Jocelyn Yih

Coach AW16

Jocelyn Yih
Coach AW16

With merely two weeks and a bit until the new collection rolls in, it's time to look back at what Coach AW16 in January was all about.

Admittedly, I have never been an avid follower of Coach because, to the person I was pre-The Bold Concept, Coach was a brand that doesn't change that much. Unique in the fact that it was one of the few American brands that successfully tapped into the international luxury market, second to that was the white clean stores and endorsing female celebrities who hang their bags in the crooks of their elbows and accompany their looks in wide-flared jeans. And that was pretty much about it for me, 2 years ago. It was an all-women game.

Fast forward to 2016, Coach celebrates its 75th anniversary with its new 'Craftsmanship Bars', most recently opened in Hong Kong, allowing customers to customise/ repair/ clean their products.

It's worth mentioning that the past two years haven't been easy for the brand. In mid-2014, Coach was 'down' in its 'slump in shares', only later, in the same year, reported to 'eliminate over 150 jobs'. Along with fellow competitors, such as Tory Burch, Michael Kors and Kate Spade, Coach was in thirst of new strategies either to segregate itself from the luxury market, or to lower itself to a different market. 

On the outlook, 2015 was a better year for the brand. Coach took a plunge into the deep end by purchasing Stuart Weitzman for reportedly up to $574 million. One year later, Coach beats forecasts with a revenue of $1.03 billion under the creative direction of Executive Creative Director, Stuart Vevers. 

I want to make a different version of luxury — not exclusive but inclusive
— Stuart Vevers, W Magazine

'American luxury' itself is a strange term; and having been brought up in the UK, I came to understand that people understand luxury on different terms. European history is rooted in luxury   . Take a morning jog along the Seine and you'll encounter most of the magnificent Paris landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower, Grand Palais, Musée d'Orsay, Louvre, Cour Carré, only to finish your 6-mile jog at Notre Dame. But America? There is probably more appeal to shop for bargain sunnies at Venice Beach or to get disappointed at an overpriced seafood sky lounge who  only prides itself for its four-year-old award from the US Commerce Association . In other words, the concept of luxury and service are still novel. Yet strange enough, Northern America and China remains the largest markets for the brand.

Vevers takes a different approach to Coach - one that is worth looking up as not only did he take up a new post, but also a challenge: to take the lazy option to maintain the brand as it is? Or, to take a deep dive and save the brand? 

It's difficult to critique Vevers' option, but his option to take on the latter option adds an exciting direction to the mid-luxury brand. His previous tenures at Mulberry and Loewe have apparently excited him to create the new Coach - one where luxury is not the core, but 'youth culture' and 'new codes'. And in so doing, his designs speak through with the materials - plaid, shearling and leather. What's more refreshing is that the brand only debuted their Menswear collection three seasons ago, kicking off with a banging start in 2015 with a presentation. 

While Vevers suffered from 'culture-shock' at the beginning of his position at Coach, one perhaps I felt so rightly experienced during my recent visit to Chicago, Americans look to functionality and practicality over style and luxury. A reason I now am unable to doubt after spending the final days in March, in what felt more like the bluest of Winter days and redefined the meaning of Winter for me. All in all, only to follow up with the most appropriate welcoming, minutes after arriving to my hotel: a snow storm.

So I don't blame Americans for having to duck into layers of plaid, shearling and leather, only to top it off with a bright yellow parka or a fuzzy teddy jacket. And it makes sense why Coach shows its new Menswear lines in London Collections Men, a calendar that is made for the new and up-and-coming. And it made all the sense in the world to see beanies and an abundance of fleece on the runway. 

Beat the forecast before it beats you.

To be continued... #tbc