Look 36 at Coach’s Spring show was a faded gray sweatsuit with a large white emblem resembling a family crest and gothic letters spelling out a name I initially couldn’t read.
When the look first passed me on the runway, I heard two TikTokers squeal that they wanted to live in it once the New York heat wave subsided. I assumed the logo was a fictional school until I learned after the show that it was actually for Donohue’s Steak House, a restaurant on East 65th street with an unassuming green exterior.
When I spoke to creative director Stuart Vevers ahead of the show, which would mark his 10-year-anniversary at the brand, he didn’t mention steak at all. But he did point out how Coach is the reason he’s been in New York for a decade, and how “so many of the everyday things about New York life” still fascinate him. And one of the things New Yorkers have recently been fascinated by is the younger generation’s ability to rediscover old haunts like Donohue’s and elevate them to hotspot status decades after their prime. The restaurant’s no-frills dirty martinis, red tablecloths, and checkered floor interior are fodder for a Gen Z Instagram dump as they try and relive old New York—something they’ll also do while wearing Coach bags on their shoulders.
The kids love Coach! Their love for the brand is well documented on TikTok, where a thrifted Coach bag is considered a major score. Outside of The New York Public library, which was the venue for last night’s show, they gathered in hoards. As I made my way up the library steps I heard one girl inform a curious passerby that she was there to witness “THE Coach show” while holding one of the brand’s pillow Tabby bags. Others mentioned they heard a popular social media star would be there—Jennifer Lopez and Lil Nas X were also in attendance—and wanted to see if they could catch a glimpse. Backstage I briefly spoke with 22-year-old Coach campaign star and Korean rapper Youngji Lee, who told me she likes Coach simply because, “I am Gen Z!”
While Vevers is pleased with the youth’s enthusiasm, it’s also something he’s actively tried to capture. “I've always, through my whole career, been really fascinated about youth culture,” he told me. “Sometimes it's in a nostalgic sense. I look at youth culture through the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. But I also am really fascinated by youth culture today and also counter culture, which is often where new ideas come through.” He said recently, almost inexplicably, he felt, “more urgency to connect with the current generation.”
The looks that walked down the runway were inspired by the youth on the streets of New York when Vevers first arrived a decade ago. And they;re the kind of looks young people want to wear right now, too: quirky bags with printed lipstick stains, oversized leather blazers worn with no pants, knit sweater dresses torn to expose slinky undergarments, moto boots with a distinct slouch.
Following the runway show, guests gathered in the Edna Barnes Salomon Room for a seated dinner, where Vevers stood up to make a quick speech. He pointed out that when he arrived at Coach, the brand looked different (no clothes!) and New York looked different (not nearly as many people out on streets documenting their clothes!)
I asked him earlier about heritage, which is somehow a question he told me he’d never really been asked. “I often see those really important moments that really mark the heritage of the brand are when the company took risks. When they did something new! When something bold happened!” For him, heritage is less about looking back and more about looking forward and creating more heritage.
The kids are obsessed with Coach because they can find an old logo wristlet at the thrift shop that makes them think of the ‘90s, but they can also walk into the store and buy a ruffled slip dress that’s fit for the algorithm of today. Maybe Donohue’s was a place Vevers used to go, but it’s also the exact kind of place lots of 20-year-old New Yorkers want to go now.
There were plenty of things about the show that made it evident why Coach is still in the zeitgeist, and how that’s thanks to Vevers’s 10 years there. But it was that restaurant logo printed on sweats that helped me realize: he really knows what the kids want.
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