Coach is a brand than exemplifies the New York style. Launched as a small family workshop in Manhattan in the 1940s, it's since expanded into one of the most recognized and respected brands in North America.
Originally a supplier of men's accessories and wallets, its collection now includes handbags, men’s bags, women’s and men’s small leather goods, footwear, outerwear, watches, weekend and travel accessories, scarves, sun wear, fragrance, jewelry and a score of other accessories.
As with all big brands, there’s a logo at the heart of the Coach collection, a logo that may not be quite as iconic as the interlocking c's of the Chanel logo, but isn't far short. So, what's the story of the Coach logo?
The Coach Story
Before we look at the history and story of the logo, a brief guide to the history of the brand. Coach can trace its history back to 1941, when a family of six artisans collected together in a Manhattan loft to showcase the skills that had been passed through their family for generations.
The group's leather accessories soon developed a fan club among the men of New York; after they stumbled on a way to make their leather softer and suppler than a worn baseball glove, they introduced a line of women's handbags to their collection.
The cowhide bags were an instant hit, cementing Coach's status as an emerging powerhouse. In 1961, the company persuaded sportswear pioneer Bonnie Cashin to come on board. Cashin effectively revolutionized the company's designs for a new generation, introducing side pockets, coin pockets, and a vast array of bright colors to the leather bags.
But by then, Coach was about more than just bags. Under Cashin's advice, Coach began adding more and more items to their range, including shoes, pens, key fobs, and eyewear. By the end of the 1970s, Coach was pulling in $6 million in sales - a fortune by the standards of the day.
The 1980s saw Coach go through a period of unprecedented growth: after it was aquired by Sara Lee in 1985, it expanded rapidly, opening new boutiques in Macy's stores and larger departments across the country.
The expansion has continued unabated ever since: as of 2019, Coach has 986 stores in North America and a collection that covers the gamut of handbags, men’s bags, small leather goods, scarves, sunwear, fragrance, footwear, outerwear, watches, weekend and travel accessories, and jewelry.
The Original Coach Logo
Before Bonnie Cashin joined Coach in 1961, the company traded without a logo. But Cashin, a woman who's widely regarded as one of the pioneers of mid twentieth century ready-to-wear sportswear, knew the power of a good emblem.
Keen to bring a new level of fame and fortune Coach's way, she set about designing the now iconic logo. Introduced in 1962, Cashin's logo featured an image of a horse and carriage with the company name set in a figure frame beneath the image.
As 1000logos.net notes, the logo was designed to give the impression of luxury, royalty, and elegance; in that, few would argue it didn't succeed.
The Evolution of the Logo
After serving the company well for half a century, the logo underwent a makeover in 2013 - although it would take an eagle-eyed viewer to spot the changes.
The horse and carriage remained intact, as did the Coach name below. As logorealm.com notes, the only details that changed was the border around the word 'Coach' and the date of the company’s founding and/or location of the business, both of which were kicked to the curb.
While Coach has stuck religiously to the horse and carriage design of its logo, it's had some fun playing around with the font over the years. The simple, bold font with solid lettering that spelled out the company name gradually made way for a gothic-style font with larger letters.
The new style remained in place for several years, but eventually, Coach decided to return to the simpler style of its original logo (which, despite being 60 years old, was more in line with modern logos and sensibilities than the Gothic font).
The Color Palette
Whether we're taking pre- 2013 changes or post, certain details of the logo have remained consistent ever since Cashin first designed it in the early 1960s. Take the color scheme as an example.
While Coach have become known for their brightly colored accessories, the logo has always been a more conservative affair with a simple, monochrome color scheme. The only slight change that's come about in recent years is that it's now more typically printed as white on black rather than black on white.
Updating a Classic
The Coach logo has certainly stood the test of time. Despite a few minor tweaks, it's still recognizable as the Cashin design of 1961. Today, 60 years after its creation, it still conveys the same ideas of elegance, refinement, and prestige as it did back then.
The changes, while slight, have kept it current, ensuring both the brand and logo stay as relevant in the 21st century as they were in the 20th century...something which may just explain why after years of avoiding logoed products, Tapestry (Coach’s holding company) had a change of heart in 2018.
According to Tapestry CEO Victor Luis, Coach's North American sales had been negatively impacted by the shortage of logoed goods in its collections. Determined to bring the logo back to the forefront in a 'relevant way', new plans were laid out for the return of the classic emblem.
“The logo trend is happening throughout the industry right now, in the most elevated brands. And it took us somewhat by surprise over the summer that the demand for the logo product exceeded our expectations in our outlet channel,” brand president Josh Schulman said via glossy.co.
“This trend is an industry trend, and it’s a very cyclical part of the business,” he went on to say. “So, every few years, there is a big cycle around logo. And for us, this is very powerful, because we have the opportunity to harness this as such an important part of our heritage.”
For fans of Coach, the impossible to replicate logo represents everything they love about the brand - little wonder the return to logoed products was met with such fanfare.
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Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith