Coach has a rich history that dates back to 1941. They were founded under the name Manhattan Leather Bags. The company founder was impressed by the design of a baseball glove and it inspired him to create a handbag with similar attributes. Working with six artists, he created a collection consisting of 12 handbags. Like a baseball glove, these bags were made from tan, supple, high quality leather and featured excellent stitch work and craftsmanship.
In 1962, the Coach company hired Bonnie Cashin. Cashin breathed new life into the company. She was considered a pioneer in American sportswear due to her use of industrial hardware and organic materials such as leather, wool and jersey. Cashin is credited with both the brass toggle hardware on Coach bags and the Coach duffle bag. Riding the success of Cashin’s creations, the company ran its first ad in The New Yorker in 1963.
Coach’s full company profile can be found on their official website.
Filling the Affordable Luxury Handbag Niche
In 1979, Lew Frankfort, who today serves as Coach’s CEO, joined the company. Frankfort transformed Coach from a little-known leather goods manufacturer to a world-renowned brand. He is often credited with the emergence of Coach in the 1990s as the affordable luxury brand. This concept of affordable luxury was a big deal in the industry. Up until this point, a woman’s only handbag choices were high-end designer bags or department store knock offs. The new Coach bags filled a void in the market. Shortly after Frankfort joined the company, Coach published its first catalog and launched its first flagship store at 754 Madison Avenue in New York. The catalog and the flagship store were necessary steps in turning Coach into a fashion brand, not just a leather manufacturer. Suddenly, Coach was a far cry from the company that made bags like baseball gloves.
Expansion of the Line
Starting in the late 1980s, Coach began a series of expansions and innovations that have made its brand strong, fresh and relevant. In 1988, the company launched a collection of men and women’s watches. The company also expanded to Tokyo. Today, Japanese sales account for a healthy percentage of the company’s revenues. Just a few years later in 1992, the company entered the outerwear business with classic trenches and raincoats.
Then in 1993, the company hired Reed Krakoff, a sportswear designer who had worked at Tommy Hilfiger. Like Cashin before him, Krakoff brought a unique vision to the collection. He is credited with changing the image of Coach from a sturdy, basic collection of tan, burgundy, black and navy briefcases, to a more hip, stylish collection with new colors and styles every season. Krakoff added interesting new accessories including watch straps, wallets, wristlets and cell phone cases.
Coach Signature Collection
The turn of the century brought even more interest in Coach. In 2001, the company launched what has become an iconic look, the Coach Signature collection. This collection features a bold double C design. The collection was timed to capitalize on a logo mania sweeping the fashion industry. The signature collection was done in a wide variety of styles and colors.
In 2006, in honor of the company’s 65th anniversary, Krakoff debuted the Legacy collection. The Legacy collection incorporated suede and canvas into the collection. In a bold move, Krakoff added bright new colors like pink, green and orange. Instead of brass toggles, the bags stayed closed by magnets.
Coach continues to innovate each season, turning out new colors, styles and designs. Every winter, Coach bags top many women’s Christmas wish lists.
The full history of the Coach handbag gives fashion lovers an appreciation for more than the company’s quality and craftsmanship. It illustrates how this company has survived in the fickle fashion world through innovation, marketing and design.