The Luxury Beat: A Chat with Coach CEO Victor Luis

Victor Luis, CEO of Coach
Victor Luis, CEO of Coach

Photo Credit: Coach

In this, the first of our columns on the luxury sector, we chat with Victor Luis, Coach CEO and the man behind the brand’s astonishing turnaround. He has focused on the company’s heritage as a purveyor of artful workmanship and modern luxury and its skill at strategic store positioning. At a time when global turbulence has caused luxury sales to dive, Coach announced growth in third-quarter sales, showing double-digit growth in China and Europe. This year marks the U.S. brand’s 75th anniversary, and in honor of the occasion, Coach remodeled its SF flagship boutique on the corner of Post and Grant streets. It’s now home to the West Coast’s first Craftsmanship Bar where Coach fans can have their leather goods and accessories monogrammed or otherwise personalized. Coach: A Story of New York Cool, a new book that chronicles the brand’s history, comes out in October. Here, Luis discusses challenges that Coach faces and where he plans to dine the next time he’s in SF.

Has the idea of luxury changed since you started at Coach a decade ago?
The context of luxury is always changing. Competition has intensified over the last few years with an increasingly complex global marketplace. Coach had been known as a leading international accessories company, and with this in mind we made a conscious plan to transform ourselves. Over the last three years, we have flourished and we continue to grow into a global, modern luxury lifestyle brand. We launched the modern luxury concept in our stores; it is warm, sophisticated, and refined, yet playful and authentic. It speaks to our unique heritage and focus on craftsmanship and is a palette that allows for [Coach Creative Director] Stuart Vevers’ vision to come to life. At Coach, it’s about being true to who we are— evolving our playbook and owning a positioning that only we can have. It’s about our democratic, distinctly New York view of luxury.

What’s the biggest challenge for any luxury brand today?
Differentiating your brand, being covetable, relevant, and talked about. We believe in connecting to emotion; offering truly innovative product and brand experiences is key. Our collaboration with Disney in June and our work with artist Gary Baseman are examples of how we like to deliver an unexpected Coach point of view that we hope delights and inspires. In short, [it’s about] being innovative while holding on to our values of quality, craftsmanship, and great function that are so much a part of our 75-year heritage.

What distinguishes the San Francisco market from other cities?
Whether conjuring the next disruptive technology, crafting the latest in culinary innovation, or creating visionary programs to support our kids, San Francisco has always been an energizing city full of pioneers. I love that San Francisco is full of those willing to ask “ questions and take risks to make dreams reality. San Francisco is also a global city, and we need to constantly cater to tastes and styles from around the world.

What are you most excited about for fall from Coach?
Stuart Vevers’ Fall collection. It’s an exploration of Americana reimagined for urban life, a fresh take on nostalgic, classic American sports and varsity icons that is totally unique and different. Everything is very cool and fun.

What is your greatest extravagance?
My house in Rhode Island, near the beaches of Watch Hill. Having lived all over the world, I consider myself a global citizen, but the seashore of Rhode Island is my home and where family comes together.

What achievement are you most proud of ?
Being the best dad I can be to my son, Alexander, and daughter, Emma. It’s a pleasure to see the world through their eyes, and the greatest gift I get everyday is the pride of watching them grow up to be good people.