Coach is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.
Founded in 1941, Coach was initially a family-run workshop. In a Manhattan loft, six artisans started it with a dream to turn leather into beautiful and practical items—there they handcrafted a collection of leather goods using skills handed down from generation to generation.
After stumbling on a way to make their leather softer than a worn baseball glove, they introduce a line of women’s handbags to their collection—which soon developed a fan base amongst the people of New York. The legendary cowhide bags released were an instant hit and quickly became the talk of the town, and as the House continued to grow under the vision of Lillian and Miles Cahn, Coach officially became the Original American House of Leather.
Later in 1961, the company released a statement regarding the appointment of Bonnie Cashin, who was known as the creator of American sportswear. There, Cashin effectively revolutionised Coach’s designs for a new generation—incorporating side pockets, coin pockets, and a vast array of bright colours to the leather bags.
Under Cashin’s advice, Coach began adding more and more items to their line ranging from shoes, pens, key fobs to eyewear. In the 1980s, the brand went through a period of unprecedented growth. Expanding rapidly, new boutiques popped up in Macy’s stores and larger departments across the country. In 1996 was when American fashion designer, Reed Krakoff came into the picture.
With his help, Coach was transformed into a phenomenally successful fashion-accessories label—growing from a family firm to a global player, and its colourful bags now hang from the glossiest shoulders, from the iconic Bucket bag to the green crocodile shoulder bag. It was a company that used to make millions to now, one that makes billions.
Krakoff was later succeeded by Stuart Vevers in 2013, one of the most experienced designers in the fashion industry. Having worked with brands such as Calvin Klein, Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Mulberry and Loewe. His vast experience truly marked a new era of brand transformation for Coach.
Due to his love for pop culture, he drew inspiration from classic American cinema and has cited films like My Own Private Idaho, Jaws, The Shining, Badlands and The Virgin Suicides—which helped him frequently develop ideas for the mood and style of the brand’s collections. Ververs’s approach has combined Coach’s rich history with today’s trends and the needs of both the modern men and women.
The expansion of Coach has continued unabated ever since—as of 2019, Coach has 986 stores worldwide with a collection that covers the gamut of both women’s and men’s bags, small leather goods, scarves, fragrance, footwear, outerwear, watches and jewellery.
“My style is to take that heritage and to play it against modern references, youth culture, references that take things to a different place and make them relevant now. That’s what I’ve always been known for in my work,” said Stuart Vevers.
As a reflection of Vevers’s vision for Coach, he introduced a new star bag in 2014 which was not surprisingly inspired by the American workwear references such as tool belts. Called the Rhyder bag, it was edgy and an icon to say the least. His fondness for pop culture is still going strong today, as the debut of the Fall Winter 2021 collection titled ‘Coach Forever Season Two’ was shown during a virtual live presentation called ‘Coach TV’. The film and lookbook was created in collaboration with photographer Juergen Teller and the Coach Family, accompanied by ‘pre-show’ entertainment written and directed by Frances Frances— which was showcased on Instagram and across other brand channels.
The collection builds on the previous season’s story of community, responsibility and mixed-season wardrobing—which is said to be the next chapter of Vevers’s vision of mixing past, present and future together in one moment to speak to real-life dressing and a more responsible approach.
Coach is a brand synonymous with its community, ever since the beginning. Continuing its heritage, the Fall 2020 campaign highlighted the importance and value of love. Celebrating the relationships that endure and the strength that lies in togetherness, Coach featured its brand ambassadors and their loved ones for the campaign. Another example of Ververs’s vision being put to work was when they launched Coach Conversations this year—a monthly YouTube series about culture, community and creativity with its first episodes featuring their ambassadors such as Michael B. Jordan and Jennifer Lopez.
2021 marks Stuart Ververs’s ninth year as Coach’s creative director and with his successful works constantly making headlines, it is safe to say that everyone can definitely anticipate what he and Coach have in store for us in the near future.