundless creativity and courage to be themselves – before, now and forever the heart of the city.”

Vevers generously took time after the show to talk to us about these stylish contradictions, his relationship with Haring’s work, and how New York continues to be a source of inspiration.    

Robin Torres: Beyond an ode to New York City and Keith Haring, there also seems to be a nod to strong and rad women. Was the collection about that as well?

Stuart Vevers: Definitely. As we explored the idea of dressing up, I still wanted to put forth that Coach girl toughness, with that New York City attitude. So there’s plenty of the feminine but there’s also rugged, like with the biker, leather, and varsity jackets. So there is that play between boys and girls' wardrobes, breaking it down and putting it back together. In the end, it’s about individuality. That’s what this collection is really about.

RT: Do you feel it’s a generational thing?

SV: Absolutely! I’m excited that this generation doesn’t seem to be following the rules about dressing a specific way based on gender or even in terms of what luxury means. I believe things are changing and I want Coach to stand alone; I want it to stand out.

RT: How did this collection come about?

SV: I think it’s about following your instinct and it’s about following your emotions. That is how I start imagining a collection. I feed from what I see and feel around me, and in this case the story about Keith Haring. It’s connected to something real and personal.

RT: Keith Haring’s art and visuals have been appropriated countless times and yet there is something truly original about how you went about interpreting his work. What is the starting point for working with such celebrated and iconic work?

SV: The starting point was very personal. He was an artist I’ve loved since I was a child. This process involved me discovering more about him now that I am in his city. To have been born in Yorkshire, to be here now and have a chance to work with his legacy, it felt very special. It’s been very emotional for me, even during the rehearsals, because it’s become a very personal process. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months meeting his friends and the people who worked with him because I wanted to understand what would be a true homage to him. I felt it was important that we try to come together and make sure it was authentic, you know? He is not here so I have to be able to create things that feel as if we were working together. That was really the idea, to take things that I love and that are very Coach, and working them together with him – a way to create something that feels new.

RT: Cinematography is important to you. Are there any films that inspired you for this collection?

SV: Taxi Driver was a big reference, especially when it comes to the set and the overall mood.

RT: Is there a piece that stands out for you, that you feel can define the collection?

SV: You know, it’s a lot in a way and more of an idea. It’s a juxtaposition of that rugged quintessential Coach leather jacket with more playful elements, like shine and sparkle and satin. It’s that combination that for me was important. Not sure there was a piece that had that precise combination per se but that was the first idea of the season, that juxtaposition.

RT: Like a hybrid of sorts, culturally or in terms of the design?

SV: It definitely is. I take so many of my references from New York, and I think that’s what this city is, or at least how I experience it. There are so many characters and individuals. It’s the coolest city on the planet! I feel like I’m still looking from the outside in, and this whole show, season, and collection was about celebrating New York creativity, the mix of things that are here and that have been here.

 

See the looks from the Coach Ready to Wear Spring Summer 2018 Collection

 

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