Coach is one of the most popular and reputable handbags luxury brands, but because it is not as big or as popular as Louis Vuitton or Gucci, you may not be sure about its status and whether it falls in the luxury brands category.
In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about Coach as a luxury brand.
This is important because if you have had time to go through the brand’s profile or have owned one of their bags, you will agree with us that this Coach is one of the best luxury handbags brand, which unlike the rest of the high-end brands, sells their bags at a much affordable price.
Keep reading to learn more about this brand.
Brief Introduction of Coach
What you may not know about Coach is that the brand started out as just another family business back in 1941. Back then, Coach’s specialty was in leather wallets, as well as billfolds. Interestingly, the Coach’s dream started from an inspired dream by the leather baseball glove – primarily the workmanship around the glove whose tan, high-quality, and supple leather with exquisite stitch work and the craftsmanship led to the birth of the company. Initially, the company was called Leather Bags, founded by Miles and Lillian Cahn, the company. Under this name, they made the first leather wallets and the billfolds and later on took to designing and making handbags that boasted the same sturdy and exceptional design features. To bring their vision to life, they worked with six artists and created their first collection that was made of 12 handbags. By this time, they’d rebranded to Coach.
But it wasn’t until later that the founders of the brand opted to expand their range of products to include women’s handbags and even shoes, among other accessories. In 1962, Coach made their first bold move that led to their success – they hired Bonnie Cashin, who really breathed life into the company. Bonnie Cashin is regarded as a pioneer in all matters relating to American Sportswear, thanks to her use of a blend of organic materials like jersey, wool, and leather, plus industrial hardware. Today, Cashin is credited for the brass toggle hardware that the Coach bags and duffle bags are known for. Cashin was also behind the creation of high-quality and very lightweight bags that were punchy and affordable. The results of her work were bold and color-popping handbags made in pastel pinks, brick red, grass green, and mustard yellow. The interiors of these bags were made of striped madras cotton, which went on to be her (and Coach’s) trademark.
In 1979, Coach had a new CEO, Lew Frankfort (he still serves as the brand CEO to date), and he did a tremendous job transforming Coach from the little-known leather goods company/ manufacturer to the world-class, and world-renowned brand Coach is known as today. He is the man behind Coach’s affordable bags, a move that hallmarked Coach as an affordable luxury bags brand. By making luxury bags affordable and more accessible, more people could afford them, and women looking for affordable luxury bags were no longer limited to the knockoffs sold in department stores.
And all these were before Coach’s founders sold the company to the infamous Sara Lee Corp. in 1985. The sale was a smart move for the brand as it propelled the brand to greater heights seen in the brand’s rapid expansion, even as more and more products by Coach started to appear on shelves in the biggest department stores across the country. Macy’s is one of the brands that sold Coach bags, and soon the brand became well known for its heavily monogrammed bags that quickly turned into the most ubiquitous brand in the suburbs.
The brand’s executives are now working on restarting the leather business that Coach was built on. Coach also boasts multiple retail stores across the country, with their expansion into Tokyo in 1988 and the wide product profile as from 1992 that saw Coach diversity into classic designs for raincoats and trenches, as well as formal outerwear. Their success following the introduction of apparel was made possible by Reed Krakoff, a sportswear designer who previously worked with Tommy Hilfiger as a sportswear designer. Krakoff brought Coach a unique vision, moving the brand from the sturdy collection of navy, tan, black, and burgundy briefcases to more stylish and hip collections that features clothes and bags for different seasons. He also introduced new accessories like watch straps, wristlets, wallets, and phone cases.
This was followed by the launch of many other collections, including the Coach Signature Collection with bold double Cs from 2001 and the 2006 Legacy Collection featuring canvas and suede elements in bright pink, orange, and green, and the use of magnetic bag stays rather than brass toggles.
Today, there are more than 900 Coach Stores worldwide, and their bags are available in all the best styles you could think of.
Is Coach considered a designer brand?
Yes, Coach definitely is a designer brand. However, some people regard Coach as a Heritage Brand, which means that it’s grown popular because of the longevity and overall quality of its bags.
Although the prices for their bags are lower than the prices of a bigger brand like Louis Vuitton, Coach’s marketing and the fact that the bags cannot be afforded by everyone means that they are more in the designer category for most people.
