NEW YORK CITY: Gotham in the 1980s was a challenging place for a lot of people. But amid the city’s financial and political woes, Soho played home to a group of creatives who were orbiting the art world’s elitists like Andy Warhol and Juilan Schnabel. Jean-Michael Basquiat was one of them – a young, talented artist who permeated the East Village/Noho art scene with his chaotic brilliance. On Tuesday, Coach’s Stuart Vevers reimagined this downtown enclave – with Basquiat his muse.
While this particular artistic milieu was hemmed in by Houston, Bowery and the East River in 1981, Vevers uprooted the neighbourhood’s off-beat charm to a beautiful light-filled loft space on 47th street. Punk rock band The Coathangers set the tone with an energetic rendition of Blondie’s “One Way Or Another”. (Little did guests know at the time, Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry would appear on stage in a matter of minutes – one of the biggest highlights of New York Fashion week so far.)
Just as the opening track blends the snarl of punk with the glossiness of pop, Vevers deftly worked Coach’s heritage aesthetic with youthful, pop references. The classic Shearling coat – a Jennifer Lopez in-flight staple this past Coach season – was given updates by way of interesting patchwork motifs with pops of forest greens and lemonade pinks. “With a free-hand, art and craft effect,” the show notes read.
A burgundy leather coat – similarly worn by Coach ambassador and star of Just Mercy Michael B. Jordan in the front row – showcased the brand’s famed gold turnlock accents. Kaia Gerber walked in a royal blue version, styled with a knee-grazing, tie-up leather skirt and red bobby socks with sneakers, a look that is rooted in the East Village but could take the modern woman to a casual coffee meeting on 5th .
The layered, oversized outerwear was punctuated by the brand’s legacy stripe which was reenergised with youthful cuts; dresses cinched in with mini belts, tailored skirts and trenches with accentuated zips. In fact, the famous striped fabric is usually used as lining inside Coach’s bag range but in the spirit of fashion turning everything on its head, the designer quite literally turned his bags inside out and placed it on his apparel. Yes, if Vevers had last season’s SS20 show – and the future of Coach – “In The Bag” (as recalled by GRAZIA’s general manager Marne Schwartz), this fall season, it was very much out of the bag; deliberately brighter and bolder.
While we’re on the subject of bags, one highlight included this oversized fold-over and cubic mini.
Basquiat’s abstract artworks were strikingly emblazoned on many pieces (a sweatshirt, a scarf, a bag). Sadly, the artist joined the infamous “27 club” when he passed away young. In honour of Basquiat, his sisters and stepmother were among guests. “We have always been fans of Coach. It’s such an iconic New York brand with really beautiful craftsmanship. To see this collection come together has been truly exciting. Coach has done a great job in capturing the texture, detail and energy of Jean-Michel’s work,” said Lisane Basquiat, alongside her sister Jeanine and stepmom Nora. “We are really impressed with Stuart’s vision and attention to the spirit of the work.”
No moment though was more iconic than Harry cruising onto the runway like the legendary rockstar she is. Wearing a beige Basquiat-tagged trench – one that made an entrance before guests clocked the superstar – Harry belted out her lyrics to Blondie’s hit “Dreaming”. “I’ll have a cup of tea and tell you of my dreamin’, Harry sang as models walked the finale.
If Harry cloaked in Basquiat was one of the designer’s dreams, how lucky we can all revel in his vibrant fusion. From art to pop to punk to everywhere in between; Vevers, your 80s pop obsession just became ours.