It was hard to watch the Coach show in light of recent events. Stuart Vevers loves America. He sees it through a movie-mad Brit's eyes, playing tribute to the ubiquitous symbols and emblems that litter tourist meccas. It's a heady, colourful, deliberately clichéd version of Americana and the American dream. This season he talked of 'celebrating youth and the bravery and boldness of those who challenge conventions, preconceptions and the status quo.' His bold boys in their painted leathers, fringed jackets and studded separates appeared as the world mourned the loss of 49 revellers, shot in Orlando while in a popular LGBTQ venue. It's a horrific reminder of how the inclusivity and fearlessness that Vevers, and so many others in fashion, celebrate and reference remains under attack - threatened and abhorred by both rogue individuals and organised groups.
It's hard to write politically during fashion week - it feels like too frivolous of a setting. But recently it's been striking to see the power that fashion can have and the statements that clothes can make. It's easy to be nostalgic and point to how rapid, vapid and commercial the 'system' and so many collections are, or the firm grip that big brands and advertisers have over the critical and aesthetic freedom of those within the industry, and long for the freedom of the eighties and nineties or the presence of mavericks like the punks or club kids, but fashion needs a pat on the back sometimes. The conversations of gender fluidity and the spotlight on amazing, empowered trans figures that has spread across culture were pushed forward by fashion. Designers do have power in who they cast, the voices they champion and the agendas they promote - they can be as engaged or as oblivious as they like. Coach is a mega brand, with a turnover of billions, they need to keep supporting the rebels, outsiders and self-titled weirdos. Sure, critics can argue they're simply mining those groupings for their aesthetics then selling it back at a high price - those jackets and bags won't come cheap. But that's fashion. That's business. It's the social and cultural impact, not the profits, that need to be considered - Coach can educate and raise awareness through the aesthetics they promote. Vevers' love for the underdog and dreamer is important, and felt especially touching.