Coach is an American leather goods company created in 1941 in Manhattan, New York. A group of six leather artisans founded the original business, first named Gail Manufacturing Company. In 1946, Miles and Lillian Cahn joined the company. Already experienced in leather goods and handbag manufacturing, and with a good business sense, the Cahns would steer the company in the direction that would help it become one of the most popular American handbag designers.
Miles Cahn took over the Gail Manufacturing Company by 1950. The wallets and small leather goods produced by the company were profitable, but Cahn's interest in new technology and materials helped the business expand into production of women's handbags. In 1961, the Gail Leather Products, Inc. brand was born. The handbags produced by this company bridged the gap between the high-dollar designer pieces and the inexpensive, poor-quality knock-offs that comprised the women's handbag market of the day. Coach used quality cowhide and developed a process that made it both soft and durable, and when designer Bonnie Cashin was brought on board in 1962, the demand for the company's handbags soared.
The collaboration with Cashin lasted until 1974, and her use of color, hardware, pockets and other features revolutionized the company's line. The company also began producing small accessories such as pens and key chains, and expanded into shoes under her direction. In the mid-1970s, Gail Leather Products, Inc. changed its name to Coach Products, Inc.
Coach began offering its products via mail order, and eventually expanded into department stores, specialty stores and partnerships with selected vendors.
In 1980, the company changed its name again to Coach Leatherware Company, and in 1985, the company was sold to American food manufacturer Sara Lee Corporation.
Under Sara Lee, the Coach brand opened specialty boutiques outside New York and was offering its products through department stores, effectively expanding across America into the company that is recognized today.
Coach was sold by Sara Lee and became a publicly-traded corporation in 2000. Today, there are more than 500 Coach stores in the United States and Canada, and a wholly-owned subisidiary focused on the Japanese market, Coach Japan. Coach is also widely distributed in department stores across the United States and is available in more than 200 stores outside the U.S. market. The company's headquarters remain in Manhattan, and the Coach offering has expanded to include clothing, shoes, eyewear, luggage, non-leather accessories and fragrance.
The first fragrance from Coach, eponymous women's scent Coach, was launched in 2007. Coach fragrances today are offered in conjunction with Estee Lauder Companies.