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Coach Launches Product-Repair Apprenticeship

Last year, Coach started a new program that took old handbags in need of some loving care and transformed them into newer-looking pieces with a few years of history, which were then resold under the (Re)Loved label.

Now the luxury handbag line is taking that a step further by introducing a new one-year apprenticeship program at its New Jersey repair workshop. With the help of master craftspeople, apprentices will learn foundational craftsmanship skills as well as learn to understand the lifecycle of Coach bags and how reusing handbags and other products help the environment.

The Coach (Re)Loved Craftsperson Apprenticeship Program is now accepting applications for its inaugural program, which starts in June. Applicants can go to the website and search under careers.

Coach already has repair shops to fix broken bags and accessories in 40 percent of its stores. So far, Coach has trained more than 400 in-store craftspeople to give new life to old handbags and other products.

Last year, in response to customers’ urge for more sustainability in their products and a desire to reduce the mass of fashion goods ending up in landfills, Coach introduced the (Re)Loved label. It comprises four programs: Upcrafted, Remade, Restored and Vintage.

All these programs have helped Coach rehab more than 260,000 bags over the past three years.

However, Coach came under fire last year when a TikToker accused store associates of deliberately slashing unwanted bags to prevent dumpster divers from using them. The company admitted that gutting products was a standard practice, conducted in part to prevent people from bringing in defective bags for a refund, though it denied that it did so for tax reasons.

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Coach has now recommitted to doing better, and it’s taking a cradle-to-cradle approach.

“The real issue is that end of life,” Coach CEO and brand president Todd Kahn said in a call last week, “and we are spending a lot of time now thinking about [products] at the beginning of life in the design [process]. We take such pride in our craftsmanship, but some of the things that [create long-lasting products] are fillers, are layering—and you have to start thinking about modular design in a completely different way than we’ve ever done before.”

In addition to refurbishing bags, customers can use the (Re)Loved Exchange trade-in program to swap their Coach bags for credit to use for their next purchase. Currently, it is offered at 30 pilot stores and will expand in the next few months to all 162 stores in the United States and Canada.

Repairing luxury purchases is not new. For years, brands such as Hermès, Paul Stuart and Brunello Cucinello have given new looks to old products. Hermès has dozens of specialists at its ateliers to repair handbags, luggage and accessories. Decades ago, Cucinello developed a program where people could send in their clothes—including cashmere items—to be repaired.

In addition to its apprenticeship program, Coach’s parent company, Tapestry Inc., recently announced a partnership with the Savory Institute’s Land to Market program, which is a verified sourcing solution for regenerative agriculture. By using regenerative raw materials, Coach will be able to reduce its impact on climate change.

“We are proud to effect real and lasting change for our environment through strategic improvements in our supply chain and innovative productive offerings,” Kahn said in a statement. “While our Coach (Re)Loved collection gives many of our beloved bags a second life, this newly established membership with Land to Market supports the restoration and vitality of the grasslands. We are committed to further reducing our environmental impacts by continuing to engage with our supply chain and increasing renewable energy, environmentally preferred materials and traceability.”

The Savory Institute, based in Boulder, Colo., works to regenerate the world’s grasslands through holistic management and educating and training farmers and ranchers. The Land to Market program uses a science-based approach working with raw material producers to enhance transparency and traceability across the entire value chain.

The institute works with land managers using Ecological Outcome Verification, a scientific protocol that measures land health and verifies whether farmland is in a state of regeneration or degeneration and provides feedback for improvement. This protocol was developed by the Savory Institute in conjunction with Michigan State University, Texas A&M, the Nature Conservancy and others.

“Land to Market is committed to improving the entire ecosystem with regenerative agriculture, which provides benefits for the soil, water, air and animals,” said Chris Keaton, co-leader of Land to Market. “By joining Land to Market, Tapestry and Coach have committed to making a positive impact on the earth by restoring the land through regenerative agriculture.”

In other energy-saving moves, New York-based Tapestry, which owns Stuart Weitzman and Kate Spade New York in addition to Coach, has pledged to use renewable electricity in its stores, offices and fulfillment centers by 2025 and established the $50 million Tapestry Foundation to advance equity and opportunity and to combat the climate crisis.

Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.