NYFW: COACH S/S 2017

Coach 1941 SS 2017
Coach 1941 Spring/Summer 2017. Photo credit Guillame Roujas

With all the talk about fashion immediacy and creating different kinds of fashion experiences, we’ve not seen much in the way of elaborate prop-heavy indoor presentations. Sure, Tommy Hilfiger did that big carnival, but that was outdoors, on a pier. Showing inside is a very different feeling. Coach’s creative director Stuart Vevers gave us that feeling this afternoon with a set that put a number of old 1940s-era cars in the center of the room as though we were in a junkyard, with a “dirt” track around it. There was a sort of quaintness to the set, as though we were looking back at how fashion shows used to be.

Coach has been on quite a nostalgia kick for a while, so I wouldn’t have been surprised to see some version of poodle skirts and cashmere sweaters coming down the runway. Vevers did not choose to go that direction, however, Instead, he played with a hard silhouette, one that was edgy, tough, and possibly has a bad reputation. Then, he juxtaposed that look with sheers, floral prints, and silk ribbons. The toughness is all on the outerwear. Inside, it’s all soft and feminine.

Of course, this Coach is a leather house best known for its bags and accessories. So, that’s where we look first. Bags fall along some of their favorite designs, with a heavy emphasis on fringed saddlebags. Platform shoes were not only studded all around the platform, but the ankle fringe was studded as well. Then, as one might expect, leather coats and vests (a LOT of vests) were studded and appliqued as well. There were even strappy leather skirts on a handful of looks. There was enough leather I’m rather surprised that Peta wasn’t protesting.

Underneath all that, however, were soft, delicate dresses and blouses and — I almost said the kind of looks your grandmother would prefer you wear, but that’s not right either. While the silhouettes themselves are very traditional, they are put together we a tremendous amount of sheer fabric (mostly tulle), especially in the Skirts. Very few of the skirts are opaque at all and of the few that are, most are done in leather.  A couple of the dresses, while covered in pretty floral print, are still so sheer as to force one to consider their choice of underwear very carefully. Still, minus the leather, the softness is quite a contrast.

Coach is, of course, making a play for that younger Millennial-aged audience. The concept here, mixing both hard and soft, is a good one and might well attract a new age of buyer into their stores. The problem with that is a majority of Coach stores are in malls. Millennials avoid malls rather religiously, or at least they try. So, despite how attractive the looks might appear on the runway, the question is whether they are appealing enough to get people into malls they don’t like.

Coach need to figure out something soon. Their sales numbers have been decreasing at a frightening rate. If they don’t figure out a solution soon, the whole store could end up in the trash help along with those old cars. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

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