Coach History Case Study

Kate Spade vs Coach – A Brand Comparison

Coach is a brand that has been around for more than 60 years. This brand has decades of experience in designing and manufacturing signature handbags. It is a brand that most people rely on entirely. Although Coach history shows that the brand started with just six employees, it has grown into a multi-billion-dollar empire with hundreds of employees. One notable feature of this fashion brand is its dedication to creating luxurious and sturdy handbags; the quality of Coach handbags has remained the same over the years. They’re known for their stellar customer service and superior quality. 

To fully appreciate the Coach brand, it’s essential to know the company’s history. This brand has been around for a decade and continues to grow in popularity because of its excellent craftsmanship and impressive style. In this article, we’ll be exploring the brand and its journey in depth. So on that note, let’s get right into it.  

Coach History – The Beginning

If you look around, you’re sure to see women carrying Coach handbags and accessories. While you might own one of their product or recognize it from people, it’s normal not to know the story behind the brand. However, Coach history is quite rich, and we’ll explore it in this article. So let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

1940s Origin

Coach history dates back to 1941 when the brand was founded. However, it didn’t start under the name Coach. Instead, the brand was founded under Manhattan Leather Bags by Lilian and Miles Cahn. The founders were impressed by the design of a baseball glove, and it inspired them to create a handbag that offered the public the same features. The founders worked with six artists to create a collection of 12 handbags. Like baseball gloves, these bags came from tan, supple top-quality leathers. The bags were the result of excellent craftsmanship and stitch work. 

After a few years of success, the brand hired Bonnie Cashin, who breathed life into the company. Bonnie is considered a pioneer in American sportswear because she utilizes organic materials like wool, leather, and jersey with industrial hardware. For example, she developed the brass toggle hardware found in Coach bags and duffle bags.

Her goal was to make things as lightweight, inexpensive, simple, and punchy as possible. This meant that her first collection featured simplistic and classic designs. However, the colors were exuberant. Most of the handbags she created were available in color-popping hues, pastel pink, grass greens, mustard yellow, and many more popping colors. The interiors usually featured striped madras cotton that soon became her signature.

Coach History – Becoming an Affordable Luxury Handbag Brand

The current CEO of Coach, Lew Frankfurt, joined the brand in 1979. He was instrumental in moving the Coach from a small leather goods manufacturer to a global brand. Coach frequently credits him for helping it emerge as an affordable luxury brand. This was quite a new concept in the industry at the time. Until Lew Frankfurt, a woman’s handbag choices were limited to either high-end designer bags or knockoffs in departmental stores. Therefore, Coach bags came to fill a void in the market.

After Frankfurt joined the fashion label, Coach released its first catalog. Additionally, the brand also launched its first flagship store in New York. The store and catalog were vital in turning Coach into a fashion brand instead of continually being perceived as a leather manufacturing company. With this, Coach was suddenly more than just a company that made bags similar to baseball gloves.

Coach became a part of Sara Lee in 1986, which gave the company the capital and infrastructure support it needed to move to the next level. However, Coach moved from its parent in 2000 in a public offering on Wall Street.

Coach History – Expansion of the Company

Late into the 1980s, Coach began to expand and develop innovations to make the brand relevant, strong, and fresh. In 1988, it launched its first collection of women’s and men’s watches. The brand began to branch out beyond the US, opening a store in Tokyo. This was a productive move as Japanese sales account for a significant percentage of the company’s revenues. A few years later, Coach also entered the outerwear business with the release of raincoats and classic trenches. 

In 1993, Coach hired Reed Krakoff, a sportswear designer who previously worked at Tommy Hilfiger. Like Bonnie Cashin, Krakoff entered the company with a unique vision to improve the brand. In addition, he is responsible for changing the image of Coach. It was previously known for its basic and sturdy collection of burgundy, navy, tan, and basic briefcases. With the entry of Krakoff, Coach released a hip and stylish collection with new styles and colors each season. He also added new accessories to the brand’s portfolio like wristlets, watch straps, cellphone cases, and wallets.

Coach History – The Company’s Signature Collection

With the turn of the century, there was more interest in Coach. In 2001, the company launched an iconic look known as the Coach Signature Collection. This collection was recognizable by the bold double C design. It was timed to capitalize on the logo mana sweeping the fashion industry at the time. You can find different styles and colors under this signature collection.

