Coach Clothing Is on the Way: What We Envision for the New Line

The company that brought you the coveted C-printed bag is trying its first foray into ready-to-wear. Will an expanded brand equal greater profits?

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Good news for all you Coach-clutching fashionistas: The accessories brand known for its coveted C-covered purses, clutches and wristlets is looking to take over your head-to-toe wardrobe in the near future.

Women’s Wear Daily reported on Wednesday that Coach is entering a “transformational” period, where the brand will attempt to shift into a global lifestyle brand — in line with such competitors as Michael Kors and Tory Burch — with expanded collections of handbags and shoes, as well as women’s and men’s apparel, outerwear, watches and jewelry.

While the company’s new direction has been in the works for almost a year — and is expected to be in full force by the holidays — the revelation of disappointing second-quarter earnings this week was the perfect time to announce the brand’s vision for the future.

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“As opposed to being an accessories brand, we’re much more inclined to see the brand as telling the story of the total lifestyle, meaning we need to have a way to see Coach in a different way,” Reed Krakoff, the brand’s president and executive creative director, told WWD. (Krakoff, mostly known for his menswear, has gained his fair share of press lately, when the First Lady donned his garments at the President’s swearing in ceremony on Sunday).

Along with expanded product offerings, Coach will be streamlining the atmosphere of its stores, as well as its marketing, to attract an audience that might be inclined to spend more — that is, if Coach can lure them away from the competition.

“The reality is that the marketplace has shifted,” chairman and CEO Lew Frankfort told WWD. “We’re responding transformationally to take advantage of the opportunity.”

So what might we expect from Coach’s new direction? For their handbags and accessories, look no further than the brand’s Legacy collection, which hit stores last summer. This collection was “inspired by timeless styles in the Coach archives” and focused on color, craftsmanship and — above all — the company’s heritage. This shows that the brand is planning a return to leather goods, and a move away from the more affordable fabric bags that one might immediately associate with Coach.

(MORE: From the Archives: Fashion: It’s All in the Bag)

Footwear will become a bigger piece of the Coach puzzle in the renovation, with high-end “shoe salons” in select stores. We foresee the brand sticking with the same traditional styles here — flats, boots, loafers and heels for women; dress shoes, sneakers and boat shoes for the men — but with a bigger selection and perhaps more elaborate detailing.

As for Coach clothing, only time will tell what the design team will dream up. With Jeffrey Uhl leading the menswear brand (formerly of Gap, Converse and Tommy Hilfiger), we foresee lots of leather detailing — hello fall jackets — as well as slim-fitting khakis and shirts. As new hire Sandra Hill joins the women’s design team from Bonobos (and Paul Smith before that), we imagine the brand will go toward London prep, with tailored slacks, streamlined button-ups and colorful trenches — all emblazoned somewhere with the trademark “C” logo. Classic prints, vibrant colors and some interesting shapes might also fill the collection, as the brand continues to focus on the vintage qualities that first made it popular.

But can the Coach lifestyle brand compete with the likes of Michael Kors and Tory Burch? If what they’ve already accomplished is any indicator, we would lean toward yes.

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