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    

Vintage Coach Large Brown Soho Leather Bucket Carryall Tote Purse Bag #4082Large Coach Duffle Bag~british Tan LeatherCoach Poppy Large Signature C Pop Glam Tote Multicolor Carryall Bag Purse 13839Coach Madison Phoebe Purple Violet 26224 Leather Handbag Purse BagCoach Saffiano Leather Baby Diaper Bag Tote 26353 Loganberry Messenger+pad PurseMint Coach Laura Leather Large Tote Purse/baby Diaper Bag F14887 Black HandbagCoach Soho Large Whiskey Brown Leather Hobo Bucket Tote Purse Bag #12684Coach Turquoise Blue Signature Sateen 30781 Gtw Nylon Laptop Backpack Bag Coach Handbag And Wallet SetVtg Coach Willis Cognac Brown Leather Messenger Crossbody Satchel Purse Bag 9927Coach Rasberry Pink Jacquard Large Shoulder Tote Handbag F13204Coach Brown Leather Vintage Messenger Crossbody Bag Purse 9980Authentic Coach Diaper Bag! Barely Used!!! No Reserve!!!100% Auth Coach Park Metro Zebra Saffiano Leather Tote Cross-body Bag + CharmsCoach 2pc Black Leather Tote Bag & Monogram Canvas Pouch SetCoach Poppy Xl Signature Ruby Red Lurex Glam Tote/handbag/purse 17890 Satchel Coach Designer Poppy Canvas Leather Patchwork Butterfly Handbag Tote 14539 RareCoach Hampton Large Red Leather Tote Carryall Shoulder Travel Work Bag 6491Coach Madison Leather Handbag #12949 Coach Ashley Black Leather Satchel Shoulder Bag F-15445 Euc Coach Ex-large Signature All Black Handbag/laptop Bag/diaperbag Coach Madison Plum Purple Patent Leather Convertible Sophia Satchel Purse $378- Coach Khaki Brown/pink Canvas Diaper BagCoach Ashley Signature Carryall Tote Handbag A Beautiful Bag Pink And Gray Coach Pink Diaper BagBlack Coach Canvas Purse With Wallet And Dust Storage BagCoach Extra Large Red Pvc Lined Beach Tote Diaper Bag Purse $398Coach Poppy Metallic Lurex Hippie Crossbody Bag + Matching Wristlet EucCoach 23299 Hand Drawn Scarf North South Park Carrie Tote Purse Bag Handbag Coach Red Patent Leather HandbagCoach F14482 Khaki Sateen Horse & Carriage Mahogany Leather Shoulder Handbag Mint Coach Poppy Pop C Xl Grafitti Glam Tote, Purse Handbag 20080 Tote Shopper*used* Bulk Rehab Resale Wholesale Purse Lot Coach Dooney Banana Republic A-sCoach Maggie Madison Cobalt Blue Patent Leather Carriage Purse Carryall 13900Coach Leather Handbag Duffle Shoulder Bag Tote Bowler Briefcase Black C1171-1431*used* Bulk Rehab Resale Wholesale Purse Lot Furla Coach Ferragamo Fossil AslCoach 12947 Audrey Madison Sabrina Black Op Art Satchel/shoulder Bag No Reserve!Coach Signature Black Diaper BagCoach Bag Authenic Coach 9827 Legacy West Black Large Glove Backpack Duffle Drawstring BagVintage Black Coach Purse And Wallet Coach Alexandra Snaphead Satin And Leather Pewter Messenger Baby Bag W/wristletMint Coach Poppy Blossom Grafitti Glam Xl Tote 15591 Purse Satchel Handbag Coach Hand Bag G0969-f14022 Leather Chelsea Tote PurseCoach Exlarge Huge Size All Leather Chestnut Coach Business Tote HandbagCoach Diaper BagAuthentic Coach Diaper BagCoach Black Leather Lula's Drawstring Bucket Purse Bag Sac Cross Body Vtg LegacyCoach Purse Handbag Wallet And Accessories Coach Packable Weekender Duffle Gym Signature Black Tote Bag 77321Beautiful Coach Vintage Leather Baxter Bonnie Cashin Doctor Satchel Handbag UsaCoach Diaper Baby Bag +pad Black Op Art Laptop Canvas Travel 16975 Purse HandbagCoach Julia Scarf Print Perry Large Tote Bag Purse 14970 Lilac ~ Good Condition!Coach Legacy Leather Framed French Purse Wallet #40208 Black/brass ~ Nr ~ L@@k!Coach Leather Purse - Legacy West Backpack Bag - D13-9827Lot Of Victoria Secret Pink Sweats Xs, W/ Free Used Coach BagRed Leather Coach Handbag Purse With Matching Red Leather WalletAuthentic Coach Handbag/satchel/purse/ Pink Eyelet Lace Cut Out Design Leather Coach Embossed Signature Patent Leather Gallery Tote Bag PurseVintage Coach Brown Crossbody Saddle Leather Bag Purse A82-9870