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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Another integration was the was Bonnie’s use of the original men’s wine case design with her Barrel Bag.
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!
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
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!
As the bags appeared on the arms of New Yorkers and celebrities alike, the trend was quick to catch on.
Coach’s Classics line has also contributed to the ongoing love of these bags.
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.
Tidbit: The Archive Collection Tags were made using parts of the original COACH lettering. The “A” & “C”
from the original Coach press existed, however the other letters for “ARCHIVE” were made just for these tags.
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.
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
“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.
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.
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.
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