exclusive: the coach & rodarte collaboration is here

Back in January, news broke that Kate and Laura Mulleavy — the sisters behind beloved L.A. label Rodarte — were cooking up a 15-piece collaborative capsule with Coach. Now, the limited-edition collection has arrived. We spoke to Laura and Stuart Vevers...

by Clementine de Pressigny
13 April 2017, 1:40pm

So, how did this come about? Who called who?
We actually met many years ago in Paris at a party. We had a few mutual friends, but I think we got talking most when we were sharing a day at NYFW. Kate and Laura got in touch just to discuss logistics and models, and we had quite a nice back and forth. There was a sense of camaraderie; we were supportive of each other. That's kind of when I started to think about it.
Laura: Yeah, and then when Stuart brought it up, I was like 'oh sign me up, this sounds cool!' It just seemed like something that would be really fun to do with such a lovely person. 

How did you combine your different design sensibilities? How does it actually work in practice?
Laura: I thought we were really fluid, to be honest. I don't think anyone went to the table with restrictions, and what happened in the end was that we had some conversations with each other and it was quite natural as a process. You know, we would sit down, talk about life, talk about things that inspire us, things that we like to do, and then one thing led to another in terms of the creation — it kind of just happened. Sometimes you work with another designer and someone will come to you and say, 'these are the things we want to achieve,' and you work like that. But in this case, Stuart was so honest and upfront at the beginning, he felt that these types of collaborations need to be very organic. So I think that the fun parts of our personalities all came out, and ideas of each brand really came to the forefront when we were talking.

Stuart: I think it's quite rare that designers get to sit down and work together from different companies and different worlds. The thing that was the most exciting for me was when I brought references just to start the conversation and the thoughts that Kate and Laura had were just so different to anything I would have started with. They were coming from a really different place, you know. When those first ideas came up I knew that I would have never come up with them alone, and that was really exciting. Kate and Laura were able to do something really different with the Coach archives.

Doing a collaboration like this must offer an interesting opportunity in terms of plugging into another designer's working process and ideas.
Laura: Yeah, I think so. I feel like anytime I can work in a new scenario, in a new way — whether that's doing costumes for something or a collaboration like this — I like to take the opportunity to learn more about designing. When you're working with your own company, you have a set of rules that you work within, and though you're constantly questioning those rules, you really use a different part of your brain with this kind of thing. It's a definite learning process. This is the first time Kate and I have ever worked on a handbag. People always ask us about doing them, but creating something like that really stretches your imagination and your understanding of how to utilize your taste and ideas in a new format. So working with Stuart, I definitely learned a lot. We're all like-minded in what we care about — that commonality is what helped the two brands come together.

Stuart: I picked Kate and Laura's brains about what they would personally carry in terms of the bag and what their references were. It was definitely a learning experience for me and it was fun to have the opportunity to bounce ideas off people bringing a fresh approach to leather goods. 

How did you land on the idea of the playing around with the 'This is a Coach Bag' line? Very meta. 
Stuart: That was absolutely Kate and Laura's idea!
Laura: Well I think that Stuart had come to L.A. for one of our first meetings, and they have an amazing archive at Coach, and he brought these vintage advertisements — we were so struck by how amazing the graphic design was in them. I think it was Kate who initially said: "I would just wear this on a shirt," and that was the initial conversation there. The artwork itself was so inspiring and I still look at it and get really excited because it's so chic, it's so beautiful, and it so simply spoke about the work. 

Stuart: We definitely spent a lot of time discussing those graphics and how they were laid out, and Kate and Laura had very clear points of view on when and where it should say Rodarte. It was all very thoughtful. 

It also flirts with the difference between the brands in terms of age — Coach being a heritage brand and Rodarte being pretty fresh in comparison. 
Laura: I think what ended up happening with it — by even putting Rodarte on the tag of the bag — things like that really came into it with exactly what you're saying there. But what Stuart has brought to [Coach] is there's a heritage there, but there's a newness too. So I do think there's always the play of the now with what you can do as a designer, and it's equally valued at both of our companies. Though we're a newer brand, our approach has always been to do something that's a little more timeless. In that sense I think there's dualities in each of our approaches, and that's really what we came to play with in coming together. 

What was on the moodboard?
Stuart: I think we just had either Rodarte things or Coach things, we didn't have anything else.
Laura: Yeah we didn't really talk about that at all it was just...
Stuart: I think that was enough.
Laura: How egotistical is that!? Our moodbaord was just our own things [laughs]. It was very fluid and literally one phone call or one conversation about something turned into a piece or an idea, and it was the most natural process. But we certainly had plenty of discussions about everything else while we were working and maybe that affected what we did. 

Will you collaborate again?
Stuart: Why not?
Laura: Working with Stuart was one of the most fun things I've done in my career so far. So I'm always excited for the possibility. 

The Coach & Rodarte collection is available from Selfridges on April 13, and from the Coach House Regent Street & uk.coach.com on April 18.


Text Clementine de Pressigny 

fashion interviews
kate and laura mulleavy
stuart vevers
coach & rodarte collaboration