Spotlight: A Personal Tour of The Coach Archive in New York City with Jed Winokur

Thanks so much to Coach for inviting me to visit the Archive. I have become friends over time with Jed Winokur, Senior Archive Manager, and Sara Campot, Archive Assistant, so it was nice to spend the day with them.

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Jed and I in front of one of the many beautiful displays in the Coach Archive, New York City

Most Coach enthusiasts know that the Archive is housed in Coach’s Headquarters in NYC. Upon entering the building, you are immediately greeted at the front desk, and invited into the elegant reception area boasting lacquered white walls and Herman Miller-esque furnishings. Jed escorted me through the labyrinth within the headquarters to the Archive.

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Coach’s West 34th Street Entrance

HISTORY OF THE ARCHIVE

The Archive has been in existence, in essence, since the inception of Coach. Initially it was a storage facility for sample and prototype bags, some which never made it to production. Through the hard work and dedication of Jed, Sara, and other Archivists, the Archive has slowly progressed to a beautiful and functional tribute to the brand’s history. Jed and his team have been instrumental in cataloging the Archive collection. More about that in “Archival Process” below.

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Coach Archive, New York City
Bonnie Cashin Collection
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Early men’s shelves in the Archive and a few 1960s women’s totes designed by Bonnie Cashin.

The display cases in the Archive are organized by era. The first case starts with the early men’s items, since Coach solely made men’s product from 1941-1961. . That changed in 1961 when Lillian Cahn, co-founder of Coach, had the vision and forethought to realize that Coach needed a women’s product line to compliment the already successful men’s line. Bonnie Cashin was brought on as designer in 1961 and a year later Coach released it’s first full line of women’s handbags and accessories. During the 1960s Bonnie brought many iconic shapes, and hardware elements to Coach!

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Transitional Pieces…Bonnie’s Attaché (lower right) and the Diplomat (upper right).

In the archive case the Bonnie Cashin Attaché is the line of demarcation between the men’s product line and the start of Bonnie’s designs. I found this to be an interesting placement choice. This bag perfectly shows how Bonnie was inspired by Coach’s early men’s product, and how they informed her designs for the brand. She took the original men’s Diplomat brief, narrowed the depth, elongated the handle, and added her soon to be signature kisslock, to form the Attaché.

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Diplomat and Attaché

Another integration was the was Bonnie’s use of the original men’s wine case design with her Barrel Bag.

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Diplomat (Top Left), Wine Case (Top Right), & Bonnie Cashin Sketch {source} showing both the Attaché and Barrel Bag
Tidbit: Bonnie Cashin was one of the first designer’s to elongate straps and transform shoulder bags into crossbody bags.

Many of the estimated 20,000 items in the Archive’s collection were already in Coach’s possession. In order to help complete the collection the Archive team is always on the hunt for missing pieces in the collection including one-offs, prototypes, and rare bags from the 40s-70s. Jed also keeps an open dialogue with vintage store owners and collector’s with interesting pieces to possibly add to the Coach collection. Possibly you!

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1960’s {Source}
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Early Slings and Laundry Bag (Top) and the first bag I donated to the Coach Archive (Bottom)

Tidbit: the drawstring “Laundry Bag” has an interesting feature. Those of you that follow my blog and read my Coach Guide are aware that the original hangtags were baseball-shaped. If you look closely this Laundry Bag’s tag was cut down to a

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Early Bonnie Laundry Bag with baseball tag cut in to lozenge shape

lozenge shape. Jed thinks this may have been done in the factory. Was the brand experimenting with rectangle shaped hangtags, which have since become synonymous with the brand? Maybe!

Vintage Bags and the Classics Collection
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Jed at the Brooklyn Flea {source}

As the bags appeared on the arms of New Yorkers and celebrities alike, the trend was quick to catch on.

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Gwyneth Paltrow , Christina Hendricks, and Taylor Swift with the Penny, Stewardess, and Court Bags {Source}

Coach’s Classics line has also contributed to the ongoing love of these bags.

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Coach Classics Collection
While I agree that the exposure of the vintage bags may have come from flea markets, celebrities, etc., the popularity has more to do with the classic function, style, and quality of the bags themselves. There aren’t many bags designers that can brag that their bags from the 60’s, 70’s, and older are still being carried with pride today!

FUNCTION OF THE ARCHIVE

The Archive’s main purpose is to inspire future designs and serve as a brand history resource. There are items from the first Coach men’s leather goods line to the most recent Billy Reid Collection. The Coach designers often reference specific shapes, hardware, and design details when creating new bags. A visit to the Archive shows how much heritage plays a part in Coach’s new product offerings including Bonnie Cashin, Legacy, Archive, and Billy Reid collections just to name a few.

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Billy Reid for Coach Video
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Limited Edition bag from The Archive Collection. Look familiar? {Source}

Tidbit: The Archive Collection Tags were made using parts of the original COACH lettering. The “A” & “C”

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Archive Collection Tag (My Personal Bag)

from the original Coach press existed, however the other letters for “ARCHIVE” were made just for these tags. 

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The Diplomat also impacted the design of the 2012 Coach Legacy Leather Archive Suitcase {Source}

ARCHIVAL PROCESS OF THE ARCHIVE

Each bag in the Archive catalogued and photographed in a digital database. This database is made available to the designers. The bags are catalogued and tagged prior to being displayed sothe team can manage the collection.

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Tag with Individual Bar Code

Jed and his team are currently working to re-tag all the items with a new bar code system. Each tag will have the item’s location, name, and year.

Tidbit: One of Jed’s favorite bags in the Archive is a 1978 Brief Bag that…to put it kindly…has lots of

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1978 Brief Bag {source}

“story”.Interestingly, the bags are not “restored” but are left as they are acquired unless they have conservation issues. Jed believes “each piece has a history and the signs of use are part of the story”. I have to admit that I agree!


FUTURE OF THE ARCHIVE

The Archive team is beginning preparation for an upcoming move in 2015.

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1960s designs from an exhibit at Coach’s 70th Anniversary Press Preview event in South Korea {Source}
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Classic designs from an exhibit at Coach’s 70th Anniversary Press Preview event in South Korea. {Source}
Future Designs

Jed knows all about my personal obsession with 1970’s messenger bags. My ideal bag would be a blend of a Musette and a Pony Express. To give me something new to obsess over, Jed brought out a bag that he recently found while cataloging stored bags. This bag somehow never made it to production. With just a few tweaks to the overall dimensions and hardware…this might just be my dream bag! I’ve made him promise to stick it in front of the designers and of course…name it after me. Okay maybe not the last part, but hopefully the designers will see the value in blending these two classic styles.

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The Pony Express
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Jed teasing me with my bag
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Sara teasing us all with a rare Mail Bag

 


I could write for days about my experiences at the Archive. There are complete blog posts to be written on hardware, fabrics, textures, embellishments, linings, etc., alone. Thanks again to Coach, Jed, Sara, and everyone that made my visit possible.Archives, Billy Reid, Bonnie Cashin, Coach, Coach Archives, Coach Headquarters, Jed Winokur, New York City, NYC, Restoration, Sacs Magnfiques, Vintage, Vintage Coach,

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