When we look at Coach’s illustrious history, two things become immediately apparent: Its inimitable sense of cool and inspiring sense of innovation.
The all-American brand started as a humble six-man setup in 1941 and quickly evolved from a small-leather goods manufacturer to an American icon under Miles Cahn, when he joined the company with his wife in 1946. Considered the founder of the heritage brand in more ways than one, Cahn was especially enamoured by the buttery softness of the leather used to make baseball gloves, not to mention the beautifully rich patina that the leather developed with age. He incorporated all these qualities into leather processing for Coach, making “glove-tanned” leather a cornerstone of the brand. It is something that has remained with the house till today.
Within a few years of his taking over the company, Cahn set down the company’s core values of authenticity, innovation, and relevance, reiterated even today by its coach and carriage logo—one of the world’s most easily recognised logo. The brand was also well on its way to laying its foundation as America’s first “accessible luxury” label.
The appointment of American sportswear designer Bonnie Cashin in 1961 as its first Creative Director led the house in a bold, new direction. Capturing the zeitgeist of the Swinging Sixties, Cashin brought women’s fashion to the house and defined the Coach woman as someone who is smart, well-travelled and fashion forward. These qualities have continued to inform the contemporary image of the brand well into the 21st century—and is something that Coach’s new Creative Director, Stuart Vevers, keeps in mind when he explores and interprets the codes of the house for the modern audience. Cashin upped the ante on innovation and brand recognition in 1964 when she created the iconic Coach Turn Lock, taking inspiration from the toggle on the roof of her convertible.
Fast forward to today, and Creative Director Stuart Vevers is seen looking into Coach’s vast archives and reimagining the house’s key icons taking the brand’s heritage into the new millennium with a range of modern emblems. “Nothing takes you from high culture to pop culture and back again like a journey in America,” Vevers told Harper’s BAZAAR in a 2015 interview. “It’s the inspiration for what I’m doing at Coach.” And in the five seasons that Vevers has helmed the brand, travel has infused the brand’s point of view, suffusing it with a distinct New York style, delivered with a Downtown attitude. Tying back to the brand’s core value of innovation, Vevers placed Coach firmly on the fashion cognoscenti’s map by reintroducing a ready-to-wear collection this season; staged at New York City’s beloved High Line amid a dreamy prairie grassland.
To celebrate its 75th anniversary this year with a bang, the brand has kicked off a series of initiatives that fête this significant milestone. Firstly, the ready-to-wear collection has been rechristened “Coach 1941” to give the collection its own unique identity while underscoring the brand’s history. Next, is the exciting “Coach Icons” series, which sees icons of the house, such as the Dinky and Saddle handbags, being introduced to stores once again. It’s riveting to see the brand’s directional change in the coming year, and to give credit where it’s due: Not everyone can make turning 75 look this fabulous.
Here, we celebrate the rich and colourful history of Coach with a cast of eight delightful characters.
Coach is located at Wisma Atria, #02-19/27, 435 Orchard Road; Paragon Shopping Centre,#02-13/16, 290 Orchard Road; Takashimaya Department Store, Level 1, 391 Orchard Road; The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, #B2-40, 2 Bayfront Ave; Vivo City, #01-195/196, 1 Harbourfront Walk; Isetan Scotts Department Store, Level 1, 350 Orchard Road; Jurong East Mall, #01-47/50, 50 Jurong Gateway Road.
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Illustrations by Ridhwan Sesapar/160 Works