Coach's First External Activation Invited Guests to Explore a Cosmic-Fueled Playground

The luxury fashion brand's pop-up experience gave fans an Instagram-friendly, interactive experience inspired by self-expression and astrology.

By Ian Zelaya June 20, 2018, 7:15 AM EDT

The colorful room—a purposeful contrast to the bright, all-white subway platform room—featured branded Skee-Ball, a Zoltar fortune-telling machine, and a giant clown mask. 

Photo: Daniel Salemi

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A Coney Island-like fairground, a white subway platform with graffiti, a fortune-telling forest, and a homage to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks aren’t necessarily elements one would associate with an event from Coach.

But for its first external brand activation (outside of its stores or a runway show), Coach wanted consumers to think of the brand as more than just a producer of luxury leather products. The brand aimed to deliver fans—specifically millennials and a “woke” New York audience—an unexpected experience inspired by the insight that its customers can pursue both style and substance. 

The self-guided experience, titled Life Coach, took place June 12 to 17 at a vacant space in SoHo, down the street from the brand's flagship store. The experience consisted of four interactive rooms curated for a New York audience, each with a different design. To attend the free event, guests could book a time on Coach's custom event website.

“We set out to create Life Coach because we wanted to construct an environment that encouraged self-expression, felt optimistic, and, more than anything, allowed us to connect with our fans in a new, more intimate fashion,” said Coach C.M.O. Carlos Becile. “Life Coach inherently pays tribute to our heritage, yet is focused on the path forward. Ultimately, Life Coach is what the audience makes it, where each experience will be unique.”

For the six-day experience, Coach partnered with the Projects—a culture-focused brand consultancy helmed by founding partner and global business director Jack Bedwani and partner Nick Ingate—which led the concept creation, production, and overall design of the event. Coach also partnered with set designer Simon Costin, who has worked with luxury brands such as Givenchy and Hermes, to bring each room’s aesthetic to life. 

“Coach approached us with the brief to conceptualize something completely fresh for the brand, an idea that was strong enough to be a starting point in introducing their signature monogrammed print to a new audience—something that would talk to the ‘cool kids,'” said Bedwani. “One of the primary objectives was to create an experience that invigorated their signature monogrammed print for a new millennial audience who hadn’t previously felt any connection to this iconography.”

Bedwani added: “Coach has such an incredibly strong D.N.A. as a brand. When a brand has such a strong anchor, it creates new possibilities for other creatives to translate it in different ways and bring in very diverse audiences to participate in that translation.”

Upon arrival, guests entered the first room, which was a David Lynch-inspired check-in area that featured red drapes and a monochromatic tile floor, reminiscent of the red room from Lynch’s surreal mystery drama series Twin Peaks. The room, which showcased vintage televisions with glitchy screens and ringing pay phones, was meant to set the stage for the rest of the otherworldly tour.

Using custom coins handed to them at check-in, guests could participate in several activities. They included drawing with paint markers in the second room, which was designed as an all-white subway platform; playing games like Skee-Ball and wheel-of-fortune in the third room, which was a sherbet-hued, Coney Island-inspired fairground; and sitting down with nationally recognized tarot card readers and psychics in the final room, which resembled an enchanted forest.

In each room, Coach’s classic “C” print appeared in subtle ways, while logos including Rexy the dinosaur and the Coach unicorn were also integrated into the decor.

Each night, the experience featured live performances from talent such as DJs Venus X and Mike Q, and celebrity astrologists the AstroTwins. The performances were meant to capture both the spirit of the brand and of New York, according to Becile. 

Notably for the fashion brand, the event did not include a retail component and did not offer gift bags to guests. Bedwani explained that this was a purposeful decision, as the experience itself was meant to be the gift for consumers.

While this was the first edition of Life Coach, there are already plans to bring the experience to different cities—although international fans of the brand probably won't get the exact same version of the New York event.

“Right now we are working on how we take the essence of what Life Coach is and explore how it comes to life both in other cities across America as well as other markets internationally,” said Bedwani. “How it translates in Japan will be totally different to how it comes to life in China and, again, totally different to how it looks and feels in Paris. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so it’s both a challenge and an opportunity." 

Here's a look inside the Instagram-friendly rooms that consumers could experience at Life Coach.

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