Stage Coach on the Santa Fe Trail
"Go West young man. Go West," exhorted the great 19th century editor Horace Greeley. And Stuart Vevers did this spring, turning a visit to Sante Fe, New Mexico back in march into a brilliant new vision of America fashion and lore.
A blend of Western nostalgia, Disney characters, Santa Fe’s artistic sub-culture and all the off-beat alternative characters for which the city is famous.
“Santa Fe. Yeah! I spent 24 hours there. I visited a ghost ranch and the Turquoise Trail. I loved all those communities you see on the way. Where everything is scavenged and you see houses being propped up by an airplane wing. And I finished up in an amazing dive bar nightclub. So, I woke up the next morning and my theme was kinda’ there,” Vevers told FashionNetwork.com backstage, after posing for photos with Whoopi Goldberg.
The first obvious result was the remarkable set, in a brilliant piece de resistance by French show producer Stefan Beckman. At its center, an enormous Tyrannosaurus made of rusty metal; twisted poles, bashed aluminium sidings, surrounded by a burnt Volkswagen Beetle, overturned scramblers, oil drums and the odd rusty car engine.
Don’t forget the 1940 movie Santa Fe Trail– starring Olivia de Havilland, Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan - billed Santa Fe “the town where the railroad and civilization ended.”
Hence, there were lots of lusty and lawless characters in Vevers’ collection. Hipster bikers in Motorbike jackets bearing Disney logos; patchwork leather trench-coats with prairie teacher blouses; palm tree print mini dresses and rough suede racing jackets. All anchored by some remarkable footwear – a meeting of high-tops, Comanche fringes and a squaw’s booties.
A foreigner who has always been a very quick study, Vevers somehow gets, better than local American designers, exactly what cool kids want to wear today.
Stuart’s de Havilland was Dree Hemingway, the great granddaughter of the legendary author Ernest, now shorn of all her locks, like a latter day Joan of Arc, took a long finale tour around the T-Rex, dressed in a tiered ruffled dress, Bambi hoodie and forked earrings.
Since his arrival at Coach in June 2013, Vevers as mined Americana, once even taking a two-week train ride around the US to generate ideas. His excursions have helped inspired a great body of work, which has included a great Keith Haring Radiant Boy collection; to a show inspired by Western biker outlaws.
His ideas have also driven Coach commercially. Sales did dip marginally by 0.08% in 2017, but turnover was still a massive $ 4.488 billion. No British designer oversees a largest fashion and accessories brand that Vevers.
In a very real sense, the 44-year-old Vevers is today the UK’s most successful creative fashion export. Not bad going for a young man born in Carlisle, the most Northerly and remote port of England. No wonder his mum Barbara looked so proud backstage.
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