Coach Designer Stuart Vevers on Bringing Craftsmanship to Fifth Avenue

Stuart Vevers.

A towering T-Rex is not exactly what you’d expect to greet you when you walk into a Fifth Avenue flagship. But that’s what you’ll find at the entrance to Coach House, the brand’s largest store in the world, which opens today. (The prehistoric creature, a.k.a. the brand’s mascot, Rexy, is constructed from Coach bags.)

The store is styled in a more artisanal fashion than you might expect, too. In keeping with the trend toward emphasizing craftsmanship (see also: Burberry’s Makers House, unveiled at its London show), Coach House will have an in-house Master Craftsman, as well as a Craftsmanship Bar. Emphasizing craft was part of the concept from the beginning, because “people underestimate the complexity and the processes that go into making some of the things that we do,” creative director Stuart Vevers told the Cut, “and when you get a chance to really tell the story, I think it’s fascinating because it brings a value to what you’re seeing, and a newfound respect.”

Photo: Coach
Photo: Kelly Taub/BFA.com/Kelly Taub/BFA.com

The store opening comes at an opportune time — the brand’s 75th anniversary — and Vevers says he’s been delving into the archives, something he avoided doing when he first took on the job three years ago. “I wanted to trust my own instincts on how Coach could be relevant today because obviously the heritage is there and it’s important,” he said, “but it’s in the past and I wanted to focus on the present. [But] at the end of the day, I think Coach is America’s house of leather, so I can’t help but be drawn to some of those stories andsome of the great work that’s been done.” In keeping with the archival spirit, the store will sell a collection of vintage Coach bags, some of them “reimagined” by the designer. (Probably a smart move, considering the house’s vintage Bonnie Cashin turnlock styles have become so sought-after.)

Photo: Copyright 2016, Coach

Coach House will have a customization service, too, but not in the stuffy old-school sense. You can choose from a hundred playful symbols to go along with a monogram, notes Vevers: “You can have your initials plus a strawberry or a shark or a dinosaur,” which he thinks “[brings] a certain youthfulness to craftsmanship.”

Vevers spent almost two decades working in the European luxury world, serving as creative director of Loewe and Mulberry, and he says that he’s tried to make Coach’s version of luxury more approachable. “I think the idea of exclusivity needs revision,” he says, “because ‘exclusive’ could just mean ‘excluding.’ We want this store to feel inviting and warm and fresh. I think it’s going to surprise people. I hope so.”

Stuart Vevers on Bringing Craftsmanship to Fifth Avenue