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Coach marks 75 years with punk cowgirls and mixed prints

Fashion from the Coach Spring 2016 collection is modeled at the first ever, full women’s ready-to-wear runway show during Fashion Week Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in New York.  (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Fashion from the Coach Spring 2016 collection is modeled at the first ever, full women’s ready-to-wear runway show during Fashion Week Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK (AP) — The luxury brand Coach celebrated 75 years in business Tuesday, not just with bags and shoes, but with bright cowgirl leather and prairie flower frocks for women.

Yes, actual clothing to go along with all those drool-worthy accessories you, your mom and your daughter may have at home, or wish you did.

The company has shown smallish clothing collections before at New York Fashion Week, but this was the first full runway spectacle, staged on the elevated High Line among old rail tracks once used by meatpackers but now a favorite park spot filled with wildflowers and high grasses.

In his fourth collection for Coach, British creative director Stuart Vevers acknowledged this season’s mixed-print dresses and leather jackets were aimed at broadening interest in the brand’s clothing among young women.

These cowgirls were intended to be of the surf, skate and punk variety.

“Of course it’s a challenge, but it’s what I should be doing as creative director. I need to look into the future and use our heritage as a touchstone for everything that we do,” Vevers said backstage. “What I think American luxury means to the younger generation is a certain sense of ease, something that feels relaxed. They need an inherent authenticity. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s not precious. That for me feels very relevant today, and for Coach.”

This collection, harkening back to the ’70s in style, turned iconic Coach touchstones on end. The saddle-colored leather and the horse and coach were there, Vevers said, “They’re just presented in a new way.”

Victor Luis, the company’s chief executive, said leather craftsman still labor away for Coach’s in its sample production facility in New York City as they have since the beginning, making handbags one at a time.

“But at the same time we have to continue to evolve,” he said.

Why bother with clothes at all when you’re an established accessories brand?

“Our main business has been and always will be, of course, leather goods and accessories, but the ready-to-wear provides a context for the handbags. It helps to bring to life the Coach girl and the Coach woman, and who she is and what her life is like,” Luis said.

What Coach thinks those customers need in garments includes a calico coat in the color of chalk paired with a butterscotch patchwork low boot. And they might also need a loose tank dress in orange evoking a meadow, or a biker jacket adorned with pink mountain buds.

So when did Debbie Harry first encounter Coach? She was joined among the company’s guests by Christina Ricci, Ciara, Mariel Hemingway, Zoe Kravitz, Chloe Grace Moretz and a range of other celebrities.

“I can’t even remember, it was so long ago,” Harry responded. “I think it’s brilliant that it has evolved.”

Does she buy a lot of Coach?

“I would say that I buy a lot of clothes,” she laughed without committing.

Does Ciara recall her first encounter with Coach?

“Oh my gosh. It was more than 10 years back. It was a classic Coach in a boot. It was super cool with Coach all over. They were knee length. They had shearling kind of like fur and they were wedge,” she said. “They were a gift from one of my godmothers. She was a very stylish woman and they were everything. I couldn’t afford them myself at the time.”

Ricci appreciates the modern, fresh turn for Coach.

“I remember one of the first expensive bags I bought was a Coach shoulder bag,” she said. “I was a teenager. It was my first foray into designer bags, one of those first pieces of luxury.”


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