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FEATURE

February 13, 2017

By Jody Hume

IS COACH THE AMERICAN GUCCI?

021117_RS_CoachGirl_582x360
When you think of Coach, you may think high-end mall store where people flock to get logo’d jacquard shoulder bags, but the brand is out to change all that. In 2013, Stuart Vevers was appointed Coach’s Executive Creative Director, and since then he’s been out to transform the brand into something unabashedly cool. But is it Gucci-level cool? If you look, the similarities are there and they’re pretty striking.
They draw on heritage and tradition to reinvent houses with history.
In the first half of the decade, both Coach and Gucci were suffering from declining revenue and badly needed new blood to turn the creative and financial tide. For Gucci, this came in the form of Alessandro Michele, promoted from within in 2015 to take over the reins after Frida Giannini’s ouster.  Ever since, he’s been delighting the fashion crowd with his fresh aesthetic and parent company Kering with rising sales. The new world of Gucci is vast and opulent, full of jet-setting Europeans who have stolen their looks from ancient cartographers’ maps and their grandmothers’ jewelry boxes.

Coach Gucci HandbagsGucci GG Supreme Dionysus Bag, $3,200; Coach Dinky Rocket Crossbody Bag, $475Gucci Dionysus Pierced Heart Bag, $3,400

With stints focused on leather goods at Mulberry and Loewe, Vevers was brought on at Coach because he knows his way around accessories, obviously a key category for the brand, but he’s also expanding their fashion footprint with ready-to-wear that doesn’t live in a universe far from Michele’s. Where Michele feels Italian opulent, Vevers seems steeped in Americana. He mines the archetypal looks of American pop culture and its obsessions with the West, rockstars and U.S. institutions, sending looks down the runway that reference NASA and Elvis and feature plenty of fringe, bandanas, patchwork leather and suede.

Coach Gucci ss17Left: Coach ss17 Right: Gucci ss17

They put on buzzy runway shows and parties that editors and influencers flock to.
While it’s pretty well-known you’re likely to see all the top editors, celebrities and a few royals at Gucci’s runway shows and afterparties, the same, somewhat surprisingly, can be said for Coach. Fashionista went so far as to dub the Coach ‘New York City’s Coolest Fashion Brand’ after the runway show and party it put on late last year to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

Coach Gucci runwayLeft: Coach ss17 Right: Gucci fw16

They’re heavy on embellishment and more-is-more maximalism.
Michele has become known for his quirky, Wes Anderson-esque maximalism, and Vevers’ feels of a piece. But this isn’t the over-the-top glam of the ‘80s, it’s a fresh, young feeling melange that mixes luxury with youth culture. From all-over floral prints to graphic animal embellishments to preppy looks mixed with a touch of punk and down to specific trends like flatforms, Vevers and Michele seem to be drawing from the same playbook.

Coach Gucci ss17Left: Coach ss17 Right: Gucci ss17

They’re into graphic artist collaborations.
Gucci has upped its millennials appeal and perhaps its street cred with its collaboration with graffitti artist Trouble Andrew, aka Gucci Ghost. Obsessed with Gucci, Andrew took to spray painting the iconic GG logo across NYC before being brought on to work for the brand itself by Michele. Now, his tagged take on the logo and paint-dripping addition of the word ‘Real’ to Gucci designs can be seen on the runway and in Gucci stores. Vevers, for his part, has collaborated with Los Angeles-based artist Gary Baseman on pieces featuring his edgy, whimsical illustrated cartoon characters. And Vevers isn’t stopping there — Coach has also rolled out collabs with Opening Ceremony and Disney, and will be unveiling one with Rodarte this spring.

Will the similarities continue with their fall 2017 shows? We’ll be watching.