Coach steers towards millennials

Brand's purchase of Kate Spade is in line with its image shift to a more youthful one

1. Coach’s Colourblock Link Dinky, $1,200; 2. Embossed Rexy Dinky, $695; 3. Kate Spade’s cactus bag, $688
1. Coach’s Colourblock Link Dinky, $1,200; 2. Embossed Rexy Dinky, $695; 3. Kate Spade’s cactus bag, $688PHOTOS: COACH, KATE SPADE

Luxury fashion brand Coach made international headlines last month when it announced that it was buying handbag and accessories company Kate Spade for US$2.4 billion (S$3.3 billion).

The acquisition will give Coach wider access to millennials, a demographic familiar with Kate Spade, known for its preppy style and brightly coloured apparel.

It was a timely move for Coach and in line with the American brand's rejuvenation of its image from staid to current and youthful in recent years.

In 2013, it brought on board its executive creative director, British designer Stuart Vevers, 43, who had previously worked at esteemed fashion houses such as Mulberry and Loewe, to refresh the brand.

Under his charge, Coach put out patchwork-leather jackets, colourful leather bags with contrasting silk linings and feminine floral dresses.

A dose of star power was also injected into the brand, with campaigns fronted by celebrity millennials such as American pop star Selena Gomez, 24, and actress Chloe Grace Moretz, 20.

On May 8, the day the announcement was made, Coach's chief executive officer Victor Luis commented on the brand's decision.

"It (Kate Spade) brings important brand attitude and customer diversification to our portfolio.

"Importantly, Kate Spade has successfully introduced a broad range of lifestyle categories to create a well-articulated brand expression," he said in a conference call.


History: Started in 1941 in New York City as a family-run workshop specialising in leather goods and accessories. It opened its first flagship store in Madison Avenue, New York, 40 years later. The brand has since expanded to include apparel, fragrances and accessories such as watches.

Number of stores: The brand has close to 1,000 stores worldwide, all directly operated by the company. In Singapore, there are nine Coach stores, including boutiques at The Paragon and Wisma Atria.

Brand aesthetic: A blend of classic American style with a distinctive New York spirit, such as varsity-style stripe detail on duffel bags and wallets, as well as embroidered jackets for men and studded leather jackets for women.

Best-selling item: The Dinky Crossbody - a small rectangular bag with a shoulder strap. Made of glove tanned leather, it has a hidden kiss lock purse inside. There are new colours and designs every season and customers can personalise their bags with a monogram.

Most interesting detail: The brand's dinosaur mascot, Rexy, which was introduced in the Spring 2016 ready-to-wear collection. It is a playful homage to the Coach girl's signature quirky style and has continued to show in the brand's 2017 collections.


History: Kate Spade was founded in 1993 by Kate Valentine (who was then known as Kate Spade; she changed her name last year) and her business partner, now-husband Andy Spade, with the aim of designing the perfect handbag. In 2006, the brand was acquired by Liz Claiborne Inc, which was then renamed Kate Spade & Company in 2014.

In addition to handbags, kate spade new york also sells apparel, jewellery, fragrance, shoes as well as home furnishings such as bedding. Last year, it introduced the Broome Street label, which offers a range of casual apparel such as denim and cotton T-shirts.

Kate Spade & Company designs and sells apparel and accessories under two main brands: kate spade new york and Jack Spade New York. Last year, the company made US$1.38 billion (S$1.9 billion), up 14 per cent from 2015.

Number of stores: As of Dec 31 last year, the brand has more than 160 speciality retail and outlet stores in the United States. There are eight stores in Singapore, including one at Changi Airport Terminal 3.

Brand aesthetic: Colourful accessories and apparel with graphic patterns such as dots, stripes and diamonds or quirky prints of items such as chillies.

Most interesting detail:The brand is known for its quirky clutches and bags in shapes such as a potted cactus and a bird cage.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2017, with the headline 'Coach steers towards millennials'. Print Edition | Subscribe