Coach has its roots in a tiny family-owned leather good shop in Manhattan that opened in 1941, producing mostly wallets and billfolds. Miles Cahn joined the company in 1946, and by 1950, he was running the factory for its owners.

Cahn became intrigued by the workmanship of baseball gloves. It was his wife, Lillian, who suggested that if thick, natural-color leather was good enough for catching baseballs, perhaps it would work for carrying a woman's belongings, too. The result was a new line of affordably priced handbags made out of sturdy cowhide branded as Coach.

In 1961, the Cahns were able to buy out the owners, and in 1962, they hired Bonnie Cashin, who had designed outlandish costumes for 20th Century Fox in the 1940s. Cashin’s personal aesthetic, though, was much more subdued; she favored Mao jackets and slim leather. She brought this aesthetic to Coach handbags.

Her motto at Coach was, “"Make things as lightweight as possible, as simple as possible—as punchy as possible—as inexpensive as possible.” By “punchy,” she meant her utilitarian handbags came in vibrant '60s colors like lipstick red, candy pink, mustard yellow, and grass green. The interiors of her purses featured her trademark striped madras cotton. They also had sleek, streamlined shapes that reflected the optimism of Mid-Century Modern design.

Cashin, who worked for Coach until 1972, was obsessed with paring down the handbag to its most functional elements. Her first bag for Coach was the influential Body bag, which is often described as a kangaroo pouch or external pocket. This iconic shoulder bag led to the strap purses of the '70s by the likes of Calvin Klein and Halston. To make the Body bag even more useful, Cashin built a coin purse into the front of the bag, and dubbed it Cashin Carry.

Because she liked to haul books around, Cashin understood that busy modern women in the new consumer culture carried a lot more than the traditional keys, cash, lipstick, and hankie. She was also concerned with how well a bag could be packed. To this end, she introduced leather shopping bags, or totes, in three sizes, meant to be used at the same time, layered on one arm.

Seven years after Cashin left Coach, Lew Frankfort joined the company in 1979. The CEO of Coach today, he is credited with establishing Coach as the affordable luxury brand of ha...

By the 1980s, Coach had gone back to its traditional leather looks, producing sturdy and sophisticated bags and briefcases in blacks, browns, tan, and navy. But in 1993, former Tommy Hilfiger sportswear designer Reed Krakoff joined Coach, as the company expanded to outwear and luggage. Once again, the handbag line got new, modern colors and fun, young designs that were updated every season. Within a decade, Coach introduced the double “C” logo print, produced in a wide range of styles and colors. In 2001, Coach, Inc., became independent of Sara Lee.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Bag Lady University

