Coach was founded in 1941, initially as a family-owned and family-run business run from a loft in Manhattan, notes Coach. The company expanded from those humble beginnings to become a behemoth in the fashion industry, with more than 500 Coach stores in North America by 2014.
Initially, Coach made only wallets and billfolds, each of them made by hand by six employee in a 34th Street Manhattan loft. Miles and Lillian Cahn joined the company 5 years later, in 1946; both had experience in leatherworks and were knowledgeable about business. Within 4 years, Miles Cahn took control of the business, and it added women's leather handbags made from cowhide in 1950.
The Cahns bought out the company in 1961, becoming sole owners. The same year, they hired sportswear pioneer Bonnie Cashin to design handbags for them. Cashin remained as a designer for the next 12 years. Cashin also added other items to the Coach lineup, including eyewear, key fobs, pens and shoes to match the company's bags.
By 1979, the company was making $6 million in sales annually. Sara Lee Corporation bought the company for $30 million in 1985, opening boutiques to sell the products it made in Macy's stores. After changing leadership several times, Coach notes $5 billion in sales in 2013 with 1,000 global locations. It went on to buy out Stuart Weitzman in 2015 for $574 million.