While there are few brands considered as iconically American as Coach — Tommy Hilfiger perhaps, Perry Ellis, and the recently resuscitated Halston are a few of the frontrunners — there are also few who seem to struggle with their sartorial identity as much as the brand famous for their logo-printed bucket hat. That may sound cruel, but it’s one of the things we’ll forever associate with Coach. And that’s a problem.
Regularly dubbed an “accessories giant” — or, alternatively, “behemoth” — by most industry publications, Coach is certainly doing well for itself. Named one of North America’s healthiest retailers by Amazon.com, the brand is expanding into Europe and has beefed up its fragrance presence. But all the good numbers in the world can’t silence one nagging question: who actually wears Coach?
Sure, they sell their keychains and small leather goods and they’ve done their best to harness the wild, wild internet by partnering with well-known style bloggers on bag designs, but when was the last time a celebrity walked the red carpet wearing Coach?
Though, in a perfect world, celebrities would not be the barometer of a successful brand, there is something to be said for, well, branding. Coach is a brand, but a brand whose ubiquitousness may have been its downfall.
When Coach was founded in Manhattan in 1941, the label specialized in handmade and high-quality leather goods. But now the label’s most common association are its geometric Cs — which for some reason don’t hold the same cachet as Gucci’s Gs, Louis Vuitton’s LVs, or Chanel’s envy-inducing interlocking Cs. Maybe it’s because though they still make their high-quality and high-priced leather goods, Coach has made a concerted effort to focus on the under $300 market.
This isn’t to say that slapping a several hundred dollar price tag on a pair of shoes or taking a 20% price hike a la Chanel is the answer — we’re fans of democratic fashion — but there are plenty of brands, American ones at that, who manage to straddle the line between high-fashion and high sales. Marc Jacobs is one, Burberry another. We lust over MJ’s $328 Fantastical Tale bag as much as we do his $1,750 Imogen leather one.
Maybe it’s that brands like Burberry and Marc Jacobs have RTW collections that inspire and, in the case of Jacobs, quite often change the face of fashion — but in our minds, Coach just doesn’t compare. Reed Krakoff may have launched an eponymous collection of women’s wear under the brand’s umbrella, but only time will tell if it’s enough to give Coach back its fashion cred.