Coach Inc. Bought Kate Spade and There’s More to the Story

Coach Inc. Bought Kate Spade But There's More to the Story, Fashion History

Yesterday Coach Inc. bought Kate Spade New York for $2.4 billion dollars, however, do you know the full story? We find it fascinating.

“The acquisition of Kate Spade is an important step in Coach’s evolution as a customer-focused, multi-brand organization,” Victor Luis, chief executive of Coach, said in a statement on Monday.

Coach Inc. hopes to broaden its market to include Kate Spade’s following, 60% of which are millennials. Analysts called Kate Spade a good fit for Coach. (Source: Reuters)

Whether folks love Kate Spade or Coach, everyone had emotional reactions to the news.

The History of Kate Spade New York and Coach Brands

Every Brand Has a Story of Evolution

Kate Spade quit her job as accessories editor for Mademoiselle to launch her company in 1991 — in the thick of a recession. Her then boyfriend and marketer, Andy Spade, had 35,000 in savings which they used to start the company. (Source: Forbes)

Revenues for Kate Spade New York climbed from less than $100,000 in 1993 to $1.5 million in 1995, but the Spades lived off Andy’s advertising salary until he quit to join Kate full time in 1996. (Source: Forbes)

Kate Spade and her husband, the original founders of Kate Spade New York, sold the company more than ten years ago. Therefore, they won’t see a single penny from yesterday’s sale. (Source: MSN Money)

Kate Spade was sold to fashion retailer Liz Claiborne in 2006 for 124 Million. (Source: Market Watch)

Kate Spade New York’s first flagship store outside of the United States, Kate Spade Saturday opened in the Omotesando shopping district of Tokyo, Japan in the spring of 2013. (Source: Japan Times) Fun fact: I attended this Grand Opening when I was living in Japan!

It’s important to distinguish the fact that Coach Inc. bought Kate Spade, not the Coach brand, and they predict that Kate Spade bags will continue to be made in the same way they always have been. Coach Inc. owns multiple brands. (Source: Dayton Daily News)

The Coach brand began with a vision of designing handbags that would be used by all manner of women, from full-time mothers to professional women. (Source: NY Times)

Lillian Cahn, founded the Coach Leatherware Company in a Manhattan loft in 1961 with her husband, Miles. Men’s leather wallets and billfolds were the company’s original line of business. At Lillian’s suggestion, Miles began producing a line of women’s handbags in the early 1960s at their small West 34th Street factory. (Source: NY Times)

The Cahns sold their company in 1985 to the Sara Lee Corporation for a reported $30 million. Sara Lee opened stores worldwide and expanded the Coach line to include perfume, jewelry, raincoats, scarves, gloves, hats, sunglasses and shoes. (Source: NY Times)

Coach’s handbags sell for $285 to $3,000, while Kate Spade’s retail for $100 to $500. (Source: NY Times)

The History of Our Brand, Urban Southern

It all Started With a Kiss and a Romantic Gift

Almost three years ago, Regina’s husband Jay, a third generation leather craftsman, found a unique brand marking in a piece of leather where the letters J and R had been burned into the hide.

Since the couple’s dating days, they have written their initials together like this:

J and R Brand

Jay took the leather piece he found and incorporated it into a leather tote that he made as a special Christmas gift for Regina.

Original Urban Southern Tote Design

The Birth of a Lifestyle Brand

This tote became the birth of Urban Southern, when Regina and her husband began talking about creating a lifestyle brand of leather goods. Regina designed a line of handbags while Jay contributed designs for wallets, belts, and miscellaneous leather products.

Regina sent her first Market Tote design to her best friend and cousin, me. The first time I opened that simple brown box that she had so neatly packed this beautiful leather bag in, my love affair with leather began.

In the spring of 2015, Urban Southern’s online shop was launched.

Urban Southern's first website design.

Over the next year, Regina attended local events with her leather bags, beginning with a Made South holiday market at the iconic Factory at Franklin. Everyone’s response to the bags in person was to fall in love with them at first sight. She also stocked her handbags at Jay’s leather shop in the Mennonite community of Muddy Pond, just outside of Monterey, Tennessee.

As easy as it was to sell Urban Southern leather goods to folks in person, it was quite difficult to connect the brand with people online. In one year and four months time, there had only been a total of 45 online sales.

The Evolution of Friendship and Business Became a Community of Women Who Work Together

Building a community of women around Urban Southern and high quality leather bags.

Regina and I had always tossed around the idea of working together. After all, we had already done practically everything else together — including being in each other’s weddings and having our first born daughters within 4 hours of each other. I supported Regina’s dreams from the beginning and felt excited to have an opportunity of building something with her.

Regina’s younger sister Ruby, had begun to apprentice under Jay. Having sewn her own dresses as a young girl in our anabaptist setting, she was already a skilled seamstress. She picked up on leather craftsmanship quickly and today she hand sews all of our leather bags.

In the winter of 2016, Regina contracted me to create a branded style guide for Urban Southern. At the time, I was the Creative Director of a creative agency here in Denver, Colorado. Regina began taking polls to ask questions about how people viewed the brand.

