It was still summer when Coach decided to host its Pre-Fall 2019 show in Shanghai, the first to be done outside of New York and host to coincide with the celebration of the brand’s 15 years of presence in China.
When that decision was made, creative director Stuart Vevers took a flight east (almost immediately) to get himself acquainted with the city and scour for talents to work with for a special project – the Rexy Remix collection. Working with four creative talents based in China – sculptor Sui Jianguo, ink painter Zhu Jingyi, graphic artist Guang Yu and music collective Yeti Out –, Vevers designed a standing ovation-worthy collection – with both impact and wearability.
We were fortunate enough to be one of the selected to attend the show in Shanghai and get an opportunity to interview Vevers post-show, where he talked about the synergy of New York and Shanghai, supporting local talents and the importance of Pre-Fall collection in Coach’s fashion narrative.
Read on to find how what drives Vevers to create this outstanding show:
Coach has always been the pioneer of excellent craftmanship for its many collections. What is your approach to the idea of craft?
I think it’s all about approaching craft in a new way. One of the things I really enjoyed working on in the last few collections, and in fact for this particular Pre-Fall 2019 collection, is making the things we are most known for, like leather and shearling, super lightweight.
Take for example how we combine leather and jersey, they have such lightness and softness unlike any other.
And would that compromise on the functionality of the pieces, in terms of providing warmth for materials like shearling?
I think they are still very warm materials but more and more, people appreciate collections that are multi-seasonal. For Fall/Winter, we will always do our signature shearling but in a modern way, where things can work over different seasons.
We are a global company and the weather varies from each country and time. So I think with our collection being multi-seasonal, it would be more interesting for all.
This show marks the first-ever done in Shanghai. How do you feel about the city?
Though I am very biased to New York as it’s where I live and where Coach was born, I do think that Shanghai is a very cool city. The thing that really blew me away was the contemporary art scene in Shanghai. I think there isn’t anything else quite like it anywhere in the world.
That was really the impetus behind reaching out to contemporary China creatives to collaborate with Coach. When we first decided to do a show here in Shanghai, I hopped on a plane to spend a few days in both Beijing and Shanghai, mainly to find inspiration from the culture, the people and what’s happening in the country.
It became a very important starting point for the show and collection because while we brought a lot of Coach and New York attitude to Shanghai, I really wanted the collection to connect directly to the city where we are showcasing it.
Speaking of the collaboration, the Rexy Remix collaboration saw Coach partnering with four China-based talents. How did you discover these talents?
I’m good friends with Angelica Cheung of Vogue China, and she hosted a cocktail party to introduce me to the local personalities. Both she and my local team in Shanghai helped me a lot. Other than that, like most people these days, I also did a lot of Googling.
Among the four, sculptor Sui Jianguo was actually discovered when I first saw some of his works during my visit to the art district of Shanghai, which were sculptures of dinosaurs.
And if you can collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?
I think it would be Sofia Coppola.
Rexy has been the star of many Coach projects and show. How did she evolve into such a global star?
Back when I came for the visit Shanghai and Beijing in summer, everyone I met was talking to me about Rexy whenever we were on the topic of Coach. There was such a strong reaction to the mascot. So, I thought she has to be featured a lot in this Pre-Fall 2019 collection!
In fact, Rexy was born through one of those wonderful, yet random ideas that popped up when we were working on our first show for Coach and we all love her immediately.
She was on that one sweater in that first collection and I got dozens of texts and calls telling me that they wanted it. Next thing we knew, we had Zayn Malik, Kate Moss, Julia Roberts and Michael B Jordan wearing them.
The Americana spirit has been very evident in your collections, was that always your vision and direction for Coach or something that was born as you learn more about the brand?
It’s interesting because before I joined Coach or even thought that I will be with Coach, I spent five summers in a row travelling across America. In a way, it was the longest research trip I’ve ever done.
And unfortunately, both I and my husband can’t drive. So we did our version of an all-American road trip by train and it was amazing when we get off at these train stops in the middle of nowhere. I had the chance to explore various new places through it.
That was where a lot of my initial ideas for Coach came from. I’m not American and I learn about America, much like anyone around the world, through the movies. So, that Hollywood glow is something that has been a great inspiration for me.
And that Hollywood film glamour seems to always be translated into your show venues?
As a child, that is how I grow up learning about America and so, in the environment where we present our collections, there’s always that feeling of it being like a movie, albeit a very surreal one.
Until now, I think that Hollywood magic is still interesting. Also, I think me being not American, everyday things here still excites me because they feel quite exotic to me, like gas stations, the suburbs and the subway, where they will always find their way into our shows and even campaigns for Coach.
How do you define the synergy between Shanghai and New York?
In many ways, I think the connection can be found through me. Coach is an American house based in New York, where I live, and Shanghai is where I came to look for inspiration for the collection. I felt that there was a need to give a platform to the new blood here in Shanghai and not just for the creatives we collaborated with.
In fact, while we flew a lot of models from New York to Shanghai for the show (because I love my Coach Girls), we also deliberately left a lot of empty slots for us to do our casting in Shanghai because I want to meet the local models and bring something new to the collection.
And we know that you even cast one of the local models to open the show. How was the casting in Shanghai like?
We met incredible new faces and in fact, we ended up casting two of the models (one male and one female) for our opening looks for the show.
I think there was about at least 10 local models that were cast for Pre-Fall 2019, and it was just incredible to meet them. They have such amazing personal style when they came through the doors during casting and that gave a really authentic connection to the city.
We’ve also spoken to our casting director to bring some of these models to New York for our next show. I hope that gives them a platform to step up onto the world stage.
And from the collection, which one look left you the biggest impression?
At this point (of the interview), I am still trying to take everything in. But if I have to pick one, it would be the opening look, which is a men’s look, because there has to be a reason why I picked it to start the show.
In fact, up until a few days before the show, the womenswear look (which became the 2nd look) was supposed to be the opening look but when we put on our design for the male model Huang (@huangsssyyy), we immediately want him to be the opener.
You once said before, “Nothing is perfect”. How did you think the show went for Pre-Fall 2019?
I feel very proud. You know these days, creating a collection is a lot of hard work from a lot of people, so I feel proud.
But once the collection is done, it’s done. I have another show coming in February. So I can’t dwell on it too much and I got to just move on to look for the next inspiration.
This 2019 also marked a big feat for Coach where you cast Michael B Jordan as the new face. Why was he chosen?
First, he is very nice to my mum (laughs), but in all seriousness, we’ve gotten to know each other for a period of time and he has been to a few of our shows.
When he first saw my mum at the after-party, I found that he is the most charming guy you will ever meet. He is articulate, smart, authentic and has a million-dollar smile. What’s not to like?
What do you want to ultimately achieve with Coach?
Honestly, I’m not a big planner. I think fashion is about the moment and us looking forward. It is about following your passion and instincts; creating from the things you love.
I’m very much a person who lives in the moment. Who knows what’s next?