"Coach’s comeback is sure to be one for the history books"Viora London

The year is 2001. Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake are wearing denim on the red carpet, while Dior, Louis Vuitton and Coach are battling it out for the title of ‘It Bag.’ Twenty years later, the denim unfortunately still haunts us, but the Dior Saddle bag and the Louis Vuitton monogram still retain something of their iconic status. Coach, however, almost totally disappeared. One minute its distinctive ‘CC’ embroidery was being flaunted by the likes of Ashley Tisdale, Ashley Benson and Hilary Duff; the next, it was frowned upon as outdated and tacky. But now it’s 2022, and social media is swamped with enviable snaps of the revamped Signature Tabby and the archival Swinger bags. So where did Coach go wrong, and how did they bounce back – arguably better than ever?

Let’s take it back right to the beginning. Coach was first founded in 1941, under the name Manhattan Leather Bags by husband and wife, Lillian and Miles Cahn. Their initial vision for the brand were designs inspired by those of a baseball glove, giving rise to Coach’s now iconic palette of cream, tan and dark brown. Fast-forward to 2001, and the brand launches its Coach Signature collection, featuring the bold double ‘C’ design that put the early-2000s in a chokehold. It was monogrammed all over chunky shoulder bags, wristlets and baguette bags, envied by both red carpet celebrities and the general public alike.

“The label refused to pull away from its clean-cut, preppy aesthetic”

For some time, it seemed like Coach was on top of the world as the trailblazer of affordable luxury. But its popularity was also its poison. It didn’t take long for Coach to become just a little too ubiquitous, and neither did it help that the label refused to pull away from its clean-cut, preppy aesthetic as its attention sky-rocketed. Soon enough, the Coach Signature collection lost most of its aspirational appeal as an ‘It Bag’ and settled into a suburban sensibility that left much of the industry questioning why it even made it to the red carpet in the first place.

And yet, Coach refused to march to the graveyard of early-2000s nostalgia without a fight. Since the early 2010s, the label has been experimenting with revamping its classic slouchy shapes into modern, structured silhouettes, toning back the monograms with a refined subtlety that has brought a touch of class back into the brand’s reputation. Fashion-forward ambassadors for a brand new generation have helped inject energy back into Coach’s image, with Selena Gomez announced as ambassador in 2016, followed by Jennifer Lopez in 2019. However, it was arguably the crazed resurgence of Y2K fashion that has since taken the industry by storm that really helped fuel Coach’s comeback. Here was the perfect opportunity to rebrand formerly iconic pieces for a modern audience, reclaiming the title as pioneers of affordable luxury.

“Coach’s comeback is sure to be one for the history books”

First it started with Paris Hilton, the ultimate Y2K icon, and her Coach campaign in 2020 – which celebrated the re-launch of the classic Swinger bag. It was sleek, it was subtle; it even saw the monogram print resurface, this time broken up between block panels of neutral colours like cream and brown, sparking renewed interest in Coach’s classic ‘CC’ embroidery. Then came the bag that really broke the internet: the Pillow Tabby shoulder bag. With enough structure to be branded as modern, and just enough puffy, pillowy dreaminess to send back waves of early-2000s nostalgia, the Pillow Tabby treads the perfect balance between old and new that has helped launch Coach back into the spotlight. Complete with its signature ‘C’ latch closure, the Pillow Tabby is the perfect example of Coach’s rebranded shift towards minimalism, still playing around with youthful splashes of colour to keep the label thinking fresh, but classic.


Mountain View

Y2K: is it here to stay?

Today, Coach is often seen on par with other high-end New York labels like Tory Burch and Tommy Hilfiger. Classy in its elegance and tempting in its nostalgia, there’s no doubt that it’s been a bumpy ride, but Coach’s comeback is sure to be one for the history books. The Pillow Tabby is now the latest contender for the title of ‘It Bag’, still up against old rivals like Dior – this time, however, something tells us that Coach will be here to stay.