In 2016, Coach will celebrate its 75th anniversary of creating affordable luxury leather goods, all while in the midst of its third major transition.
Part of the brand’s next phase is reshaping how consumers perceive Coach as a luxury fashion label. At Fashion Tech Forum held in New York City last week, Coach CEO Victor Luis said the company has faced increased competition over the last few years from brands that do fashion well.
“We needed to gain fashion credibility to compete with the current market,” he said.
Coach is already breaking down the barrier between consumer and designer with the roll out of its craftsmanship bars. The concept invites consumers to bring in their Coach handbags to have them repaired, conditioned, monogrammed or even to change up the hardware or edge trimming.
Luis said these type of activities are getting a terrific response from consumers, especially millennials who desire a one-on-one tailored approach. “It helps us differentiate from the rest of what may be happening in the fashion space,” he explained.
The company has tasked Stuart Vevers, who came on board as creative director in 2013 after re-establishing Mulberry’s and Loewe’s place in the luxury market, with the job of injecting modern coolness not only into its line of handbags, but also in women’s and men’s ready-to-wear.
On Saturday, Coach unveiled what Luis described would be a “full lifestyle composition” of menswear at the London Collections Men. The range of psychedelic parkas and bowling shirts were complemented with printed skate sneakers, furry athletic slides and leather backpacks. It was Coach’s second men’s collection.
However, Luis said the key to differentiating Coach from its competitors is to stay true to its DNA. From its beginnings as a maker of unlined briefcases to reaping the benefits of the early aughts’ logo mania, Coach has experienced a number of product transformations. Styles have changed, but Luis said the brand has told a consistent story focused on quality and craftsmanship.
The company still has six craftsmen working in the basement of its 34th Street office creating men’s belts and wallets one at a time. “There’s 50 to 60 sample makers with 30 to 40, 50 years of experience who truly understand what it means to engineer a good quality handbag,” Luis added.
Their understanding of leather, hardware, quality and tradition, coupled with Vever’s design vision, is the company’s recipe for success. And it’s a story consumers can expect to hear more of as the brand embarks on its Diamond anniversary. The milestone presents an opportunity to look back at Coach’s history and what the brand stands for, as well as to highlight how Vevers is repositioning the brand.
Part of Coach’s mission is to change the way luxury is perceived by consumers. Unlike traditional luxury brands which feed on the idea that luxury is about exclusivity, or as Luis explained, “A dream for many but the ownership for the very few,” Coach is taking a more democratic stance.
Luis has heard traditional luxury brands discuss how approachability and luxury are two words that should never go together. “I’m not a believer of that,” he said. He also scoffed at the notion that only the French or Italian have the capacity to create luxury goods, explaining, “We create opportunity in the community that we serve.”