The response was incredible.

Even though Urban Southern was selling everything from men’s belts to ladies’ handbags to men’s wallets, there was an overwhelming response from the women who had fallen in love with their leather bags.

Women said, “I use my bag for EVERYTHING.” “I literally don’t go anywhere without this tote.” Women loved the raw, simple design aesthetic of Urban Southern leather bags. They described how the leather bags even made them feel better about themselves.

We’re Better Together

In the fall of 2016, Regina and I joined forces to build a community around this brand. We believed it was no coincidence that the initials of Urban Southern spelled US. We felt excited that women from every walk of life connected with this brand. We knew this brand would be much bigger than the two of us and we decided that true, honest friendship resided at the core of its values. We dreamt of how this brand could live on to empower the lives of women everywhere.

We revised the brand yet again and launched our new website, built by our friends at DigiSavvy, in October of 2016. Photography by Paige Logan.

Urban Southern's New Website Design

We discontinued all of our miscellaneous leather goods, keeping only Urban Southern’s bag line. Since our new website launch, we have sold over 45 leather bags in our slowest month and our sales continue to climb.

Urban Southern at New York Fashion Week

In December of 2016, we were contacted through our Instagram profile and invited to be part of Art Heart’s Fashion Week at New York Fashion Week.

The thought of attending New York Fashion Week was way out of our comfort zones. Regina told her husband Jay that if she did this, nothing would ever scare her again. We decided to go for it!

Hair and Makeup at New York Fashion Week with Art Hearts Fashion, Photo by orville McEachron Photography

Hair and Makeup at New York Fashion Week with Art Hearts Fashion, Photo by orville McEachron Photography

With Jeffrey Robinson at New York Fashion Week with Art Hearts Fashion, Photo by orville McEachron Photography

With Jeffrey Robinson at New York Fashion Week with Art Hearts Fashion, Photo by orville McEachron Photography

There were many highlights from that whirlwind of a week, but two of them were very special. Regina’s Christmas gift from Jay, the original Urban Southern Tote, was carried down the catwalk. Then I was given the amazing opportunity to walk the catwalk as a model in the second showcase we accessorized.

Models walk the catwalk, accessorized with Urban Southern's leather bags at New York Fashion Week with Art Hearts Fashion, Photo by orville McEachron Photography

Dair Design at New York Fashion Week with Urban Southern

New York Fashion Week became a community effort as the folks who love us rallied around us. We were blown away by the incredible amount of support. We were given 40 VIP tickets to give our guests for the two runway shows we accessorized with our bags. These incredible women and men came from all over the United States to attend the shows and support Urban Southern, along with other Fashion Week guests.

Jen Eby from Eby Farms LLC provided handmade facial bars, lip balm and whipped body butter for each one of our guests. Creative stylists and fashionistas, Josh and Megan Morken from The Year My Husband Dressed Me, as well as Andrea Avila from The Chicest Chicks, Mary June Miller, and Shay Aguilar provided their expert styling services and fashion advice.

The Evolution of Our Brand Continues

We expect that our brand will continue to evolve, just as brands like Kate Spade New York and Coach have evolved over the years, but it will continue to have it’s own unique story. Over time, the design concepts of Kate Spade and Lillian Cahn continue to be produced through frequent changes in brand management. Time will tell whether their brands will continue on with the same followings they have now.

We see Urban Southern as being more than a brand of leather bags. Urban Southern has grown as a community of women who cheer each other on and support each other’s passions.

Instead of a sign of exclusivity, what if a fashionable leather bag could be a symbol of acceptance? What if our brand could be a symbol of true community? What if women everywhere could be inspired to embrace the process of life — of embracing wherever we are at on our journeys?

Instead of a sign of exclusivity, what if a fashionable leather bag could be a symbol of acceptance?Click To Tweet

As we grow, we continue to refine our process and our products. We are committed to designing bags from authentic, full-grain leather in the southern United States. The southern aspect of our brand creates a feeling of comfort and relatability where everyone is welcome.

We would not be here without your love and support and we appreciate this community! Let’s continue to be a family and see where this journey will take ALL of US.

6 Comments

  1. Melanie Smith on May 9, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    Just received my first US bag and I’m obsessed! Can’t wait to order another!

    • Meg Delagrange on May 10, 2017 at 11:30 am

      Hi Melanie! I’m doing a happy dance, we love knowing that one more woman is carrying an Urban Southern bag.

  2. Traci King on May 10, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    What a great post! I love hearing your story and your passion for women helping women!

    • Meg Delagrange on May 10, 2017 at 1:45 pm

      Thank you Traci! The passion for what we’re doing just keeps growing and it’s very rewarding to hear this community means to others.

  3. Patricia jent on May 11, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    Way to go girls! What a terrific story, Your bags are wonderful. I’m glad I have one and look forward to having another one! Well done!!!

    • Meg Delagrange on May 12, 2017 at 8:23 am

      Thank you, Patricia! We would love to hear your feedback as you use your bag!

Leave a Comment