In 2016, Coach celebrated its 75th year. But for a brand that is so established and steeped in history, it’s been one that’s had a relatively quiet existence in the fashion industry – outside of the U.S., anyway.
What started as a family-run workshop in New York City in 1941, Coach became renowned as the go-to American brand for all things leather (originally handmade billfolds and wallets, soon moving onto gloves and women’s handbags) at a time when those big European names were cut off to the States during the Second World War.
Coach took a distinctly American approach to leather accessories: they were luxurious, but they were accessible; they were stylish, but they were functional. The brand came to define modern luxury in the U.S., becoming a household name around the country and growing at an incredible rate – in the 1960s, when designer Bonnie Cashin gave the brand a more ‘fashionable’ spin with new colours and additional hardware; and the 1990s, with its additional footwear and jewellery offerings.
In 2013 Coach went through another change, which marked a new direction yet again. Victor Luis became president and CEO of the company, with British designer Stuart Vevers joining in 2014 as executive creative director. Vevers has celebrated what makes Coach unique and distinctive – its unapologetic patriotism – and run with it, all while giving it a fresh injection of contemporary style that his previous experience enabled, having been previously posted at Loewe.
Vevers added ready to wear at Coach for the first time (known as Coach 1941), taking it beyond the accessories to create an all-encompassing brand and for a Brit, he’s really taken to the all-American aesthetic. There have been patchwork-leather baseball jackets, high-top trainers, a smattering of plaid, leather fringing and a whole host of Little House on the Prairie-style apparel.
Coach has now moved on from that American staple to a worldwide heavyweight, up there with the rest of them in carving out a unique identity and redefining what it means to be a luxury brand in the 21st century.