STUART VEVERS TAKES COACH BACK TO ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING PERIODS OF DOWNTOWN NEW YORK WITH THE WORKS OF AN ARTIST WHO DEFINED THE BIG APPLE.
Clockwise from top left: A look from Coach’s fall/winter 2020 collection. Messenger bag, $850; Trench coat, $3,400; Scarf, $950, Coach. A tactile mix of materials in one look. Backpack, $1,750, Coach. A geometric mini bag.
In a city wracked by poverty and pandemic, an underground arts scene pulsated with life, energy and unbridled creativity. The scene was New York City in the 1980s, the bankruptcy threat of 1975 still all too fresh and the AIDS pandemic looming over the creative community like a dark cloud. Sombre as that period may be, it was also one of the brightest spots in the history of American art. Out of that bleakness, the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and David Wojnarowicz created powerful works that still resonate (and fetch tens of millions of dollars) today.
It was this turbulent but fertile period that Stuart Vevers had on his mind while designing the Coach fall/winter 2020 collection. Nostalgia has always been at the core of his work for the American brand, but recent seasons have seen him move away from the hopefulness and naïveté of the open prairie to the grit of the inner city. He channelled that spirit for his fall/winter show set in an industrial loft, all raw concrete and soaring ceilings—the kind that would have housed
the aforementioned artists’ studios in SoHo in the ’80s. Against a live soundtrack of Blondie hits performed by The Coathangers, Vevers presented a collection that paid homage to Basquiat and the New York of his time. The late artist’s distinctive personal style informed the silhouette and the styling; pieces were mostly boxy and slightly oversize, with layers nonchalantly mismatched and casually thrown on—nothing too sleek or polished, looking instead like well-loved pieces from a hard-working wardrobe. A partnership with the Basquiat estate resulted in his work turned into the collection’s prints, his signature scribbles and graffiti transferred onto ready-to-wear and accessories such as leather trench coats, blanket scarves, hoodies, tees, and structured bags in eye-catching geometric shapes. “When creating the collection, I imagined Basquiat’s friend wearing a Coach piece and him drawing all over it. That’s the feeling I wanted to create in the clothing,” says Vevers.
The Basquiat connection extended beyond the clothing and bags as well—Vevers placed Jeanine and Lisane Basquiat, his sisters, in the front row, while his niece Jessica Kelly walked the runway. At the end of the show, Debbie Harry, who was close to Basquiat while he was alive, strolled out in a Basquiat-scribbled trench coat and belted out “Dreaming”—a timely, uplifting reminder of the power of dreams even in the darkest times.