If you’ve strolled through Oxford Circus Station lately, you’ll know there’s a new Coach store in town. The giant billboard and video ads along the tunnel walkways and up the escalator are a good giveaway. If not, the neon dinosaurs lighting up its Regent Street windows may well lure you in.
The new ‘Coach House’ is a grand statement from the U.S brand so it’s fitting that it’s planted itself along a significant stretch of Regent Street. This destination is currently host to a gleaming swathe of UK flagships for major American brands including Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren, Apple, Michael Kors, J. Crew and Levi’s. Tory Burch is soon to join.
Coach is interesting as it’s a bit of a success story at the moment. Hence its pride in tooting its horn, not just here, but in its New York Coach House, a 20,000 sq. ft. version just opened on 5th Avenue. Among the standout features that Coach would like you to note are the punches of colour. Leather is a house code (glove tanned leather to be precise), but Stuart Vevers has brought in this saturated palette of brights that spills over everything from bags to baseball mitts to leather postcards. Significant updates also include some classic Bonnie Cashin bags (Bonnie Cashin created some of Coach’s iconic designs in the 70s) reimagined in bold new colourways.
Then there is the personalisation. This is a key movement in luxury and mass fashion right now so it makes sense for Coach to embrace it. There are two tiers, the build-your-own bespoke Rogue bag service (choose the leather, straps etc – there are a million permutations), and the while-u-wait tag ‘craftsmanship bar’.
In terms of retail theatre, I challenge you to witness others partaking and not want a go yourself. You can’t! So may as well join the fray choosing a leather bag tag and having it monogrammed with initials and the emoji motif of your choice. (There are over 100.) I picked a red tag with blue initials and a gold horseshoe. I live in a converted stable so horseshoes are a favourite emblem.
This has got to be the prettiest customisation station I’ve seen, with colourful jars, inspiration books and Instagrammable crafty details throughout. That’s not all. There are also vintage Coach bags that have been customised with studs, patches and the like. And in time, this is also where you’ll bring your bag for refurbs and repairs.
Vever’s Coach is a clever celebration of modern Americana. Less preppie than Tommy or Ralph, in his RTW Coach 1941 line we get the cool girls’ uniform of punked up varsity jackets, shearling boots and boyfriend knits. “Stuart is obsessed with girl gangs”, the PR tells me, which I think means a propensity for biker jackets and a certain tough girl attitude than out-and-out violence. The boyishness is tempered with a sweet, slightly 70s charm. If you’re quick you may be able to nab one of the special varsity jackets pictured. They have been selling out everywhere but a few were held back for the UK launch.
With all its fizz and pop, there’s something a little old fashioned in this affordable luxe Gen-Y iteration of Coach House. It’s not just the vintage furnishings and George Nelson for Herman Miller clock, but the old school calm and charm. In the window is a neon ‘Rexy’ dinosaur, Vevers’ new Coach mascot that also appears on sweaters, patches and a giant multicoloured sculpture inside the entrance.
It’s fun but innocent and downstairs the playfulness continues with a photo booth that has been installed for the opening. Elsewhere there are video screens on auto play but that’s about the extent of the digital tech. Magic mirrors, beacon technology, click and collect, there are none. In a way that’s quite nice, it’s almost more immersive not to have those distractions. For now, the emoji-like charms decorating the bag tags will have to do. All eyes on the product.
Coach is at 206, Regent Street, W1
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WORDS AND IMAGES: Navaz Batliwalla/Disneyrollergirl
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