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    

Used Bulk Rehab Resale Wholesale Purse Lot Tory Burch Coach Michael Kors HpkUsed Bulk Rehab Resale Wholesale Purse Lot Coach Lucky Dooney Bourke Libaire TkpRare Coach 56360 Ltd Ed Runway Bear Rogue + 9949 Faith's Legacy + Norell ClutchCoach Rogue Bag Oxblood Pebbled Leather Pre-owned No. 38124Coach Willow Floral Nomad Hobo Glovetanned Leather Purse HandbagCoach Hamilton Laptop Mens Bag F54801Euc Authentic Coach Leather Shoulder Bag Wallet Tan Black Coral L1381-29022Coach 2pc White Pebbled Leather Signature Edie 31 Shoulder Bag & Wallet SetCoach Borough BagCoach Madison Phoebe Handbag With Matching Checkbook WalletCoach Mickey Mouse HandbagCoach Men's Explorer Carry On Luggage Duffle Bag Mahogany Brown Signature F93456Coach Men's Mahogany Brown Slim Signature Briefcase Bag F71794 Coach Harley Hobo In Colorblock Signature PurseCoach Limited Edition Kristen Embossed Sage Python Bag With Matching Wallet Coach Black Leather Satchel Shoulder Bag Coach Xl Signature Carly Hobo Bag, Logo, Brown / Tan / Beige, Gold HardwareCoach Borough Bag In Pebbled BurgundyAuthentic Coach Women's Purse And WalletCoach Poppy Handbag Colorblock Leather Tote Satchel Bag W/ Wallet 22430 PerfectWomens Coach F77125 Blue Voyage Canvas Cross Body Hand Shoulder Weekender Bag Coach-shoulder Chelsea Flagship Handbag 17781 Coach Grey Messenger / Laptop Bag: Nylon / Leather, Professional, StudentCoach 54446 Nomad Glovetanned Leather Crossbody BagAuthentic Coach Handbag And Wallet *red*Coach 36855 Turnlock Edie Beechwood In Pebble Leather Shoulder Bag Msrp $395.00Vtg Coach "court" Small Red Leather Satchel Cross-body Messenger Purse Bag 9870Beige Coach Bag And WalletWomens Coach Kristie Large Shoulder Bag Handbag Style F14769Authentic Black Sequin Coach Bag - Preowned Excellent ConditionCoach Lrg Avery Black Pebbled Leather Hobo Shoulder Handbag F23309 Tote SatchelCoach Large Brown Kristin Leather Round Satchel Crossbody Handbag Purse #19295Coach Midnight Turquoise $350.00 Cross Grain Leather City Tote Purse W/ PouchPerfect Coach Limited Edition Bennet Bag Horse & Carraige W/ Millefluer + ExtrasCoach Lexy Shoulder Bag In Pebble Leather 5+ Colors!!!!Coach Lexy Shoulder Bag In Pebble Leather Color FogCoach Limited Eddition Poppy Blue Sequin Spotlight Shoulder Bag**rare**Coach F70747 Mahogany Laptop Sling Backpack Leather Heritage Travel Work BagCoach Kristin ~ Black/white Sateen Signature East-west Hobo Bag #22302Coach 34340 Womens Prairie $275.00 Saddle Pebbled Leather Satchel PurseXl Coach Tote Peyton Handbag Coach Ashley Floral Flower Satchel Shoulder Purse Bag Yellow/pink Multi 21885 VgCoach Lg Gallery Ltd Ed Pink Wave Multicolor Tote/purse/bag 15"x 10"Coach Signature Pink Brown Diaper Bag Multifunction Shoudler Bag HandbagCoach Hamptons Large Black Leather Tote Carryall Shoulder Travel Work Bag #6491Coach Kristin Handbag Wallet And Wristlet Set BronzeCoach Taxi Zip Top Crossgrain Leather Hawk Feather Tote Shoulder Bag 36361Coach Large Brown Leather Legacy Rory Satchel Shopper Carryall Purse Bag 19892Ladies Purple Horsehair And Leather Coach Purse Satchel Bag EucAuthentic Coach Purse Black With Matching Checkbook Wallet Vintage Coach Rare Saddle Hippie Boho Crescent Flap Hobo Bag Tan Leather NycMint Green Coach Handbag With WalletCoach Vintage Tan Pebbled Leather Backpack Rucksack Bag PurseAuthentic Coach Purse And Matching Wallet Medium Tote Brown With Large CheckbookCoach Red Leather Briefcase/messenger Bag W/strap VintageAuthentic Coach Soho Purse With Matching Mini Skinny Wallet / Mauve Pink Used Bulk Rehab Resale Wholesale Purse Lot Coach Gucci Dooney Bourke Kate SpadeCoach Peyton Signature Multifunctional Brown Diaper BagCoach Tartan Plaid Shoulder Swingpack Crossbody File Bag Purse #20003 Auth~coach ~ Charley Embossed Horse & Carriage Crossbody Bag 33521 Vgc! Small