Coach was founded in 1941, in a loft in New York City as a partnership called the Gail Manufacturing Company. Gail Manufacturing Company began as a family-owned business, with six leatherworkers who made small leather goods, such as wallets and handbags. In 1946, Miles Cahn and his wife Lillian joined the company. Miles and Lillian Cahn were owners of a leather handbag manufacturing business, and were knowledgeable about leatherworks and business. By 1950, Cahn had taken over the business and was running it mainly himself. In 1960, Cahn had taken notice of the distinctive properties of the leather used to make baseball gloves. With wear and abrasion, the leather in a glove became soft and supple. Following this model, Cahn devised a way of processing leather to make it b, soft, flexible, and deep-toned in color, as it absorbed dye well. At his wife Lillian's suggestion, a number of women's handbags were designed to supplement the factory's low-margin wallet production. The purses, given the brand name Coach, were made of sturdy cowhide, in which the grain of the leather could still be seen, instead of the thin leather pasted over cardboard that was used for most women's handbags at the time. This innovation marked the company's entry into the field of classic, long-lasting, luxury women's handbags that Coach Outlet would come to define. Just one year later in 1961, Gail Leather Products, Inc. was formed.
During the early 1960s, Cahn hired Bonnie Cashin to work for Coach. Cashin was already a well-known fashion designer prior to joining Coach; however, this deal proved to be one of her most well-known business alliances. Cashin worked for Coach from 1962 until 1974, and revolutionized their product design. Known as an innovator, she instituted the inclusion of side pockets, coin purses, and brighter colors (as opposed to the usual hues of browns and tans) onto the bags.Cashin also designed matching shoes, pens, key fobs and eyewear, and added hardware to her clothes and accessories alike, particularly the silver toggle that became the Coach hallmark, declaring that she had been inspired by a memory of quickly fastening the top on her convertible sports car. Due to the success that Cashin brought Coach, they ran their first ad in the New Yorker in 1963.
In the mid 1970s, production of handbags in New York City ended, and was moved elsewhere in the United States. Around the same time, the company changed its name to Coach Products, Inc. Business was b throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Products were in high demand, and under a new vice president for special products, Coach started a mail-order business. They also owned specialty stores, and began to sell Coach bags there. Sales increased, and soon demand was greater than the supply. Eventually, Coach would restrict sales to hand-selected vendors. In 1979, Lewis Frankfort, Coach's current CEO, joined the company as vice-president of business development. He was mentored by the then executive vice president, Richard Rose. Rose was a maverick and is responsible for turning the Coach brand into a household name.
In 1980, the company changed its name yet again to Coach Outlet Online, Inc. Five years later in 1985, the Cahns decided to sell Coach after determining that none of their three children had any desire to take over the family leatherware business. Coach was then sold to Sara Lee Corporation for $30 million dollars. Sara Lee took over the factories, the 6 boutiques, and its main store on Madison Avenue in New York City. Shortly after, new boutiques were opened in Macy's stores in New York and San Francisco. Additional Coach stores were under construction in Denver and Seattle, and similar boutiques were to be opened in other major department stores later in the year. Coach also opened mall storefronts in New York, New Jersey, Texas, and California. By November, the company was operating 12 stores, along with nearly 50 boutiques within larger Coach Factory Outlet Online.
Sara Lee divested itself of Coach first by selling 19.5% of their shares of Coach at the Coach IPO in October 2000, followed in April 2001 with the distribution of their remaining shares to Sara Lee's stockholders through an exchange offer. Coach Inc. has distribution, product development, and quality control operations in the United States, France, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong, China, and South Korea.
Lewis Frankfort has been involved with Coach for more than 30 years. He has served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Coach since November 1995. He has served as a member of Coach's Board of Directors since June 1, 2000, the date of incorporation. Frankfort transformed Coach from the relatively small company that it was in 1985 into the worldwide known brand that it is today. He is also known for making Coach bags affordable. Up until the 1990s, women's handbags were either very expensive, or very inexpensive department store knock-offs. Coach was the middle ground between the two, therefore filling a gap in the market. As of July 2, 2011, there are nearly 500 Coach stores in the United States and Canada, with more expected to open this calendar year. In addition, Coach has built a b presence in the U.S. through Coach boutiques located within select department stores and specialty retailer locations. In 1999, Coach launched its on-line store at www.vipcoachbags2013.com. Today Coach's corporate headquarters remain in mid-town Manhattan on 34th Street, in the location of their former factory lofts.