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At this point, anyone studying marketing or fashion business in college should be required to take an entire class dedicated to the Coach Pillow Tabby Bag and its rise to It Bag-dom. Just like the Gucci Jackie, the Prada Re-edition Nylon Shoulder Bag and the Bottega Padded Casette, the Pillow Tabby has made its way into the wardrobes of just about every fashionista on TikTok and Instagram. Call your mom and see if she still has your logo wristlet from middle school lying around—Coach is back, baby.
In my younger and more vulnerable years, nothing seemed cooler to me than a Coach wristlet, no doubt stuffed with the $10 my mom gave me to get Starbucks frappuccinos with my friends and pretend we were “real” adults instead of 13-year-olds walking a strip mall. By the time I entered high school, though, Coach was decidedly out. Even girls who weren’t into fashion knew better than to wear anything with the once-coveted Coach Cs splattered across it.
Coach’s notoriety remained up until about a year ago when we, as a society, decided that we had made a mistake. Why had we deemed Coach an “embarrassing” brand? What made it less luxe than any other designer on the market? The realization that we were in the wrong began with the normalization of thrift shopping as mainstream. While some of us got made fun of for buying our apparel at Goodwill in our teens, Gen Z has a habit of shaming fast-fashion shoppers and praising thrifty buyers instead.
And to no one’s surprise, pretty much every thrift shop or consignment store has at least one or two Coach handbags lying around, donated after they lost their prowess so many years ago.
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It was at this point that many shoppers began to look past the jacquard logo and see Coach for the high-quality leather brand it truly was. Founded in New York in 1941, the brand took off in the ’60s as the go-to for luxurious leather and playful design at a not-totally-outrageous pricepoint.
Somewhere along the line, though, Coach fell off. The innovation stopped; the creative direction became repetitive. The brand’s focus fell off of the leather goods that made them successful, opting to cover everything with Cs in quirky colorways instead.
Fast-forward to 2020 and the younger generations have started buying those abandoned Coach bags from their local thrift stores. Naturally, Coach noticed. They put out new iterations of bags that looked like the suddenly-desirable vintage styles, keeping the price point for most under $500 so shoppers could justify the impulse-buy.
Silhouettes like the Ergo Shoulder Bag from the Coach Originals collection, inspired by the brand’s archives, became as popular as any new Prada or Louis Vuitton pick. From the same collection, the Swinger Bag in Signature Jacquard served as a nod to the logo-splattered wristlets of my youth, reimagined with a decidedly more chic top handle.
All of this put Coach back in fashion’s good graces, but it wasn’t enough. They didn’t have an It Bag to truly solidify their return as a major player in the leather goods game—that is, until they struck gold with the Pillow Tabby Shoulder Bag 26.
Personally, I’m a fan of the classic, structured Tabby Shoulder Bag. I think it’s really chic. But when Gen Z first laid eyes on the Pillow Tabby, they fell in love. Truly, madly, deeply. Suddenly, the generation known for buying fake designer goods on DHgate had a luxury bag they could actually afford. And it was cute, too.
When Bottega Veneta launched The Pouch a few years back, it inspired a cloudscape of soft, slouchy handbags to replace the stiffer silhouettes so many brands had made their legacies on. Puffy, pillowy leather became the craze—and The Pillow Tabby is Coach’s contribution. Available in classic ivory as well as fun hues like taffy pink and Kelly green, the bag’s only branding, a monochrome C closure, is a far cry from their busy jacquard print.
In so many ways, the bag is unique. Whimsical enough to earn It Bag status, wearable enough to justify and affordable enough to actually pull the trigger and buy. The Pillow Tabby is one of fashion’s most perfect storms to date. If it’s any indication of what’s to come from Coach over the next few years, we’d do well to pay close attention.