Last Thursday Stuart Vevers was a panel guest at Designing Our Future, a three-day event in New York put on by the UK government. Vevers was interviewed by Harper’s Bazaar EIC Glenda Bailey, discussing the global fashion industry, as well as the Coach designer’s career. Early on in the conversation Bailey asked about the level of talent coming out of UK design schools and Vevers’ own education. He explained that having an education was something that was not available to his father, and that when he chose to study fashion, his father thought that he was giving up a great opportunity for a more traditional career. Vevers thinks that with the cost of schools today, he might not have taken the risk.
“At that time I could do what I wanted and I wasn’t going into it with this fear of debt,” he said, mentioning that he also received a grant. “I do worry today whether someone would behave in the same way from my background. There’s a lot of amazing designers from a lot of income groups. There’s a lot of working class British fashion designers. My first job was actually in New York at Calvin Klein, and all the people who were starting at the same time as me were all from really wealthy families… I worry that me today might have made a different decision.”
Later on in the conversation Vevers revealed that he has never stopped learning — and that the best tips can be found through collaboration. “It takes you out of your comfort zone immediately,” he said. “I love that you’re pushing your own boundaries. You’re pushing the boundaries of the brand too, and surprising people.”
Junya Wantanabe is among the people that really stand out in Vevers’ memory. “I learned in school that luxury is about absolute perfection and striving for everything to be perfect,” he said. “When [Junya and I] were working in fittings, he was kind of knocking my hand, like, ‘Just leave it. It looks cool. It looks good.’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah, right — it does.’ From that moment on, it changed the way I worked.”
“Beauty is in the imperfections,” Bailey concurred. We caught up with the longtime Bazaar editrix to chat about sustainability, and how she’s using her platform to be a force for change.
How do you practice sustainability both in your everyday life and in the Harper’s Bazaar office?
First and foremost, I have such a passion for fashion that things that I buy, I keep. If I don’t keep them, I’m going to give them to my friends or I’m going to donate them to a charity shop. If I don’t do that, then I’m hoping then those pieces I’ve been fortunate enough to save up for a very long time… might be useful and to be put towards a museum. I like the idea of the second life.
You’re lucky enough to be in a position with the power to influence. How are you using your platform to promote sustainability?
It’s all to do with storytelling. We do column, “Cost Per Wear.” It’s so important to explain to everybody. As you’ll see from the front of book in Bazaar, we have lots of ideas. It’s not all about what you can buy, it’s about how you can make the most of what you’ve got. I, of course, use the example of buy, store, recycle. These are ideas that we want to share with readers. It’s putting together things you have already in your existing wardrobe and making it look new. It says everything about you, and that’s why we have another regular franchise, “Buy Now, Love Forever.”
What are some ways you see luxury design houses adopting more sustainable business practices?
I actually think that designers and design houses are going to be doing their own rentals, which is something that makes business sense to them. Clearly, there is the demand.
How are you communicating to your readers that you’re on their side, while also trying to change their minds?
My readers are really bright. They love fashion. They’re very knowledgeable about fashion. They don’t need me to say what you should be thinking. What they want from me is to save their time. I wouldn’t dream of telling anybody what to think, but I’m very happy to make suggestions.