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    

Coach 58840 Tea Rose Applique Leather Rogue 25 Shoulder BagCoach Rogue Bag In Glove-tanned Pebble Leather, Brass/black First GenerationCoach Ergo Hobo Blue Leather Shoulderbag+free Matching Mini Bag Excellent Tag OnCoach Kristin Sage Elevated Leather Handbag 18280 Smoke Blue Msrp $698Coach Diaper Bag And Wallet Coach 57107 Turnlock Chain Oxblood Pebbled Leather Sm Tote Bag Msrp $295.Coach Men's Camouflage Signature Messenger BagCoach Travel Luggage Carryon Duffle Bag ~20" (l) X 11" (h) X 9 " (w)Coach 56645 Handbag Mickey Calf Leather Top Zip City Tote Shopper $325 SaddleCoach X Disney Reversible Tote With Clutch - Too CuteCoach Nomad Hobo Shoulder Bag & AccessoriesBlue Coach Poppy Sequin Purse Satchel Tote Coach Letters Tags 16303Coach Ace Madison Leather Shoulder Bag Carryall Satchel Purse 37017 $595 IndigoCoach Black Leather Weekender Duffle Bag With Strap, Lock & KeysCoach Kristin Sequin Op Art Purse Handbag Purple Aqua Wallet $698.00Coach Shoulder Bag Messenger Medium Brown/beige Monogram Purse Bag Handbag ToteLimited Edition Coach 3679 White & Multi-color Polka Dot Gallery Shoulder BagAuthentic Coach Purse And Matching Wallet EucCoach Men's Hudson 5 BagCoach Light Blue Margo Handbag/satchel Crossbody With Matching Wallet Nice!Lot Of 2 Vintage Coach 9060 Black & Brown Leather Bucket Crossbody HandbagMen's Coach Messenger/laptop BagCoach Edie 31 Shoulder Bag Fog Grey RareCoach Poppy Pop C Graffiti Hearts Glamour Tote Shoulder Bag 16052Coach Kristin Sea Foam Leather East/west Tote Handbag 14758 Purse Satchel BagCoach Bag - Edie 31 - Pebble Leather - Beige - Very Good ConditionCoach (f71973) Mens Campus Mahofany/brown Signature Backpack BagCoach Edie Shoulder Bag Handbag Purse In True Red Coach Lily Legacy 65th Anniversary 11625 Blk Handbag Beautiful Thick Bag PurseCoach Edie Shoulder Bag 31 In Refined Pebble Leather #16.3Vintage Coach Small Red Leather Rugged Backpack Drawstring Bag Purse Boho 9960Authentic Coach Khaki And Pink Signature Stripe Purse And Matching WalletCoach #2183 ~ Denim Tie Dye Blue/gray Signature Shoulder Bag W/ Zip-pocket SideCoach #56819 Chelsea Pebble Black Leather Crossbody Shoulder BagCoach Purse And Matching WalletCoach Black Leather Laura Shoulder Shopper Handbag Tote F18336 **plus WalletBlack Leather Coach Drifter PurseCoach Men Brown Flight Messenger Crossbody Leather Bag Coach Wallet Travel Clutch Wristlet Darcy Holdall Cardinal Red Retail $268 Coach Leather Wallet And Handbag SetCoach Black Gold Pebble Leather Pop-up Pouch Messenger Bag Purse $175- 016Coach HandbagCoach Poppy Pop C Signature Tote Purse 14377Coach Pink Lilac Madison X Large Magazine Business Tote Satchel Bag Purse 13582Rare Coach Ashley Purple Gathered Leather Satchel Shoulder Bag Style# F18238Authentic Coach Handbag Mini BennettCoach - Straw Burlap Motif Bumble Bee Flower - Tote Bag & Wristlet #9447Coach 4152 Womens Navy Leather Shopper Tote Handbag Purse Medium BhfoCoach Vintage Tan Pebbled Leather Backpack Rucksack Bag PurseVintage Red Coach Xl Feed/bucket Bag W/box (ref#2b)Coach Satchel Handbag With Matching WristletAuthentic Coach Weekend Legacy Leather Shoulder Bag F23711 Msrp $298Coach Embossed Leather Horse & Carriage Large Edie Hand Bag Tote 33727 Saddle Vtg Coach Beekman Lrg Brown Leather Briefcase Unisex Laptop Work Bag 5266Coach Black Silky Nylon Multi-color Logo Studded Tote Bag Handbag F17144Coach Patchwork Hobo Handbag And Matching Wallet Coach Poppy Glam Tote ~ Cobalt Blue Op Art Signature Canvas Handbag #13826Coach Handbag And WalletMetallic Coach Handbag Platinum Silver Leather PurseCoach Purse And Wallet Great Condition. Cream Color. Pink Silk Inside.