The Coach Bag Craze Is One Thing Millennials And Gen Z Can Agree On
Arm candy for all ages.
When I think of the Coach bag trend, I think of my fabulous aunt in the early ‘00s, carrying one complete with a leather handle, elegant brown stitching, and, of course, those iconic monogrammed Cs. In an age free of social media, she was my influencer. What she wore, I begged my mom to let me wear, too. Sure, I couldn’t slip into three-inch pumps and a leopard print shawl everyday at the age of six, but I could start toting around my very own Coach purse. And when she gave me one at a family Christmas party in 2008, complete with a rainbow color scheme, I did. I’ve been in love with the brand ever since.
For this Gen Z’er, and many of my contemporaries, Coach is something I associate with childhood. For many Millennials, however, the heritage brand represents their era of high school and college, a time of growth and self-expression. But whatever your relationship to the company, Coach and its bags are having a moment. It all makes sense, of course: the Gen Z crowd is now at the point in their lives of having the spending power to purchase a designer purse they coveted as a kid, either directly from the label or by shopping vintage. Meanwhile, Millennials are experimenting with — and reclaiming — old trends from the ‘90s to ‘00s, and Coach carryalls have always been a staple of those fashion eras.
Coach’s Creative Evolution
Coach’s clout points back to its myriad creative leaders — there’s been some notable ones. Bonnie Cashin, the first lead designer for the house, is credited for defining the Coach look. To this day, Cashin’s signatures, like chunky turn lock buttons, are incorporated into new products.
Years later, when Reed Krakoff took the reins as executive creative director in 1996, he ushered the label into another era with his structural aesthetic, relying on abstract shapes and colors to move the brand into the 21st century. Krakoff’s designs were polarizing — reviews tended to be glowing or awful — but he had undeniable influence on the brand.
Then Stuart Vevers stepped in as creative director in 2013. He soon began experimenting with vibrant colors, more structured pieces, and funky ways to bring their beloved monogram back into the cultural zeitgeist. He certainly succeeded: These days, I can’t go to dinner with a friend without one of them carrying a Coach bag. But my inner circle certainly aren’t the only ones, because some of my favorite celebs are loving the brand just as much as us.
A Series Of A-Lister Fans
In recent years, the Coach bag’s star has risen amongst, well, stars. Selena Gomez, who was appointed a brand ambassador in 2017, has racked up a good five years of constant Coach bag carrying. She’s worn hers to the Met Gala, on plenty red carpets, and even on her days out running errands. And what is the one thing Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo, and Kate Middleton’s wardrobes have in common? Coach bags, of course.
A few more examples worth noting: In February 2022, Megan Thee Stallion was seen decked out in an all-Coach outfit, from the cropped hoodie, to the daisy duke monogrammed shorts, and, naturally, the showstopper mini tote. And the HAIM sisters were spotted wearing the Rogue 25 In Signature Textile Jacquard at a photoshoot this February. But mega-watt celebs carrying Coach bags is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the brand’s devotees.
Generations In Agreement
Coach bags like the Tabby style and other shoulder silhouettes have helped Gen Z’ers establish themselves as a viable customer. Just scroll your Instagram homepage or your TikTok FYP and you’ll notice a consistent presence of a preppy romantic vibe paired with the classic purses. Neutrals with an intricate design, combined with a nonchalant airy energy is the best way I can describe this current aesthetic that many new Coach bags have fallen into.
In 2021, Coach bag unboxing TikTok videos started popping up on the for you pages of millions — 84.2 million people to be exact — as the hashtag #CoachBag went viral. People started sharing videos about what fits in their favorite Coach bag, finding bags while thrifting, how to style a Coach bag to fit certain aesthetics, and even restoring vintage Coach bags.
One of the pioneers leading this new minimalistic-meets-preppy-meets-romantic aesthetic (it’s a thing, I promise!) is Alicia Waid, a Gen Z content creator and Coach enthusiast. Waid was one of the first creators during this TikTok Coach takeover to share an unboxing video of her white Tabby bag. Waid associates many childhood memories with her Coach bags. “I love Coach’s bags so much,” Waid tells TZR. “As I get older, I've developed a very neutral style and I find many of Coach's pieces are timeless and easy to style for every day — but also look great dressed up too. I love how classic and versatile their pieces are.”
Waid recently added a Tabby 26 bag in Brass/Chalk to her collection. “I love how simple yet elegant the Tabby Bag is — it's a super classy piece that you can dress up or down,” she explains. “I love styling it with flowy white dresses in the summer. It instantly elevates the outfit – and paired with gold jewelry, it just screams chic.”
While some people buy their pieces new, others are gravitating toward vintage. According to Chloe Baffert, a curation + merchandising expert at Poshmark, the resale site’s recent sales prove that Gen Z is following suit to what Millennials lusted after 10-15 years ago. “Tabby bag sales have increased +613% since 2020. Shoppers are filming the Tabby bag in real-time from the trend battlegrounds of the store, igniting a rapid-fire effect of demand for Coach,” she states. “Poshmark sellers understand the desire for this trend and respond to demands by sourcing and listing Coach items.” She reports that Coach bags on Poshmark as a whole have gone up 30% in sales since 2019, and Coach Swinger bags have soared 76% in sales since just last month, June 2022. Meanwhile, Coach crossbody bag sales have also increased 80% since 2019.
Recognizing the impact that Y2K-era Coach bags have on current consumers, Coach has conceived the Coach Re(Loved) initiative. Joon Silverstein, SVP, Global & NA Marketing and Sustainability at Coach, said this project began as a way to challenge the company to rescue damaged or unrepairable Coach bags and repurpose them to be loved once again by new customers, particularly Gen Z.
Here’s how the program works: First, customers trade in their used carryalls for a store credit. Then, the pre-loved carryalls are either sold as vintage, restored and sold for a discounted price, re-crafted into an extra-special handbag, or remade into small leather accessory (like, for instance, an adorable keychain).
“We’re also seeing our customers share their appreciation with us and with their friends in our channels and on their social platforms,” Silverstein tells TZR via email. “They are excited to own unique one-of-a-kind Coach (Re)Loved products and are proud to be part of creating this new circular ecosystem in fashion — our limited edition drops regularly sell out each month.”
Silverstein says that Coach sees and appreciates the younger generation’s interest in being more active participants when interacting with the labels they love. “We know Gen Z is changing the conversation in so many aspects of fashion — disrupting norms of identity, notions of ownership, the role of brands in their lives, expectations around sustainability and inclusion,” she says. “There’s a spirit of optimism through innovation and disruption that is central to Coach’s brand DNA that I think resonates particularly well with Gen Z, going back to Coach’s early days as a small, leather goods business founded by first-generation immigrants to Bonnie Cashion’s visionary designs that revolutionized women’s fashion, to democratizing the accessibility of luxury, to today, innovating towards a more circular future for fashion.”
I might be biased, but I think no matter one’s personal style, there’s a place in their wardrobe for a Coach bag. Like the preppy romantic vibe Gen Z has associated with the rebrand? Try a classic Tabby Bag for a trendy model off-duty look. Big fan of maximalism? Pair the Willow Tote 24 with Cherry Print with a red hot monochromatic outfit. And you’re loving the Y2K resurgence, you can’t go wrong with the Gotham Tall Tote 24 (which gives major Lizzie Mcguire energy). As for me, I’ll be on Coach Re(Loved) hunting for a vintage rainbow monogrammed saddle bag to live out the fashion dreams of my six-year-old self.