Coach Bags: Make It, Don’t Fake It

Do Coach bags strike you as “All American”? Coach originated in NYC, but hasn’t produced a bag made in America in over twenty years. I shy away from designer bags like Coach not only because of price ($700 python-embossed leather tote, anyone?), but also because I try to avoid products made with animal products like leather, fur, or animal skins. I was particularly concerned discovering that every one of the coach bags I checked were made in China, a place notorious for the most agracious of animal abuses. My familiarity with designer bags stemmed more from knock off coach bags found on every street corner in D.C., selling cheap counterfeit versions.

Made in USA Item found: None

Most common countries: China

Made in USA Alternatives: See the Made in America Master List Accessories section.

Corporate info: Coach was founded in 1941 in New York, originally operating out of a single loft factory in Manhattan. The original owners were resistant to outsourcing, but after selling the company to Sara Lee (yes, the same Sara Lee that sells Ball Park Franks and Jimmy Dean sausages) in 1985, manufacturing was moved overseas. The store manager I spoke with was polite and interested in my inquiry. I related some of my concerns regarding animal welfare and she reassured me that all of the materials, leather and fur, are sources primarily from the US. The material is then shipped to China for assembly, then returned back to the US for retail sale. As to why this can not all be done in one place, leaving a smaller footprint, it all comes down to the bottom line. According to the manger at the Coach store, this production process is cheaper than having the product made in USA. In addition to the generic corporate responsibility statement, Coach maintains an online “counterfeit education” section, including a hotline for consumers to report any knock-off Coach bags they come across.

coach bag label made in china

“This is a Coach bag. It was handcrafted in China from the finest materials…”

Overall: I was surprised to find that such a high-end luxury brand like Coach, once made in USA, now have all their designer bags made in China.  They may be saving money exploiting cheap labor, but these savings are certainly not being transferred to customers.  I was also shocked to learn more about the counterfeit industry, which many consider a victimless crime. I never gave much thought to these knock off purses, writing them off as a cheap way to get a bag without paying the full price for the label’s brand name. Tacky maybe, but unethical? I have to admit I once bought a knock off Kate Spade bag at the flea market at the Eastern Market in DC.  Little did I know that my fabric-coated cardboard bag could be contributing to things like sweatshops, child labor, and organized crime. According to the “Fakes are Never in Fashion” project by Bazaar, the counterfeit industry costs the US over $250 billion and 750,000 jobs annually. With so many gorgeous and unique bags being made in USA, it’s hard to justify supporting an illegal counterfeit industry over a creative one. And when it comes to the real thing, are you willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for designer bags that was made in China?

Do you own any designer bags? How about knock offs? Do you think Coach bags are worth the price, or are you paying for the brand name? What do you think about their outsourcing to China?

Looking for alternatives? Check out some sources for made in USA accessories.