The brand celebrated its 65th anniversary in 2006. To celebrate, Krakoff released the Legacy collection. This collection utilized canvas and suede. Krakoff also made a bold move by adding bright new colors like orange, green, and even pink. In addition, the brand used magnets to keep the bags closed rather than the typical brass toggles. 

Coach History – 2013 and Beyond 

At this point, Coach was beginning to have more competition than they were ready for. Brands like Kate Spade, Tory Burch, and many others were taking market shares from Coach, and this didn’t go unnoticed. It was at this point that Stuart Vevers joined the company. He previously worked with Calvin Klein, Loewe, and Mulberry. Therefore, there were high hopes about his entry into the brand. The company launched a shoe line in addition to other accessories like scarves and watches. 

Down the line, Coach also launched a high-end fashion line called 1941. This line was launched in 2016 and offered expensive clothing to the public. Although Coach knew that their regular customers didn’t have the budget for this, they targeted a different set of clients. The goal was for the new customers to make the brand aspirational again. In addition, they wanted Coach to appeal to the public once again that they would save up to purchase one. 

Coach History – Today’s Outlook

By 2017, Coach already had 900 stores globally that operated by themselves. The brand also has boutiques in different departmental stores and outlets. Coach is one of the global leaders in luxury handbags and accessories. Today, Coach owns an online store that ships to over 20 countries. This allows Coach handbags to be available on five continents. 

The brand saw an impressive increase in sales in 2021, and the future looks bright for the brand. There have been substantial changes in the company, but one that paid off is the shift from discount sales. Coach slowly returned. The brand also returned to its original quality in its products, evident in its new designs. 

Popular Coach Handbags

Throughout Coach’s history, the brand has created some of the most iconic and vintage designs. Below are some of its most famous handbags of all time. 

The Duffle 

This is arguably the most iconic Coach handbag of all time. Coach designed this bag in 1971, and it appeared in American Vogue in the same year. The Coach Duffle is soft and features a slouchy silhouette that was a hit with fashion editors and consumers. Decades later, this bag remains as iconic as the day it was released.

The Saddle Bag

The Saddle Bag design became the official United Airlines Stewardess bag in 1980. It was first introduced into the market in 1972. People love this bag for the many compartments and flaps that it comes with. It soon became an inspiration for many handbag brands over the years, including Coach. The 2016 Saddle Bag released by Coach was a best seller. 

The Dinky

This handbag is one of the most iconic bags in Coach history and is the brainchild of Bonnie Cashin. She designed the turnlock in 1964 and then made it into a Coach handbag in 1973. Bonnie Cashin described the Dinky as the little bag that people could love universally. Today, it is loved globally. 

The Slim Satchel

Coach designed this bag in 1974, which is famous for its unique structured handle. The bag also features curved side bindings that are quite distinctive. In Coach history, the Slim Satchel was one of the first styles the brand designed for use by both genders. The Slim Satchel was long before the brand’s famous briefcases. 

Why is Coach Popular?

Over the years, Coach developed an impressive fandom. This is primarily due to its quality, exclusivity, and trendy products. Consistently throughout Coach history, the brand offered the best quality leather. While producing top quality, Coach ensures its products are affordable in all categories. In addition, Coach manufacturers inspect up to 90% of the leather goods. This means that Coach will only release top-quality products to the market. The leather used to produce their handbags is superlative in grade and manufactured through strict standards. 

The fashion brand is also famous for its commitment to sustainable fashion. It promotes sustainability by sourcing 90% of its leather from Gold and silver-rated leather working Group. Therefore, it takes time for Coach leather to soften. The production process is precise; the brand doesn’t take shortcuts to ensure that the texture and color of the material are uniforms.

Coach also utilizes double stitching when creating its bags. This is to ensure a stronger stitch than average. There are different ranges in their bag collections. However, their collections are timeless, and you’re sure to find a bag that suits your need and style. You can find commuter-friendly bags, trendy mini bags, and more.

Final Thoughts

The brand has continually rebranded throughout Coach history, providing new styles, colors, and designs. Due to this, Coach bags are at the top of many women’s must-have bags. In addition, Coach history provides fashion lovers and the brand’s fans with more appreciation for the company’s craftsmanship and quality. By learning Coach history, it’s easy to understand how the brand survived the fashion world through innovations, design, and excellent marketing. 

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Coach History Case Study Coach is one of the brands recognized for creating iconic handbags. Read about Coach history in this article and their most iconic bags.
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