Is Coach considered a luxury brand?
Although their bags are more or fewer designer pieces, Coach is generally a mid-range brand and not entirely a luxury brand.
The reason for this is that despite being a designer brand, their bags tend to be much more affordable and subsequently more accessible to more people looking for quality in big-name brands.
It is also one of the more common brands that boast hundreds of outlets with bags sold very affordably, which means that there is no feeling of exclusivity associated with the brand, which is also why it is not really regarded as a luxury brand.
How does Coach compare to other luxury brands?
So, how does this mid-range luxury designer brand compare to the rest of the high-end luxury brands? Should you choose Coach over Kate Spade, Steve Madden, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, or any other reputable luxury brand?
Well, the truth is that despite the categorization of Coach as a mid-range brand, we consider it a top brand that is completely superior to MK, and some note that the bags by Coach are much better than the options by Louis Vuitton. Even so, and in terms of popularity, Coach is much closer to Michael Kors or to Kate Spade in terms of popularity. And because all these brands are competing for attention, Coach is no longer the brand that you see everywhere with the double C logo all around. All brands are competing for attention, and over time, Coach’s freshness in the market and even the quality of their bags has declined. Notably, more of Coach’s bags are now made in China and not in Italy as they did originally.
So, all these and the fact that Coach products are now very widely accessible means that it is not anywhere near the top of the list of luxury brands.
It is, however, within the same range of high mid-range brands like Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Tory Burch, etc.
Is Coach better than Louis Vuitton?
Although Louis Vuitton and Coach have a lot in common, these French and American brands, respectively, have some differences. And before we say which of the two is better than the other, the first notable(obvious, perhaps) difference between them has got to be the fact that Louis Vuitton is significantly more expensive than Coach, even though genuine Coach bags are already pricey. This would mean that Coach tends to be more accessible than Louis Vuitton, and people who love Louis Vuitton will always mention the feeling of exclusivity that comes with buying from Louis Vuitton. Overall, Louis Vuitton has a big edge over the Coach, and it’s expensive both at the entry-level and at the top-end.
The price differences aside, Coach and Louis Vuitton are both label brands. At the end of the day, Louis Vuitton remains the leading name in the fashion world today, and for close to 200 years, LV has been a contender for that top spot. It is also regarded as a powerhouse in the fashion scene, and it’s the most valuable luxury brand globally. Bear in mind that Louis Vuitton is one of the brands owned by the prestigious LVMH conglomerate that also houses the other big brands like Givenchy, Dior, Hublot, or TAG Heuer, among others. Coach doesn’t really compare with Louis Vuitton, although both brands are fan favorites.
In terms of rankings, Coach sits way below Louis Vuitton, and it is considered an ‘Aspirational Brand’ while the better brand, LV, is ranked a ‘Premium’ brand. This is proven by the fact that you will find Louis Vuitton jewelry and jackets going for a few thousand, while Coach’s products are priced from a few hundred dollars. This huge price disparity and the fact that LV is a more exclusive brand that makes use of the finest quality materials to make their products would make LV a better brand than Coach. The quality of Coach’s product is sometimes questionable.
Pros and cons of buying Coach products
- Their products are relatively affordable for a mid-range luxury brand
- Coach is much more accessible, and you can find their products in malls easily
- Unique and bold designs
- Their products are generally well made
- The quality of some of their products is questionable, and some products don’t last as long as you may have hoped
Is Coach still a good brand in 2021?
A few brands are able to stay the same for years, especially in terms of the quality of their products and after structural changes take place in the management of such companies.
Coach has gone through several changes, and you would agree with us that Coach is not the same brand you interacted with 20 or so years ago. But are the changes the brand has gone through good or bad? Is Coach still the go-to brand for quality and affordable products?
Well, the truth is that Coach has changed; the quality of some of their bags might have gone down, especially with production now done in China.
Overall, the new Coach is rather a revamped brand with more understated designs. Their products look great in terms of aesthetics, and since they moved away from the logo-ed bags, you get more options. The catch is that there is nothing unique about Coach anymore.
But if you are looking for a good mid-range brand offering good products, we’d still recommend Coach.
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.