Bag Lady University

Bag Lady University is the place to learn about handbag makers from Adrian's, which made Bakelite bags, to Whiting … [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Mint Coach 12839 Black Gallery Tote Bag Patent Leather Purse Satchel Chain LinkAuthentic Coach Madison Gray/python Trim Op Art Sateen Maggie Shoulder Bag 17689Coach Legacy Ali Cognac Brown Vachetta Leather Hobo Shoulder BagRare Coach Poppy Xl Spotlight Lurex Tote Bag 14435 Purse Satchel Silver Euc!!Coach Grafitti Multi-butterfly Bandana Diaper Baby Shoulder Bag 16219 Purse ToteCoach Brown Leather Turn Lock Briefcase Shoulder Bag 915Coach Baby Diaper Bag Handbag Tote Muntifunction Bag & Changing PadAuthentic Coach Madison Chestnut Brown Leather Maggie Shoulder Bag 14336 RareCoach Poppy Daisy Optic Glitter Sateen Spotlight Pocket Tote 22962 Purse Euc BagCoach Madison Small Phoebe Shoulder Bag In Blush Gathered Twist LeatherCoach Hamptons Leather Braided Belted Tassel Lace Tote Satchel Bag Purse 9290100% Auth Coach Red & Silver Saffiano Leather Large Tote Bag With Charm. Nr!!Coach Ashley *steel* Metallic Leather Carryall Tote Bag 15513Coach Peyton Signature Baby Bag Multifunction Tote: Khaki/coral Great ConditionCoach Backpack/purse Grey SilverCoach Colette Leather Large Wristlet Clutch Brown F52153Coach 77469 Navy Signature Nylon Weekender Carryall Gtwy Travel Gym Duffle Bag Coach Signature Swingpack Crossbody Purse16 Authentic Vintage Coach Purse Bag Handbag Wallet Lot Leather Resale Authentic Coach Poppy Black Silver Leather Purse Handbage Tote RareAuthentic Coach Madison Abigail Bordeaux Burgundy Leather Shoulder Bag 18612Coach Packable Weekender Duffle Gym Signature Black Tote Bag 77321Vintage 1940s Coach Bonnie Cashin Rare Brown Leather Pocket Book BagMint Coach Ashley Gathered Dotted Op Caryall Bag F20056 Navy Purse Satchel ToteCoach Baby Diaper Bag Multifunction Tote Brown Handbag CrossbodyCoach Vintage Black Leather Backpack Purse Handbag Usa Hipster Duffle BagCoach Black Leather Tote Large (diaper Bag) Guaranteed Authentic Ret $399Coach Leather Messenger Computer Bag Soft Briefcase Black Coach Vguc Authentic $398 Carly Denim Large Signature Blue Leather Duffle Purse Coach Black Textured Leather Hand Shoulder Bag Convertible Detailed Gunmetal EucCoach Ashley Signature Carryall Tote Handbag A Beautiful Bag Pink And Gray Coach Lot 1452 Black Leather Soho Crossbody Duffle Bag Handbag & Wallet - Used Coach Brown Vintage Leather Backpack Boho Purse Handbag Shoulder Usa HipsterCoach 28096 Madison Kelsey Jacquard/leather Satchel Shoulder Bag. #38.3Coach Poppy Pop C Jazzy Hobo Shoulder Bag Purse 15296 Multi Color Signature Coach Strip Cross Body Bag Coach Madison Saffiano Mini North/south Tote Bag #34.3Coach Madison Small Kelsey Satchel Purse Bag In Brown Leather 28095Coach F26187 Peyton Signature Double Zip Carryall Handbag Purse Msrp $378$268 Coach Signature Large Stripe Black Tote Shoulder Bag Purse Handbag F19046Coach 16566 Pleated Signature Large N/s Gallery Tote Satchel Shoulder Bag PurseCoach The Soft Borough Bag In Nappa LeatherCoach Handbags - Authentic Tan And Gold Signature C Purse W/ Shoulder StrapCoach Black Leather Attache Briefcase Messenger Bag 5267Coach Madison Maggie Chainlink Purple Black White Gray Shoulder Bag F0967-14420Mint Coach 17582 Snaphead Alexandra Shoulder Bag Handbag Purse Crossbody SatchelCoach Baby Diaper Bag Handbag Tote Muntifunction Bag & Changing PadCoach Hot Pink Signature Berry Nylon Getaway Diaper Gym Duffle Bag 77469 Coach Black Crossbody Handbag And Wallet ComboCoach Heritage Signature Collection Diaper BagCoach Teal Signature Chelsea Heritage Stripe Coated Canvas Diaper Bag Purse ToteCoach Red Leather Backpack Style HandbagCoach F27393 Park Metro Large Signature Tote Shopper Handbag In Black CherryCoach Large Dark Plume Teal Madison Phoebe Bag Leather Purse Style #24621* Coach 16808 Kristin Light Blue Leather Hobo Crossbody Shoulder Bag *Mint Coach Large Blue Denim/silver Leah Stripe Pocket Tote 17948 Purse SatchelAuthentic Coach Violet Legacy Leather Crossbody Bag PurseCoach Xl Leather Tote Diaper Shoulder Bag Brown 5098Coach Studio Legacy E053-9368 Petite Almond Leather Clip Backpack Bag YzCoach Purse Tote Bag Black