Luxury handbag brand Coach opened a new front in its push toward circularity Thursday with the launch of Coachtopia.
Work on Coach’s latest sub-brand began nearly two years ago, months after the debut of Coach (Re)Loved, a program it created dedicated to giving a second life to “pre-loved pieces,” as well as damaged and unrepairable products, said Joon Silverstein, Coach’s senior vice president of global marketing, creative and sustainability, and head of Coachtopia.
“Through the process of giving products a second life, we realized that there are a lot of aspects of traditional luxury craftsmanship that make circularity challenging,” Silverstein said. “The way we design and construct products makes the process of repairing, up-crafting [and] remaking products very labor intensive. And therefore, we realized that if we were to truly scale our impact, we needed to design for circularity from the very beginning.”
Part sub-brand, part “discovery lab,” Coachtopia is grounded in what the Tapestry-owned label refers to as its “Made Circular” principles: craft with recycled, repurposed or renewable materials, design for multiple lives and create circular pathways.
Leather used in Coachtopia products is either upcycled from Coach production waste or made with at least 50 percent recycled leather scraps from tanneries. Detachable handles feature at least 70 percent recycled plastic waste. Coachtopia’s at least 75 percent recycled packaging is designed to be multi-functional to reduce material use and is printed with renewable Algae Ink.
The focus on circularity also saw Coach rethink basic design features so as to simplify disassembling and repairing a given product. This included removable screw-back hardware, detachable handles and straps and mono-material designs.
“The backside hardware is always hidden because it seems more refined and so it’s embedded between the lining and the exterior, for example, but that makes it almost impossible—you have to take apart the entire bag—to remove that hardware, that component,” Silverstein said. “On Coachtopia, backside and screws are exposed for our hardware, meaning that it can be more easily removed and disassembled.”
Finally, Coach has committed to taking back all Coachtopia products, regardless of age or condition, and finding ways to reuse them, whether that means restoring, upcycling, remaking or recycling. Each Coachtopia product can be traded in a Coach retail store and exchanged for credits. Every product comes with a unique digital passport that can track the product across multiple lives.
The goal of Coachtopia is to help all of Coach in its journey toward circularity, Silverstein said. As it experiments and develops scalable learning processes, those learning will feed back into the brand in what the sub-brand’s head called a “mutual sort of symbiotic ecosystem.”
From Coachtopia’s earliest days, Silverstein said Coach knew that embracing a circular business model would involve “resetting” its relationship with its customers. Early on, the company created a Coachtopia beta committee of Gen Z designers, makers, activists, journalists and filmmakers. Now 120 strong, this community produced some of the sub-label’s first collaborators.
“Honestly, it was like a fever dream. It really did feel like a true collaboration—it was very open,” Sabrina Lau, a 25-year-old graphic designer and Coachtopia Beta Community member, said in a statement. “And to be the first one to kick it off is truly an honor.”
Coachtopia launched Thursday online and at a London store with an all-gender collection of bags, accessories, ready-to-wear and footwear made with recycled, repurposed and renewable materials. It will expand to additional locations in the U.S. and U.K. in May, June and July before reaching Asia later this year.
Coach has not always had the best reputation when it comes to minimizing waste. In 2021, a TikTok video describing its practice of slashing merchandise receiving more than 530,000 likes in a week. At the time, Silverstein said the brand destroyed products in stores, but only those that were already damaged or non-repairable. Still, the company updated its policy to no longer destroy any products in-store.
The viral video came months after the launch of Coach Re(Loved), a program that refurbishes, resells and recycles used bags. According to Silverstein, more than 20,000 products have gone through the program since its launch in April 2021. It is available in the U.S. and Canada and in select stores in the U.K., Japan and China.