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 18709 Poppy Signature Crossbody Bag Handbag Purse Bag Tote Lot Of Coach Habdbags Kate Spade Planner Croc Clutch Sbd WalletLarge Coach Black Leather & Heavy Nylon Business All Purpose Tote Shoulder BagCoach Op Art Madison Sabrina Black Satchel Bag Large W/ Authenticity Card EucCoach Daisy Outline Metallic Full Sz.backpack F24365 Pink School Book Bag ToteEuc Coach Madison Maggie Mia Mahogany Brown Leather Satchel Bag 15742+cover+tagsVintage Lot 3 Leather Coach Legacy Hobo Tote Bag Shoulder Womens Purse CrossbodyCoach Handbag 30446 Bleecker Small Cobblestone Leather Satchel, Cross-body Bag Vintage Coach Mahogany Leather Slim Zip Portfolio Document Briefcase Bag Nyc UsaCoach Brooke Purple Pebbled Leather Duffle Chain Accent Hobo Shoulde Bag 17165Coach Poppy Black Silver Lurex Satchel/handbag 15860 Crossbody Purse HandbagGenuine Coach Large Black Patent Leather Book Tote Handbag Diaper Bag - F12838Coach Poppy Signature Sateen Spotlight Tote Bag Purse Satchel 13843 Pink CrosbdyCoach Madison Maggie Black Leather Pleated Satchel Shoulder Bag Handbag 14336Coach Super Cute Ashley Black Leather Satchel Shoulder Tote HandbagCoach Madison Maggie Black Large Leather Silver Hardware Shoulder Purse HandbagCoach Black Ashley Signature Satchel Shoulder Bag J1261-f19242 - Very Nice!Coach Authentic Hampton Legacy Xl Large Black Leather Book Laptop Tote Bag Vguc!Coach Signature Stripe Diaper Bag Tote Laptop BabyCoach Addison Black Silver Grey Diaper Baby Bag Handbag Purse Strap Tote 18374Coach Poppy Graffiti Glam Bag Tote Handbag Purse 14635 Shopper Diaper SchoolCoach Daisy Outline Metallic Full Sz.backpack F24365 Pink School Book Bag ToteAuthentic Coach Ashley Carryall Red Leather Satchel Handbag 19243Lot Of 3 Coach 'poppy' HandbagAuthentic Coach Diaper/messenger BagCoach Vguc Authentic $398 Carly Large Pink Signature Leather Tote Purse Bag NrCoach Poppy Signature Glam Tote Orange Pink Tote Bag Purse 13826Mint Coach Lrg Hamtons Black Leather Tote Bag 13811 Purse Satchel Crossbdy+scarfWomens Coach Poppy Black Silver Wristlet Wallet Coin Credit Card Purse CheckbookCoach Black Nylon + Leather Messenger Crossbody Bag Laptop Authentic 70680 Coach Handbag 16926 Poppy Denim Patchwork Tote W Silver Trim AuthenticCoach Poppy Graffiti Wristlet/clutchMint Coach Madison Plum Leather Maggie Handbag 14313 With Dust BagCoach Rich Black Leather Messenger Vintage Shoulder Purse Cross Body Handbag Authentic Coach Madison Orchid Red Patent Leather Maggie Shoulder Bag 18760Coach Diaper BagAuthentic Coach Purse, Black And Grey. Excellent Condition. 30-day Money Back.Authentic Coach Signature Satchel Cross Body Purse Multi-color Rem./ Adj. StrapCoach Madison Gathered Leather Zip Crossbody Bag F48498Pre-owned Coach 24cm Signature Duffle Crossbody Handbag Purse 15067 Khaki Euc*used* Bulk Rehab Resale Wholesale Purse Lot Coach Dooney Michael Kors B#pCoach Large Chelsea Horse & Carriage Buckle Purse Satchel Shoulder Bag F14033Coach Black Signature Canvas & Leather Slim Computer Laptop Briefcase BagCoach Euc Authentic $398 Soho Large Signature Hobo Leather Bag Tote Purse Nr!Vintage 60's Coach Bonnie Cashin Double Kiss Lock Swing Purse BrownCoach Ergo Denim Signature Pleated Cognac Leather Frame Satchel Tote Bag Purse Coach Purse In Ombre Rasta Color - L.a.m.b.Coach Purse And Wallet/wristlet/phone Case. Coach PoppyCoach Black Madison Embossed Exotic Leather Sophia Croc Satchel Bag 15924Coach Authentic $298 Gabby Xl Large Black Signature Diaper Travel Book Tote BagAuthentic Coach Ashley Large Carryall Black Leather Tote Handbag (no. 15513)Mint Coach 2pc Poppy Sequin Highlight Spotlight Steel 16303+wallet Handbag PurseCoach Chelsea Heritage Stripe Diaper Baby Bag Satchel Tote Strap Pink F14475Coach Mercer Black Canvas Leather Multifunctional Diaper Baby Bag Tote 5173Coach Madison Large Phoebe Red Leather Shoulder Tote Bag - $328Coach Black Signature Clip Hamptons Bag Purse And Wallet/checkbookCoach Black & Silver Ocelot Leopard Wristlet Clutch Wallet, EucCoach D0771-10619 Carly Signature Logo Canvas & Leather Hobo Shoulder Bag :-"Unique, Vintage Women's Coach English Tan, Leather Attache Briefcase Bag HandbagCoach Euc Authentic $228 Campbell Signature Crossbody Leather Purse Hand Bag Nr