Friday, April 23, 2010

What's with Coach?

I've been out of the Boston style loop for a while now. Since I don't have a steady income, I've been staying out of stores. But I was in Copley Place the other day and — whoa! What's going on at Coach?

Who is their designer now? Kimora Lee Simmons? Lindsey Lohan? The ghost of Liberace? Some board member's 8-year-old?

Because who else would have designed this?

I mean, honestly! This is Coach? This, from the decades-old bastion of classic, impeccable style? Here's a detail of this train wreck ($398) in another color:

As you can see, it's some kind of slippery, sequiny material, with not only the classic leather Coach tag, but also a metal version and a big, screaming plastic one on dangly chains. And in case you missed all those, there's one more sewn onto the flap.

This is not an aberration. There's a whole rogue's gallery of purses only a pre-teen or tween should love. Like this one:

Poppy may be "a girl, a flower, and/or a state of mind," but Poppy is also a fashion-don't for anyone old enough to drive. Coach's Poppy line — a marketing response to the downturn in luxury handbag purchases during the recession — is meant to be more "eclectic and spontaneous," according to the company. Here's another Poppy, and it's even worse. 

The average price of the Poppy line is still $260 — meant to appeal to those who can no longer spend $330, the average price for a regular Coach bag. I always believed that having less disposable income meant you should be more selective about what you bought. I thought you were supposed to save and then choose something you felt you'd love for years: a classic. 

Remember what Coach bags used to be? Like this:

They were cut from thick bridle leather with equestrian detailing and solid brass hardware. They were not a bit trendy, so they were perfect for New Englanders who cared about quality, subtlety, and enduring style. They were made in America, and were all-American. You could walk into a Coach store, pick any style (even with your eyes closed), and walk out with a handsome investment that would last a lifetime. You broke in your Coach bag — or more accurately, you formed a sort of partnership with it. It softened and molded itself to your will over months and years, or decades. It was your trusty companion. If you used it to death, you could send it back, or take it to a dealer, and it would be returned to you repaired and looking great again. 

That discreet leather logo tag quietly identified you as a woman who had arrived. (Coach still makes several of their "Legacy" bags, but now they come from China. And they are not the same.)

Until fairly recently, Coach remained the antithesis of logo-mania, which began in the '70's with designer jeans and tees. So I don't know what to make of these:


I realize now that their slightly more affordable logo fabric line (which I never liked) was a harbinger of Bad Things to Come. But even if those bags weren't to everyone's taste, at least they were understated. Remember this one?

Now all hell has broken loose in the logo-fabric department. Here's a new Coach logo bag, high on hallucinogens ($198):

The legendary little embossed leather logo tag is also under fire these days. Apparently, one isn't enough to do the job now. Your bag needs three:

Why not just implant one of those little gizmos that come in those singing greeting cards — so the bag actually shouts, "Hey, I'm a COACH BAG!!!" every few minutes? (If anyone at Coach finds this post, I expect royalties.)

I must say that Coach still makes some good-looking bags. This one isn't my favorite, but if you ever secretly lusted after a man's Dopp travel kit, in yellow pebbled leather with shoulder straps ($298)...

... here it is, complete with a clear plastic Coach logo tag. I hope there's a Gillette razor in there and a bottle of Old Spice.

There are still Coach bags that are charming, like this little tweed "pouch" — from the Poppy line, believe it or not ($198). You could remove that tacky plastic (?) logo and all those ribbony doo-dads:

I'm all for whimsy and color if it's pretty and doesn't frighten the horses.

I also think the bag below is handsome — possibly a "lifetime" style, depending on its construction and materials, all from overseas:

But even if I were willing to pay $398, it would be impossible to buy it with the same confidence and sense of achievement that accompanied every Coach purchase once upon a time.

I mean, how could I possibly put my trust in a company that also produced this ($198)?

All photos from


  1. Aren't they hideous? I haven't checked lately but I thought they had the entire classic line online?

  2. The Legacy line is available on the Web, but it seems to be shrinking in styles and colors. Let's hope they are going to restock them. But all the bags are made overseas now, so I don't think they are truly the same.

  3. My deceased daughter's name was POPPY so the Coach bag Poppy is a flower, etc. is beautiful to me. It's like my daughter is talking to me. I have framed the bag and it's on my bedroom wall where I seat every day. I wish I knew who the author was.


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