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The History Of Designer Handbags

Updated on October 21, 2015


Handbags have been around since biblical times. They are one of the most sort after and most popular accessory to add to your fashion wardrobe especially from a woman’s point of view. Handbag manufacturing is a multi-billion dollar business and there are hundreds of companies, small and large, that have been in this business for many years. Believe it or not, putting a handbag over your shoulder is something that was once very popular among men because they did not have pockets many centuries ago. Even though it was started by men it is now a predominantly woman thing. Today there are several major handbag designers out there, namely, Coach, Dooney & Bourke, Gucci, Prada, B. Makowsky and many more. In this hub I will give a brief background and description on three of the most popular designers; Coach, Dooney & Bourke and B. Makowsky.

Coach Handbags

Coach Incorporated was found in 1941 in loft in Manhattan under the partnership of a family owned company called the Gail Manufacturing Company. In it early days the company main line of products were small leather goods such as wallets and other small Leather products. By 1957 the Coach brand was introduced and the company changed it name to Gail Leather Products, Inc. During this time a new leather processing method was discovered to make the leather strong, durable, soft and more affordable. As a result, this process lead to the introduction of handbags in the Coach brand lineup. Some of the other features added during the 1960s to the handbags that made Coach more popular were the addition of side pockets, coin purse and brighter colors. Back then most purses were made in the classic hues of brown and tan. Today the name of the company is, The Coach Farm Corporation, which also produce goat cheese under the Coach Farm trademark. Beside goat cheese, Coach now makes both ladies and men handbags, luggage, briefcases, belts, shoes, umbrellas, sunglasses just to name a few. The headquarters is still located in New York at 516 West 34th Street.

Dooney & Bourke Handbags

Dooney & Bourke is a relative young company. Peter Dooney and Frederic Bourke started the company in 1975. The two products sold initially were suspenders and surcingle belts. In case you guys do not know what a surcingle belt is, it a wide strap that runs over the back and under the belly of the horse, used to keep a blanket or other equipment in place. By 1981, Dooney & Bourke went into the handbag business with the introduction the Tack Case and Equestrian Bag. Both of these were made from tough leather used to make bridle for horses. Later in 1983 they produced an All weather Leather Bag from leather that was made waterproof by using a process to shrink the pores in it. The main Dooney & Bourke store is located in Norwalk, Connecticut and the store currently sells such products as Ipod cases, bracelets, watches, clothes, shoes and handbags.

B. Makowsky Handbags

B. Makowsky is the youngest of the three handbag companies mentioned here. Bruce Makowsky and his wife, Kathy Van Zeeland, started this company in 2006. The goal of their business was to created high-end handbags at a more reason price. Their handbags are made from Japanese dyed drum leather and the characteristics of their bags are the bold and sturdy hardware on them. Interior pockets and exterior pockets along with a satin-finished hardware and a strong sense of functionality are their signature features of these handbags. You can catch Bruce Makowsky and his wife on QVC from time to time promoting their handbags.

Types of Handbags

Designer handbags come in many styles for every occasion and for everyone’s taste. Here is a list of the types of handbags currently sold in retailers today.

  • Satchels & Carryalls- a small to medium size bag, often with a shoulder strap, used for carrying books and personal belongings.
  • Totes – a small bag, generally smaller than a satchel or carryall with handles.
  • Hobos and Flaps – a small bag with handles that have the general shape of hobo bags
  • Crossbody Bags - a small bag with a long strap for hanging the bag over shoulder with the strap transversing your torso.
  • Swingpacks - a small light bag often held by the handles while walking.
  • Baby Bags - a large bag for carrying baby items.
  • Backpacks - a large bag often worn on your back for carrying heavier items.

Men started the handbag thing...

Men with handbag
Men with handbag


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    • melpor profile image

      Melvin Porter 6 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      Leisha, thanks for your comment and for stopping by to read my hub.

    • profile image

      ieisha 6 years ago

      i really love your bags

    • melpor profile image

      Melvin Porter 7 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      Myisisters, thanks for stopping by. Remember a pair of pants did not always have pockets. Men use to carry a sack or something similar to present day handbags to carry their small personal items before they started wearing pant or before they added pockets to them.

    • mysisters profile image

      mysisters 7 years ago

      Great Hub. I never knew that it was once very popular for men to be carrying around a handbag. Another type of handbag is a clutch. Perfect for a night out or shopping when you don't want to carry a big handbag.

    • melpor profile image

      Melvin Porter 7 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      Edoka, thanks for your comment. I hope you understand why some men are walking around with handbags. They started the whole thing and women later glamorized it.

    • Edoka Writes profile image

      Edoka Writes 7 years ago

      A fun hub! Thank you!

    • melpor profile image

      Melvin Porter 7 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      Arlecchino, thanks for your comment. I wrote this hub to give the women out there some background info on some of these companies because a lot of handbag businesses started from farming related activities, such horse saddles and bridles.

    • Arlecchino profile image

      Arlecchino 7 years ago from Top of the Cloud

      Great and informative hub about so important topic for girls & women. You chose amazing handbags and now I want one of them :)

    • melpor profile image

      Melvin Porter 7 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      Katiem2, thanks for the comment. That picture illustrates how important handbags are to woman in general. They must have one for every color, dress, or suit, they have and for every occasion they attend.

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

      I love the picture of the person with all the handbags. I must confess, I adore handbags and am always on the look for a great new handbag. It's so important to have what I need at hand, easily accessible and well organized. I really enjoyed your great review and information on something about handbags. Peace :)