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.

Comments

  1. says

    You are going to hate this, I only buy originals which are not made in some tiny little factory but by artisans. Louis Vuitton & Chanel: buying cheap is just voting with your wallet in support of the whole sweatshop/ child labor mentality. There is a cost to having a conscious. If someone buys a fake of anything, what does this really say about who there are? They are fake too. Be authentic, in everything.
    TheDecorGirl recently posted..Best Interior Design Helper – ‘Appropriate’

    • madeinusachallenge says

      No, I agree with you. Fakes are not just tacky, they are unethical too. If your going to go for a designer bag, do it right and get an authentically made item. It’s just too bad we can’t know what kind of labor was used to make it.

  2. says

    I’m with you with designer bags— I dont have one, don’t care to have one and will never put my money into buying one :) They are waaaay over priced and I think I can use that 600 to buy tons of cute items for my ENTIRE family :)

  3. says

    Great point about not passing on the savings to the consumer. It seems like most of the higher end brands are now manufacturing in China, but the retail price is still very high. All the outlet malls, at least here in Texas are full of the Made in China designer clothes, shoes and accessories. Who wants to pay $700 for a Coach bag Made in China? Not me!
    Sarah recently posted..Green Toys-Recycled and Made in USA

  4. says

    You’ll find that most designers are manufacturing their bags in China. I own a few high end bags and I will only buy them if they are manufactured in a “fair wage”country such as anywhere in Europe or are “fair trade” such as Sarah’s Bags which are manufactured in Beirut by women who wouldn’t normally be able to make any money. These women own a share in the company. These bags are featured in Vogue this month!
    Jacqueline recently posted..An Introduction to Feng Shui

    • madeinusachallenge says

      I wasn’t familiar with Sarah’s bags- thanks for the heads-up! Love the idea behind it. And fair trade gives as the labor reassurances. Great find!

  5. says

    I have about 6 coach bags and 2 pairs of shoes. My big sister buys them. (single no kids)
    And honestly I wouldn’t buy it for myself. I have 7 kids I just can’t. Before them maybe.
    (even though I was at the post office today and saw one with a kelly green handle and almost turned green with envy LOL)
    I care more about cute than a name.

    You really don’t have to buy knock offs to get your designer fix. Go to a consignment for the real thing. Or there is a site where you can rent a purse. But as a business owner I depend on the authenticity of people, we do have to discourage the dealing of the fake.

    Confession: I have bought them in the past but was ashamed to carry them.

  6. DORIS HERMAN says

    I CAN’T AFFORD TO BUYA COACH BAG. I AM JOBLESS SINCE COMPANIES LIKE COACH MANUFACTURE IN CHINA. THEY DON’T EVEN HAVE THE ETHICS TO HAND DOWN THEIR SAVINGS TO THE AMERICAN CONSUMER. i’LL BUY THE KNOCK-OFF BECAUSE THE PERSON SELLING IT IS TRYING TO MAKE A LIVING.

  7. says

    I have never owned a Coach bag. I just can’t see paying that kind of money for a purse. But, that’s just me. Now that I know they are actually made in China, I will definitely not purchase one. I’m in the market for a new purse and actually think I will buy one from Etsy. I’d like to support a stay at home mom’s business, if you know what I mean.
    Christina recently posted..Menu Plan & Making Goals Monday 9/5

  8. Cory says

    I highly consider Coach a high end brand anymore….practically anyone and everyone can afford at least 1 with all the outlets anymore. Second….I doubt you will find any “high end” company that doesn’t outsource anymore. Third….what company that sells handbags and assecvories carries no leather items?

    Not trying to be a smart a@@ just asking to be educated

  9. Sue Bunting says

    I also refuse to buy Coach products because of the price, they are not made in the USA, and the fact the use real animal parts instead of faux to construct their products. I feel that americans should buy products made in the USA as much as possible and that if an animal is not killed for food that we have no right to use or wear any part of the animal for clothes or acsseries.

