Fashion Week with Kaffe Fassett
Once the site of the New York Stock Exchange, 86 Trinity Place played host to a different kind of American institution. Fashion brand Coach, founded in 1941, used the venue to showcase its autumn/winter 2019 collection at New York fashion week, which marked five years since British designer Stuart Vevers took over as creative director.
Vevers has, over his tenure, used his outsider’s eye to regenerate an American classic. Themes have included varsity, punk, hip-hop, Disneyland and western – often with a set worthy of a cinema soundstage. Here, the room was covered with raw wooden floors and two brass kinetic sculptures twirled around in the center.
For their Fall/Winter 2019 collection, Coach tapped artist and pattern designer Kaffe Fassett (Aimée Crocker’s great grand nephew), known for his maximalist prints, to add bold floral collisions to the brand’s already robust visual vocabulary. The collection was called by one critic, “A mash-up of joyful defiance and free-spirited grit. A kaleidoscopic world where familiar becomes unfamiliar. The dress codes of subculture, dismantled and reassembled—dipped in psychedelia.”
Fassett’s sixties-era groovy—chrysanthemums, swirls, foliage—are a collection through line. Vevers called him “a magician of color.”
At first glance, the collection seemed like a continuation on a successful theme – there was rockabilly, grunge and hippy influences. But the mix-up was more apparent and purposeful here – a scrapbooking of youth culture references that showed itself in a parka worn with cowboy boots, or plaid shorts under a slipdress. Vevers said that this show was the start of a new chapter at Coach. “I wanted to move forward and try new things but with some American archetypes for me to ground the colour and print,” he said. “I wanted to let the light in.”
The designer was inspired by his road trip to California Route 1 when he stopped at Nepenthe, the famous Big Sur restaurant that opened in 1949 and is still a must for sweeping views, Ambrosia burgers and shopping for tie-dyes and wind chimes. The property was first owned by Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles. It was a favorite hangout of Henry Miller. Liz and Dick filmed kitschy Bohemian film The Sandpiper there in the 60s.
Inspiration led to a collaboration with Fassett, whose family has owned and operated Nepenthe since the start. Aimée Crocker’s older sister Jennie married into the Fassett family in 1879 when she wed Congressman Jacob Sloat Fassett, a GOP rising star.
This collection isn’t a far out hippie excursion; it is equal parts Santa Cruz boardwalk (another one of Vevers’ stops along the way) with a muted color palette (nearly all the prints are against a black background) and with the feel-good vibe tempered by rock n’ roll and punk grit. Michael B. Jordan has been tapped to be the new face of the men’s line.
For women, Stuart Vevers added a California vibe to his gritty-glam aesthetic; his modern, cool men’s wear lineup was especially on point.