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Coach Begins Transformation Into Lifestyle Brand With New Flagship Store

Coach's makeover is in full swing with a new CEO and creative director in place -- most prominently with the opening of its fancy pants remodeled New York flagship, dubbed its “next generation store.”
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Coach's makeover is in full swing with a new CEO and creative director in place -- most notably with the opening of its remodeled New York flagship, dubbed its “next generation store.”

We've gotten a few sneak peeks over the past couple of years at Coach's revamp efforts: the debut of the Legacy collection, the production of a few pieces of ready-to-wear and an enhanced shoe range. And during last month's WWD summit, new CEO Victor Luis outlined his plans to expand Coach into a luxury brand positioned to compete with the likes of Tory Burch and Michael Kors.

Can Coach do it? The answer perhaps lies in the brand's new Fifth Avenue store, which we checked out last Friday when it opened.

The space bears no resemblance to its predecessor. It's subtly separated into multiple rooms -- a strategy that will accommodate the company's growth into a lifestyle brand. Currently, one room houses the brand's first fairly full women's ready-to-wear offerings, which are heavy on outerwear, given the season. Another room, which has its own entrance on 16th Street, is dedicated to men's clothing and accessories. It has an overall manlier feel, which will surely appeal to guys who don't want to feel like they're shopping in a purse store. There's also a lovely shoe salon for the brand's expanding footwear range.

Tan, saddle-stitched leather accents add to the store's air of luxury, adorning the edges of tables and chairs. In fact, the entire dressing room (of which there is only one) floor is crafted from it, and we're told the whole facade of the upcoming South Coast Plaza store in California will be made out of the stuff. (They couldn't do this with the New York store because it's in a historic building.)

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And, like so many retailers these days, the store boasts several technological bells and whistles: Namely, a 12-foot LED screen near the store's entrance, which displays the holiday campaign, featuring Karlie Kloss and Liu Wen. Additionally, there is a "hidden" cash wrap near the men's section, but sales associates are also equipped with iPads to make transactions. Welcome to the future!

The product has also made a noticeable transformation. An entire front section is dedicated to the Borough collection, a line of sleek, on-trend satchels that range in price from $378 to $1,198 for a leopard version. With the exception of a $10,000 Legacy tote, this is about as expensive Coach's bags get, at least for now. Luis recently detailed plans to debut more bags in the $2,000 to $5,000 range. The clothes, which were not designed by new creative director Stuart Vevers (his designs won't hit shelves until next fall), are not particularly exciting or trend-driven, but they appear to be of good quality and fit in with the brand's overall aesthetic.

Basically, the whole thing is fancy. During what was arguably the height of popularity of its logo-stamped purses (the late '90s), Coach was definitely considered the high-end store at the mall. But, it was at the mall, and teens shopped there. This space feels much more like that of an upscale brand, though not to the point where we felt like we didn't belong there. We genuinely have no complaints -- it actually gave us a strong urge to shop, though we're not sure if that was because of some genius merchandising strategy or the fact that we're just shopaholics and it was a Friday.

Click through for more photos.