  10. Commenting says

    I don’t know that “Made in the USA” is a guarantee that labor practices are fair, but I agree that it is easier to research corporate labor practices in a country where you reside, and we all ought to do that more conscientiously. I wouldn’t think that foreign labor markets are the only ones liable to exploit children, and I would be cautious about assuming rate of pay is the determining factor in defining exploitative labor practices of either adults or children, though it does frequently seem to be considered an indice of relative greed where the US pays foreign labor pennies on the dollar and sells at 700% mark up on the state side. The free market system, which China was able to enter after 1999, as well as other countries, does afford opportunities for growth, but greed can accompany any such opportunity without regard for geographical or cultural bounds. While the US may have better labor law and labor practice than some Eurpoean and developing countries, it doesn’t have the best reputation in the world when it comes to other forms of exploitation of children. If you consider the historical exploitation of twelve to seventeen year old child models in the US fashion industry, and the rampant drug culture in the designer fashion industry and the hollywood set as one example, it is just as distasteful as the idea of their using underpaid and overworked foreign sweatshop labor to manufacture goods. The US fashion industry pays well enough in the US, but an overpaid and exploited adult or child is just as egregiously wrong as an underpaid one.

  11. Mary Goff says

    I will NOT buy anythig made in China, but have alot of problems finding clothes made in the good ole USA

  12. Hutchie says

    Having bought Coach bags in the past, I didn’t even think to look where the one I just purchased was made. I thought USA of course. Then, I got it home, filled it up, used it (noting that the leather was a little crummier than Coach bags from a few years ago and the zipper stuck a lot). Then I emptied it. Sure enough, a “Made in China” tag. No more Coach for me. The zipper is a real problem on this $300 bag, and was over sewn so that a length of it hangs down inside. No more Coach for me.

  13. Craig says

    I am a male and I enjoy Coach’s men’s products. I have luggage, overnight bags, briefcases, wallets, belts and shoes that are all made with high quality at an affordable price. I also own Gucci and Prada and I can say that Coach quality is just as good if not better. Hardly anything is made in the USA to include most American cars… of course, I only buy German automobiles.

  14. Sue says

    “Touted as “The All-American brand,” Coach originated in NYC, but hasn’t produced a bag made in America in over twenty years. ”

    This is incorrect. Coach manufactured in the US until the early 2000′s. Also, buying a vintage (20 yr old) or used leather Coach made in the US bag is actually very friendly to the wallet, the environment, animals and US workers. No waste is being put out, the skin is already there, its a strong, durable and biodegradable material, will outlast a cloth bag and will withstand weather better. There are coach bags from all eras of US production that are still in use.

    I buy older, better bags generally. I do not eschew leather as a material as it is generally more durable – a lifetime investment rather than a return purchase. Buying plastic and/or cloth is as destructive (environmentally) generally as any leather product if one does the research. Buying less is what I aim for.

    Coach is a decent company. I do agree that they like many other companies do not pass the savings on to their client base, but there are very few who do that. These days its all about the mythical all important “shareholders” I do not purchase current coach products. Most companies produce in China and even designer brands that are made by “craftsmen” in italy are really produced by sweatshop labor (Chinese immigrants) . Look it up.

  15. Sue says

    Also, I would rather use leather than faux leather which is extremely toxic to produce. The cancer rates for people who work where PVC is manufactured is an eye opener. Not to mention the damage to the surrounding area and the effects on the local wildlife who drink the run off/water and inhale the toxic fumes/air.

    “PVC is the most damaging plastic on the planet” says Lisa Finaldi, a Greenpeace Toxics Campaign Coordinator. She cites dioxin, which travels long distances on wind currents and is linked to cancer, reproductive problems and diabetes, as an inadmissible byproduct.

  16. Nancy H says

    I totally agree with you. I’d rather be caught dead than carry a fake. I personally own many designer handbags/shoes/clothes/jewelry. I work hard for my money so I treat myself to nice things. I always make sure to buy from stores I know only sell authentic items – such as Saks & Neiman Marcus. I can’t tell you how many times I was ‘advised’ to buy fakes & save money. Their thoughts were – why buy expensive real bag when you can get it for cheap fake that look the same. They may look the same but they are not. The quality is bad, not real leather, craftsmanship is horrible. Also not to mention buying counterfeits is funding crimes.

    About Made in the USA – it’s hard to find anything made in the USA nowadays. I try every time but there are not a lot available. I 100% support all things made in the USA. Most if not all my designer bags were made in France or Italy. I’m so glad that Louis Vuitton started making bags & other things in the USA. Although all LV lovers still preferred items made in France.

  17. Michele D says

    Just bought my 2nd coach bag at a factory store, I was naive and thought my friends had said coach was made in usa. Happened to look at tag inside my purse and it said made in vietnam. I am going to return my bag now. I am not going yo pay top dollar for an imported bag just because of the marketing hype from coach. I thank you for this forum. I need to be more diligent about buying usa made items.

