described Bally, the 163-year-old Swiss heritage brand he’s been busily revitalizing.
This fall, Bally is just one of a few labels that have awakened quite prettily from fairy-tale slumber. They’re brands that dyed-in-the-wool fashion lovers might not have previously considered. But the reputations of Bally, along with Hugo Boss and Coach, are about to undergo a serious transformation.
Mr. Coppola, 36, realized just how serious when he witnessed the reaction of the fashion press at his fall presentation, six months ago in Milan. As they previewed his new cool-classic wares, editors clambered to meet the man behind the clothes and the excited buzz grew. Bally has employed designers before, like the duo of Michael Herz and Graeme Fidler, who preceded Mr. Coppola, but their efforts, while solid, didn’t resonate quite like this.
“It was a bit of a surprise, because it’s the first time that I worked more directly on ready-to-wear,” said Mr. Coppola, who cut his teeth as an accessories designer at
Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen before joining Bally in the same role. He was promoted in February and began to design clothes.
“To be honest with you, we didn’t really think too hard about it,” said Mr. Coppola. Well, he did and he didn’t. There is something appealingly straightforward about the tightly-edited group of “wardrobe essentials.” But their simplicity is deceptive. Classic denim jackets and leather bombers are bonded with cozy cashmere, while a seemingly basic cross-body bag hides five utilitarian pockets. “The idea is [to present] something that looks very normal and that you’ve seen before—probably in Gap,” said Mr. Coppola, “But then when you open it, it’s completely outfitted with really nice little details that are more for the person who wears it than to show off.”
Though Mr. Coppola is relatively unknown to the fashion world at large,
—the designer hired to helm Boss’s womenswear collection—had already built a veritable hive of buzz via his own collection.
‘There’s something quite rigorous about it that feels organic for the company.’
Lest you forget: It was Mr. Wu who dressed first lady
for both inaugural balls. Feminine clothes have always been his strong suit, which made him an intriguing choice for the 90-year-old, menswear-powered German label—the first well-known designer they’ve ever hired for the role.
Mr. Wu, who’s about to turn 32, wisely decided to build on Boss’s strong foundation of tailoring expertise instead of starting with a blank slate. “We’re taking those structures and translating them in a very feminine way,” he explained. “We’re building jackets, dresses and even evening wear using those techniques.”
His debut collection sticks to a focused palette of men’s-suiting hues: black, camel, charcoal gray. Yet nothing reads as overly androgynous. His beautiful, belted coats are structured and sucked-in on top and full-skirted on bottom, some jazzed up by subtle Bauhaus-like motifs. “Even in the more masculine pieces, there is the definition of the waist and the fuller, more generous skirt,” said Mr. Wu.
The softly minimalist silk dresses in silk and beaded chiffon are part of Mr. Wu’s imprimatur on the brand. But he’s translated them in a restrained way that strikes a balance between his own work and the DNA of Boss. “It’s not about over-the-top frills or something overly romantic,” he said. “There’s something quite rigorous about everything that we do that feels organic for the company.” The response has been positive, particularly for Mr. Wu’s outerwear. “The coats are definitely on a lot of people’s wish lists,” he said. “They’re quite a statement and yet they are super wearable.”
Unlike Mr. Wu, who was filling an entirely new role, Coach’s new executive creative director,
was following in the footsteps of Reed Krakoff, the whip-smart and commercially savvy designer who joined the company in 1996 and was responsible for taking it from a $500-million-a-year business to a more than $4 billion powerhouse.
The company’s hiring of Mr. Vevers, who previously worked for LVMH-owned luxury leather label Loewe was a step in a slightly different direction.
The British-born Mr. Vevers has a cleverly quirky sensibility, which he easily merged with the fashionably utilitarian American ideals of Coach. To wit, amid his cool coats and miniskirts was an Apollo-motif sweater like the one worn by Danny Torrance, the young psychic in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 movie “The Shining.”
It was Mr. Vevers’s outerwear that made the biggest statement for the 73-year-old American brand built on bags. The designer explained that the two categories have much in common. “As a piece of clothing, [a jacket or coat] sits on its own, the way that a bag can,” he said.
Thus, the designer populated his collection with boxy leather-and-suede car coats, wool houndstooth parkas and oversize shearlings—his personal favorite. Many of these are available on the e-commerce site Net-a-porter, which is carrying Coach for the first time. The best part is the coats’ relatively reasonable prices, which top out at $3,000
Not that the focus isn’t still on the brand’s founding category: bags. The British-born designer is well-positioned to propel Coach forward, having created successes for Mulberry and Loewe. Among Mr. Vevers’s fall bag highlights are a creamy shearling satchel trimmed with leather and a pebbled leather tote patterned with pinhead studs, both $1,595. “American luxury should feel different,” said Mr. Vevers. “It should have an ease to it.”
Then: A quiet 163-year-old Swiss purveyor of classic, well-made shoes that’s ventured into fashion in the past several years.
Now: Starting to make some noise. With Pablo Coppola’s pitch-perfect wardrobe essentials—from handbags to bombers—the label’s on the verge of being one of the hottest tickets in town.
Boss by Hugo Boss
Then: A German powerhouse known for sharp, if slightly anonymous, tailoring—particularly for men.
Now: Anonymous no longer as American darling Jason Wu injects it with a dose of femininity. Expect softly minimalist dresses as well as a creative spin on the label’s bread-and-butter of coats and suiting.
Then: An all-American accessories behemoth bringing top-quality leather and clean design to a wider market.
Now: A behemoth with a more fashion-forward point of view. English designer Stuart Vevers is behind both its bags and a first-ever full ready-to-wear collection.