Some of the clothes are selling well, Vevers has said, but Burke believes they’re more about image than sales. ”It’s really meant to help in repositioning the brand and elevating it,” he says.

It’s hard to restore the luster of a brand that been overexposed in the mass-market, but there are noteworthy precedents, including Gucci and Burberry. As Burke points out, Gucci was mostly known as a mass-market handbag and accessories brand before Tom Ford took over as creative director, and made it supremely sexy, in the 1990s. And Burberry was a coat resource until Rose Marie Bravo helped it develop into a complete luxury house.

Whether this year will prove a similar turning point for Coach remains to be seen, but 2016 is important regardless. It’s the 75th anniversary of the company, which started as a family-run workshop in New York—in 1941, of course—making leather goods.

In 1996, Coach hired Reed Krakoff as creative director. He was instrumental in reworking the brand’s image and expanding the business into what it is today. Coach became ubiquitous in American malls and grew internationally, pioneering the affordable-luxury space now filled with American brands such as Michael Kors and Kate Spade. But the shine faded, and Vevers replaced Krakoff in 2014, the same year Luis took over as CEO.

It makes sense in that context that Kalinsky calls Coach 1941 a “natural evolution” of the brand rather than a change of course. It’s more than just a pivot away from recent history—it’s laying groundwork for the future, and it’s making Coach a brand to watch.

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