  18. Megan says

    Before you go knocking a bag made in China, it’s important to realize that outsourcing is not the devil’s work. There are plenty of manufacturers in China that practice ethical manufacturing. As like any other news that we hear, the bad is reported over the good. No one is going to do a news report on all the dandy things going on in the world; the breaking news is when something happens out of line. If a well-publicized company like Coach was partaking in unethical manufacturing practices, it would be all over the news. However, there are many reasons to move manufacturing to other companies.
    First, America is not the sacred land of ethics; the same problems happen here that happen all over the world. Child labor, unethical treatment of workers, illegal pay, unpaid overtime..it’s here as well. Secondly, Coach is an American style, but no longer an American brand. The retailer has online presence in over 20 countries and has over 400 stores in Asia. With that size market, it is more logical than anything to source from all over, which is what Coach does. Some Coach products are manufactured from the USA, and if you did your homework, you would see all the companies that Coach’s manufacturers are located in (China, Italy, United States, Hong Kong, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey, Philippines, Ecuador, Malaysia, Mauritius, Peru, Spain and Taiwan). It may have been the best decision when the company was all of six workers to work from a loft in Manhattan, but there is too much demand for the product to be able to do that work in one place.
    Because of the bad press and publicity, it seems easy to assume the worst, but it is close-minded to reject a brand based on an entire country, especially when China is not the only country that Coach manufactures from.

  19. Jane Sedar says

    I have a coach purse i found made of cowhide and made in the USA which is where they still should be made. Its a gorgeous well made purse better than the ones made in China

  20. Bernie says

    I buy high end leather handbags often, if your going to pay big bucks for something it’s best to buy something that gains in value. The reality is this, the global market is here, people in those other countries need employment just like the rest of us, perhaps more so. I disagree with outsourcing our personal info and services like that, but purses and clothing need to be made. With all the rules and regulations, wages, that our countries (I’m Canadian) put on manufactures, it isn’t any wonder why companies like Coach out source to different countries. Most of what we buy is made in China or somewhere other than here. Cd’s,DVD’s, Electronics, the parts that make up other things, nothing is 100% American made.

  21. D says

    I work at Coach. I find your article very interesting. I hate knockoff bags as a rule, and thank you for bringing to my attention that the Knock-Off market really is much more horrible a thing than real designer labels. Sure Coach may kill a lot of animals a annually, but at least they adhere to the labour laws of each country they operate in, they do not use child labour, they ensure a safe, healthy work environment, and operationally (Sales wise) we’re really nice people, as a rule.

    Thank you for bringing to my attention that the Knock-Off Market is the antithesis of Coach in the sense that they may be using child labour and/or slavery to mass manufacture someone else’s designs, which is a horrendous thought! I’ve never thought of it this way before. Too many people are carrying around bags that aren’t real labels, and I don’t think they understand the ramifications of this choice. Why buy a Knock-Off? Why not just go to Wal-Mart and buy a shitty bag there? Or a vintage store, or a cute little boutique. Stop buying Knock-Off labels… it’s trashy and unnecessary. And if you’re going to buy a knock-off… buy a Prada or LV, not a Coach. You might as well just save a bit of cash and drop in for a sale!

    Anyway. I love Coach bags. They are fantastically priced for their quality and warranty. Their clothing is very chic and modern, their capes are to die for. Their scarfs are beautiful. And don’t even get me started about their shoes. I looooooove Coach shoes. They are so hot. I’m a man, and I have huge feet so I can’t wear any of them, but I watch hundreds of women come into my store weekly, try on a pair of spikes and say, “Oh my god, these are actually comfortable.”

    Your China argument is a non-issue. Everything is Made in China and the only people that really ask about it are the Chinese. If Coach was made in America (and I have seen quite a few items in stores over the years that have been made in America.) the prices would be equal to Prada. This is not the client Coach caters to, so they needed to do something to deflate their prices. For example (true story): Two coats, the exact same style, exact same size, different colours. Navy one, Made in China, $658. Cream one, Made in America, $1,200. Crazy and unwarranted, but people in America get paid a lot more to do their work, because things in America are a lot more expensive than they are in China, because China is an industrious country, and North America (minus Mexico) is a capitalist society. Without China, there wouldn’t have been a recession, and people would have jobs. Unfortunately a lot of us are just too damn lazy to do what the Chinese do for us.

    But I digress. Thank you for your thoughts :)
    D

  22. says

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    Tiffany recently posted..Tiffany

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