You often hear of a lone designer having the innovative spirit to start a design house, but Coach is one outlet that required a team effort. It began in 1941 when a group of leather artisans started a business called Gail Manufacturing in Manhattan, N.Y. Miles and Lillian Cahn came aboard in 1946, and since they were already well-established in the leather and handbag industries, the couple steered the company in the direction of becoming a formidable handbag designer in the United States.
Miles Cahn took helm of the company in 1961, and he drew from his interests in technology and diverse materials to carve out a niche in women’s handbags. The company morphed into Gail Leather Products Inc., and Cahn was able to compromise between high-end bags and low-cost, imitation brands. The company’s products soared in demand when designer Bonnie Cashin was brought into the fold. The company branched into other endeavors, including shoes, pens and key chains.
The partnership with Cashin ended in 1974, and the company became Coach Products Inc. around mid-decade. The company name changed again to Coach Leatherwear Company in 1980 and was sold to food giant Sarah Lee Corporation. It was Sarah Lee that transformed the chain into its modern incarnation, expanding the brand across the country.
The company has since expanded into eyewear, luggage, accessories and fragrances. The company debuted eponymous women’s scent Coach in 2007, its first fragrance. Coach has since partnered with Estee Lauder Companies on additional fragrances.
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