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Coach Brand Review

[How Good is this Designer Brand?]

Whether you shop designer brands frequently or not at all, Coach is one of the most renowned luxury fashion brands known to date. After being in the industry for 80 years, Coach has undoubtedly made a name for itself. And a good one, at that. Coach is top-of-the-line when it comes to apparel, and its classic leather handbags never seem to go out of style.

Nonetheless, although they have maintained such a popular name throughout the years, Coach has a long history that not only sheds some light on how they operate today but also lets us in on the details of its products. And, if you’re investing in a designer product—regardless of the brand—it’s important to have some insight into the corporation.

That said, we’ll dive deep into all things Coach, so you can have a better idea of its products, leather goods, manufacturing process, ethics, and prices. All in all, we’ll decide whether its products are worth the hard-earned money it takes to leave the store with a bag in hand. 

The History of Coach

Known for its quality leather made with timelessness in mind, Coach had its humble beginnings in a loft on 34th Street Manhattan in 1941. Six artisan leather craftsmen made wallets and billfolds by hand until Miles and Lillian Cahn, who owned a leather handbag manufacturer and were knowledgeable about the leather industry, hopped on board five years later. 

Cahn took over the business soon after joining. Soon enough, he became inspired by the qualities of the classic baseball glove and took inspiration from the leather that became softer and better with wear and tear. Cahn and his wife designed their first collection of 12 handbags, mimicking the best features of baseball glove leather, with top-quality craftsmanship.

The company continued to grow, and in 1961, Cahn found and hired Bonnie Cashin to design handbags. Cashin was well seasoned in sportswear, and soon enough, she transformed the Coach vision to include brighter colors, additional pockets, and the iconic brass toggle on the handbags we can still buy today. Cashin was a revolution to the business and set out to make their products as lightweight, simple, punchy, and inexpensive as possible.

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Richard Rose partnered with Coach in 1965, putting the designer bags in department stores throughout the United States. In 1979, Lewis Frankfort, Coach’s current CEO, joined the company. Not long after, in 1985, Cahn sold the company to Sara Lee Corporation, where Frankfort took over the position as president. He soon transitioned the Coach brand from a mere leather manufacturer to the New York-inspired, a luxury designer brand we know and love today.

Coach Leather

If you’re anything like me, thinking of a classic leather bag takes my mind directly to Coach. Since growing as the American house of leather for more than 80 years, Coach takes pride in its quality leather, and the company ensures that all its leather is expertly sourced and crafted into gorgeous designs that keep the fashion industry moving forward. 

Coach claims to rely heavily on premium leather, only selecting from top-grade hides. It s also coined its own, distinct leather: their classic Glovetanned leather. The Glovetanned leather makes each of their products unique to the wearer, providing a personalized, worn-in look and beautiful patina for each item. However, the leather doesn’t seem to be as top-quality today as it once was—thick, beautiful, and durable.

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Manufacturing

Coach maintains over 900 retail storefronts worldwide, and most of its manufacturing is done in China. Coach, Inc., Coach’s holding company, changed its name to Tapestry, Inc. in 2017, which now holds three brands, including Coach, Kate Spade, Stuart Weitzman. 

As of 2019, Coach showed most of its goods and products were produced by third-party manufacturers in several countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, mainland China, and Cambodia. Outsourcing is not uncommon for apparel and fashion brands, so Coach is certainly not the minority for doing so. Not only does it prove to be more cost-effective but outsourcing to external producers also improves its products’ speed-to-market.

Coach also conducts rigorous quality testing—including weight-testing—of its products after manufacturing to ensure the highest quality before they hit the shelves.

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Coach & Sustinability

In 2007, the Financial Times explored designer luxury brands and their ethical practices, explaining that Coach ranked amongst some of those who failed to meet ethical criteria in manufacturing and other areas. Coach ranked at number 5, earning a “C.” It’s safe to say that more than a decade ago Coach was not as ethical as most would prefer.

As of 2020, Coach maintains an overall rating of “not good enough” in terms of its greenhouse gas emissions, ethical labor practices, and animal welfare. 

However, Coach claims to work closely with Leather Working Group (LWG) tanneries to ensure it meets quality standards for environmental impact. The LWG is a nonprofit committed to improving the impact that the leather industry has on the environment. In 2019, Coach sourced 63 percent of its leather from LWG Gold- and Silver-rated tanneries, the highest-rated leather tanneries. Its goal is to source 90 percent of its leather from Gold- and Silver-rated tanneries by 2025.

Coach also commits to 95 percent traceability of its raw materials through its supply chains by 2025.

As for sustainability in its products, Coach and its fellow tapestry brands became members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition in 2020 and it is currently measuring its sustainability performance across all industries in hopes to share progress with consumers soon. As for now, they offer recycled materials, pre-owned bags, and restored products.

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Prices

Coach maintains a wide selection of leather products for both men and women, its most popular options being bags—from crossbody bags to totes. Fortunately, however, they do have affordable options, a significant feat for a designer brand. 

Its least expensive women’s bag is the Kitt Messenger Crossbody, coming in at $150. As for men’s, its cheapest option is the Julienne Cosmetic Case 17 at $75. When it comes to the most expensive, Coach is still considerably less expensive compared to other luxury brands. Its most expensive bag is the Rogue 25 in Alligator, which is $7,000. However, the Rogue 39 comes in second place at only $1,250.

Final Verdict

All in all, Coach’s leather is some of the best quality—particularly when it comes to timelessness. That said, I think Coach’s leather is worth the price. Even though many consider Coach to be on the lower end of the luxury fashion industry because of its affordable prices, it’s inexpensive when compared to other luxury brands, but the leather is authentic. Regardless, Coach seems to be on the straight and narrow path concerning sustainable and ethical practices and will hopefully progress in those areas within the next five years. 

As one of the original leather apparel and accessory companies that has been in business for eight decades, Coach continues to produce quality leather products that are designed with function in mind.

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