Fashion Innovator: Coach

Coach spent its 65th year in business not only looking back, but moving forward.

Coach spent its 65th year in business not only looking back, but moving forward.

In addition to opening flagships in New York and Los Angeles late last year, company president and executive creative director Reed Krakoff kept busy delving into the company’s rich design archives and making connections with young design firms like Trovata and Lutz and Patmos — both of which helped maintain the buzz around the $2.2 billion Coach.

“We’ve had so many exciting things happen in the last 12 months,” said Krakoff, naming the Legacy collection of handbags, footwear, cold-weather accessories and some outerwear inspired by the Sixties designs of Coach’s first designer, Bonnie Cashin, that launched this fall.

“We were launching a new platform with the Legacy collection,” Krakoff said. “It’s been really successful for us across the board in different ways. It created a lot of excitement for the brand. There are new people coming into the brand and people who already love Coach are coming in for it.”

This fall, the company dropped in select pieces of logo-driven fashion jewelry to round out its offering, which already includes outerwear, scarves and several licensed categories, such as eyewear with Marchon, watches with Movado and footwear with Jimlar.

This month, Coach devotees were able to sample the brand’s first knitwear made in collaboration with the six-year-old knitwear firm Lutz and Patmos. Krakoff met young designers Tina Lutz and Marcia Patmos and found they shared the same sporty American luxury aesthetic. The knitwear under the Coach label was a debut for the brand and features cardigans and capes in bold blocks of color such as green apple and aqua.

Krakoff upped the ante again in teaming with Trovata. After a yearlong mentorship with the up-and-coming design firm through the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund — Krakoff is on the fund’s board — he helped design Trovata’s bag collection for spring, rife with vintage-looking canvas prints and worn-in leather trim.

“They continue to reinvent themselves year after year,” Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Federated Department Stores, said of Coach. “They’re one of our fastest-growing handbag and shoe resources and have been able to put huge increase on top of huge increase, which is not easy to do. The only way that’s possible is to create products and newness to keep consumers. Under Reed’s [tutelage], they’re great innovators.”

This story first appeared in the October 30, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

And there’s proof in the pudding. In August, the company reported that, for the year, net income jumped 37.8 percent to $494.3 million. Sales gained 23.4 percent to $2.11 billion. Coach is expected to reach $2.5 billion in sales and open 30 stores in North America during the fiscal year that ends June 30, and continue to grow its business in Japan.

What’s next for the brand? In 2007, expect to get a whiff of Coach, with its first fragrance produced by the Estée Lauder Cos.’s BeautyBank division, in addition to more designer partnerships.

Fragrance is seen as a way to “add another layer of mystique to the brand,” Lew Frankfort, Coach’s chairman and ceo, told WWD in September when the deal with Lauder was announced.

“To me, what Coach is about is a casual, understated point of view that has a chic, pretty sensibility, but at the same time it can be casual, sexy,” mused Krakoff. “But it always is something we feel has a timeless sensibility to it. Next year, there will be more collaborations and more trying to keep people excited about Coach.”