Coach Past and Present

In the late 70s and early 80s the coolest accessory you could possibly have Stateside was a Coach bag. It was literally the first It Bag.? Even my mother, who normally eschewed fashion completely, floating about in clogs and folksy ethnic maxi dresses, was obsessed with them. Slouchy Duffle Sac shoulder bags, pragmatic cross body numbers, roomy hands-free satchels? mostly from an earthy palette that only got better with age and saddle soap. The patina was something of a badge in itself, the leather relaxing into shapes that echoed the contours of the wearer's hips and cargo load.

Back then, all the cowhide handbags were made in a loft factory on 34th St in New York City, which is now Coach HQ. Nowadays, these vintage bags, particularly the Bonnie Cashin designs, are all the rage on etsy and ebay. Hipsters, stylists and the Olsen twins scoop them up for $40-$50 a pop.? They're so well-made and the hardware so dependable as to be indestructible. Many still sport the little hanging luggage-style tags they came with, which are also highly collectible in their own right. There are whole websites devoted to the cult- this one is super-informative.

Coach in its current incarnation, with Gwyneth as one of its patron saints, is still all about quality but the breadth of choice style-wise is far vaster than it used to be.? The palette has extended unrecognisably, the range of materials runs the gamut from heavier leathers to finer gauges and encompasses a variety of textures. There are wallets, briefcases (we're particularly fond of both the male and female versions, which are simultaneously fondlable and eminently hard-working), clutches, keychains, iPad covers and overnighters as well as smart, ladylike handbags. And a selection of buttery biker and bomber jackets.

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Coach Reader Event, exclusively instore at Arnotts March 25th.

Laura George?@lgeorge353

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