The company Coach is known for accessories and gifts for women and men, including handbags, men’s bags, women’s and men’s small leather goods, footwear, outerwear, ready-to-wear, watches, travel accessory, scarves, sunwear, fragrance, jewelry, and other accessories. What do we know about its history?
Coach store on Bleecker Street in New York City
Coach was founded in 1941, as a family-run workshop in a loft on 34th Street in Manhattan with six leather workers who made wallets and billfolds by hand.
1946: Miles & Lillian Cahn join Coach
In 1946, Miles Cahn and his wife Lillian joined the company. Miles and Lillian Cahn were owners of a leather handbag manufacturing business, and were knowledgeable about leatherworks and business.
By 1950, Cahn had taken over the business. During the early years, Cahn noticed the distinctive properties and qualities of the leather used to make baseball gloves. With wear and use, the leather in a glove became softer and suppler. Attempting to mimic this process, Cahn created a way of processing the leather to make it stronger, softer, and more flexible, along with being deeper-toned in color, since the leather absorbed the dye very well. Lillian Cahn suggested to Miles that the company supplement the factory’s men’s accessories business by adding women’s leather handbags. The “sturdy cowhide bags were an immediate hit.”
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Miles and Lillian Cahn bought the company through a leveraged buyout in 1961.
1961–1974: Bonnie Cashin designs for Coach
In 1961, Cahn hired Bonnie Cashin, a sportswear pioneer, to design handbags for Coach. Cashin “revolutionized the product’s design,” working as creative head for Coach from 1962 through 1974.
Cashin instituted the inclusion of side pockets, coin purses, and brighter colors (as opposed to the usual hues of browns and tans) in the products. Cashin also designed matching shoes, pens, key fobs, and eyewear, and added hardware to both her clothes and accessories–particularly the iconic turnlock that became a Coach hallmark–declaring that she had been inspired by a memory of quickly fastening the top on her convertible sports car. Cashin also was the first to introduce the iconic tote bag to Coach who’s silhouette is still being used today. Cashin and her it girl designs revolutionized Coach and led to increased revenue.
1979: Lewis Frankfort Joins Coach
In 1979, Lewis Frankfort joined the company as vice-president of business development when the business was making $6 million in sales and products were being distributed through the domestic wholesale channel, primarily in the Northeast. He was mentored by the then Executive VP of Sales Richard Rose. Richard Rose is credited with making Coach a household name after putting the product in department stores across the United States and abroad. Richard was with Coach from 1965 to 1995 when he retired.
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In 1981, under Frankfort’s leadership, the company opened its first directly-operated retail location on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.
1985: Sale to Sara Lee
In 1985, the Cahns decided to sell Coach Leather ware after determining they wanted to “devote more time to their growing goat farm and cheese production business called Coach Farm in Gallatinville, New York, which they began in 1983″. Coach was then sold to Sara Lee Corporation for a reported $30 million. Lew Frankfort succeeded Cahn as president.
Sara Lee structured Coach under its Hanes Group. In early 1986, new boutiques were opened in Macy’s stores in New York and San Francisco. Additional Coach stores were under construction, and similar boutiques were to be opened in other major department stores later in the year. By November 1986, the company was operating 12 stores, along with nearly 50 boutiques within larger department stores.
1996: Reed Krakoff leads design
1996, Lew Frankfort was named Chairman and CEO of Coach. The following year, under Frankfort’s leadership Coach hired Reed Krakoff, whose creative and commercials instincts aimed to make Coach products functional, lightweight, and stylish. Krakoff’s design transformed Coach from the relatively small company that it was in 1985 into the worldwide known brand that it is today.
2013–present: Leadership changes
In February 2013, Coach named Victor Luis President and Chief Commercial Officer and announced that he would become Chief Executive Officer in January 2014, with Lew Frankfort continuing as Executive Chairman. In 2013, Coach generated $5 billion in sales and operated approximately 1,000 directly operated locations globally, including North America, Japan, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea, and Europe.
In 2014, the company announced Stuart Vevers as the new Executive Creative Director, replacing Reed Krakoff.
In 2014, Coach announced that Lew Frankfort will retire as Executive Chairman at the expiration of his term in November 2014. In January 2015, Coach agreed to buy shoemaker, Stuart Weitzman, for up to $574 million in cash. On June 1, 2000, the company changed its name to Coach, Inc.
Lewis Frankfort has been involved with Coach for more than 30 years. He was named Chairman and CEO in 1995, and in 2014 became Executive Chairman. During 2000, he oversaw Coach’s transition to a publicly traded company listed on the NYSE and in 2011 became the first American issuer to list on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.
Victor Luis was named Chief Executive Officer of Coach , Inc. in January 2014. Prior to his appointment and beginning in February 2013, he held the role of President and Chief Commercial Officer of Coach, Inc., also serving on Coach’s Board of Directors.
Luis has been a member of Coach’s senior leadership team since joining the company in 2006, holding a number of international management roles and leading Coach’s expansion in Asia. Most recently, he served as President, International Group, and was responsible for Coach’s operations outside of North America. Prior, he was President of Coach Retail International, where he oversaw the company’s directly-operated businesses in China (Hong Kong, Macau, and Mainland), Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan, and President & CEO of Coach China and Coach Japan. Luis originally joined Coach as President & CEO, Coach Japan, Inc.
Prior to joining Coach, from 2002 to 2006, Luis was President and Chief Executive Officer for Baccarat, Inc., leading North American operation of the French luxury brand. Earlier in his career, Luis held marketing and sales positions within the Moët-Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) Group.
Stuart Vevers joined Coach in the fall of 2013 as Executive Creative Director. Vevers joined Coach from Loewe, where he held the role of Creative Director since 2008. Prior to Loewe, he served as Creative Director of Mulberry from 2005 to 2008. He began his career at Calvin Klein, and has contributed in creative roles with Bottega Veneta, Givenchy, and Louis Vuitton. In 2006, Vevers won the British Fashion Council’s Accessory Designer of the Year award.
The Coach Foundation
The Coach Foundation was established in 2008 to support organizations that empower and educate women and children around the world. According to the foundation’s website via Coach.com, the program has two areas of focus:
“Coach’s Women’s Initiative explores the best opportunities to help women fully realize their potential by supporting programs that encourage personal and economic empowerment. Coach’s Education Initiative focuses on improving educational opportunities for the underserved, to provide everyone with the opportunity to learn, grow and meaningfully contribute to our society.”
Additionally, Coach, Inc. funds select projects that enhance the environment in communities where it conducts principal business operations.
Sara Lee divested itself of Coach first by selling 19.5% of their shares of Coach at the Coach IPO in October 2000, followed in April 2001 with the distribution of their remaining shares to Sara Lee’s stockholders through an exchange offer.