Brand Of The Year


By Kathleen Beckett

Revitalized, reenergized, and reimagined.

Coach, the iconic handbag brand, is “more than 80 years young,” said Todd Kahn, chief executive officer and brand president as he sat in his office high above New York City’s Hudson River. During Coach’s eight decades, its handbags have often played important roles during significant moments in people’s lives. Coach devotees often share their milestones with him: “They tell me, ‘I got my first Coach bag when I got my first job, or when I graduated college, or to celebrate turning Sweet 16,’” the CEO said. “The bag gave them confidence.” It’s a confidence that Coach is determined to continue.


To guarantee that Coach continues to play an important role in people’s lives and within the fashion community for years to come, the company has in recent years revitalized, re-energized and reimagined the business. Central to the revamping is a focus on the demographic that brings with it not only significant buying power, but the promise of staying lifelong customers.

Gen Z and millennial consumers are projected to be approximately 70% of the premium market by 2025. “Coach wants to be there at the beginning of their journey of discovery,” he explained. “They — the customer — is at the center of everything we do.” Gen Zers — those born between the late 1990s and early 2000s — are motivated by a need for personal expression. “Self expression is at the core of their being,” Kahn said, adding that the brand has found ways to satisfy the demand. The house replaced 2000’s motto of Accessible Luxury with Expressive Luxury in 2022, and started a range of campaigns to offer inspiration, advice, and encouragement, such as Find Your Courage, Wear Your Shine, and the Courage to be Real.

Coach’s new ambassadors were chosen for the qualities they represent: rapper Lil Nas X, for one, is disruptive, said Kahn. He worked with the house to create a special capsule of ready-towear and accessories; and in a video from his first campaign with the brand in 2022 delivered the message “my whole career is about breaking down doors.”

Gen Zers have shown a need for confidence, and Coach delivers on that level too, with products, Kahn said, that are durable, that are timeless, that last a lifetime. And that are also in fashion.

When creative director Stuart Vevers arrived at Coach 10 years ago, he turned the company into a fashion brand. He created a ready-to-wear collection, and staged runway shows. The latest collection, for Fall 2024, was based on a relevant high/low mix — it was staged in an Upper East Side mansion, with models who displayed a Lower East Side attitude. The show featured “party dresses, many of which were repurposed from second hand dresses we transformed into tops and skirts,” Vevers said. Several had big bows, which he also used as a motif on knitwear. “I like the way they convey individuality and self expression. There’s something cheeky and self-aware about that.”

“Gen Z is fresh, irreverent, and fun,” Kahn added. And so are the fashions. Keeping the company’s DNA while modernizing it for the times is a challenge for any heritage brand. One example of how Coach is successfully tackling the issue is with the Tabby bag, a Coach icon, which Vevers brought back to life. He explored its possibilities, “from timeless to playful, inspired by a pillow, quilted, crafted for scraps, in repurposed materials, high shine metallic,” he said. “We also have a special made-to-order program where you can create your own unique version as well as customization options through Coach Create — and it’s become a symbol of self-expression that people really gravitate towards.”

It’s all tied together in the 2023 “In My Tabby” campaign, in which celebrities open up their Tabbys to show their dreams, their fears, their ambitions. Brazilian-American “Riverdale” actress Camila Mendes talks about carrying the courage to be herself, while Chinese actress Wu Jinyan shares how she views challenges as advantages.


Gen Zers and millennials also demand that the companies they support respect the environment. Sustainability is a must, and Coach has responded with several ways to safeguard it. One way is its first circular fashion program, Coach (Re)Loved, which has rolled out across North America, after a pilot program in 2021 and it will expand into Europe and Asia in the coming year. There will also be collections focused on circular innovation. Coach’s future is constantly unfolding as the company responds to what’s going on in the world. “We’re evolving our footwear business,” Kahn said, by going more casual since Covid with sneakers and ballet slippers. And now there are charms to add to the shoes, to fuel that all-important personal expression.

One of the latest developments is Coach’s entrance into the food and beverage world, rolling out its first instore restaurant in Jakarta, Indonesia. “It’s glam and the food is good,” Kahn said. “The menu is American, with the best hamburger, and great Wagyu steaks. And strong drinks.”

In 2017 Coach changed its name to Tapestry, Inc. reflecting its acquisition of Stuart Weitzman, and Kate Spade and Company, becoming a house of modern luxury lifestyle brands. Tapestry hopes to grow even further, and become even more influential if the acquisition of Capri Holdings comes through, adding Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, and Versace to the mix, creating a new fashion empire.