Coach was founded in 1941, in a loft on Manhattan's 34th Street, New York City as a partnership called the Gail Leather Products. Gail Leather Products began as a family-owned business, with six leatherworkers who made leather wallets and billfolds by hand.
1946: Miles & Lillian Cahn join Coach
In 1946, Miles Cahn and his wife Lillian joined the company. Miles and Lillian Cahn were owners of a leather handbag manufacturing business, and were knowledgeable about leatherworks and business.
By 1950, Cahn had taken over the business and he was running it mainly himself. During the early years, Cahn noticed the distinctive properties and qualities of the leather used to make baseball gloves. With wear and use, the leather in a glove became softer and more supple. Attempting to mimic this process, Cahn created a way of processing the leather to make it stronger, softer, and more flexible, along with being deeper-toned in color, since the leather absorbed the dye very well. Lillian Cahn suggested to Miles that the company supplement the factory's low-margin wallet production making women's leather handbags.The "sturdy cowhide bags were an immediate hit."
Miles and Lillian Cahn bought the company through a leveraged buyout in 1961.
1961-1974: Bonnie Cashin designs for Coach
In 1961, Cahn hired Bonnie Cashin, a sportswear pioneer, to design handbags for Coach. Cashin "revolutionized the product's design," working for Coach from 1962 through 1974.
Cashin instituted the inclusion of side pockets, coin purses, and brighter colors (as opposed to the usual hues of browns and tans) in the bags. Cashin also designed matching shoes, pens, key fobs, and eyewear, and added hardware to her clothes and accessories alike, particularly the silver toggle that became the Coach hallmark, declaring that she had been inspired by a memory of quickly fastening the top on her convertible sports car.
Due to the success that Cashin brought Coach, they ran their first ad in the 'New Yorker' in 1963.
Business was strong throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Products were in high demand, and under a new vice president for special products, Coach started a mail-order business. They also owned specialty stores and began to sell Coach bags there. Sales increased, and soon demand was greater than the supply. Eventually, Coach would restrict sales to hand-selected vendors.
In 1979, Lewis Frankfort joined the company as vice-president of business development.He was mentored by the then executive vice president, Richard Rose. Rose is responsible for turning the Coach brand into a household name.
1985: Sale to Sara Lee
Five years later in 1985, the Cahns decided to sell Coach Leatherware after determining they wanted to "devote more time to their growing goat farm and cheese production business called Coach Farm in Gallatinville, New York, which they began in 1983". Coach was then sold to Sara Lee Corporation for a reported $30 million. Lew Frankfort, at the time Coach's senior vice president, administration and retail and mail order sales, succeeded Cahn as president.
Sara Lee structured Coach under its Hanes Group. Sara Lee took over the factories, the six boutiques, and its main store on Madison Avenue in New York City. In early 1986, new boutiques were opened in Macy's stores in New York and San Francisco. Additional Coach stores were under construction in Denver and Seattle, and similar boutiques were to be opened in other major department stores later in the year. Coach also opened mall storefronts in New York, New Jersey, Texas, and California. By November 1986, the company was operating 12 stores, along with nearly 50 boutiques within larger department stores.
1996: Reed Krakoff leads design
In 1996, under Frankfort's leadership Coach hired Reed Krakoff, who is credited with Coach's success from 1996. Krakoff's design transformed Coach from the relatively small company that it was in 1985 into the worldwide known brand that it is today.
In 2014, Stuart Vevers is the executive creative director.
In 2014, Victor Luis is the CEO.