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Coach’s Fashion-World Rise Started With a Paper Bag

A photograph from the book Coach: A Story of New York Cool.

In 1941, six Coach employees stitched wallets and billfolds by hand from a Manhattan loft that housed a family-run workshop. Twenty years later, Lillian Cahn took over the label with her husband Miles Cahn and decided to make purses. They released their first hit: a Coach tote, modeled after a paper shopping bag Lillian used to deliver noodles to her parents’ customers as a young girl during the Depression. The bag inspired a dozen other purses (the first collection) and earned Coach respect among fashion editors.

The couple then hired Bonnie Cashin, a pioneering sportswear designer whose leather bags and accessories built a modern “American Cool” aesthetic that continues to resonate with creative director Stuart Vevers’s designs for Coach today.

The book Coach: A Story of New York Cool, out today from Rizzoli, commemorates the brand’s 75th anniversary as a 336-page visual history, featuring vintage photographs, design sketches, landmark editorials, and ad campaigns. Coach models and icons appear in photographs throughout the collection, including Lauren Bacall, Robert Redford, Ali MacGraw, Prince, Madonna, and Zoë Kravitz. Click ahead to preview the book.

Photo: © Coach: A Story of New York Cool; Rizzoli New York; 2016

Ali MacGraw 

Photo: © Coach: A Story of New York Cool; Rizzoli New York; 2016

1970s Coach Ad 

Photo: © Coach: A Story of New York Cool; Rizzoli New York; 2016

1968 Safari Tote, Swagger Bag

Photo: © Coach: A Story of New York Cool; Rizzoli New York; 2016
Photo: © Coach: A Story of New York Cool; Rizzoli New York; 2016

Chloë Grace Moretz, Coach Creative Director Stuart Vevers 

Photo: © Coach: A Story of New York Cool; Rizzoli New York; 2016

Coach: A Story of New York Cool, published by Rizzoli.

Coach’s Fashion-World Rise Started With a Paper Bag