By David Stuchbury
Michael Kors vs DKNY vs Coach
Three comparable but distinct fashion brands’ bag options.
All high quality. All featuring a tempting selection of designer handbags and leather bags (although not always leather – do watch out) across their ranges.
Premium to lower/entry luxury brands from DKNY, Michael Kors to Coach. Each with a very different history and subtly different approach to branding and design. Each with a different set of fortunes (befitting these strange times). The question is, which one (although let’s be honest, you’ll want more than one) is for you?
Much depends on your budget, and if money is your main concern then, by referencing the varied price points, your choices couldn’t be much simpler. You start with premium handbags by DKNY: Once the darling of the New York catwalk, Donna Karen’s departure from the empire she founded has seen DKNY slip quite comfortably and respectably into the competitive premium market. Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger operate in a space around or a little upward of DKNY’s position, if you’re shopping around. Expect quality.
Next is close, but it has to be Michael Kors. The American entrepreneur has always had an eye and a handle on the premium arena and – while unprecedented expansion and success has led to a runway reservation – his mere ubiquity makes MK bags a premium/lifestyle choice. MK has reached saturation point, but with quality a given and prices not extravagant, he remains a popular choice for the many. Kate Spade bags and Tory Burch offer interesting alternatives. Expect good quality.
Coach has the history, and a rebranding during lockdown that has made them the current favourite amongst those in the know. Expect two things from Coach in the coming year or two – a focus more on a young consumer base for Coach women and a slight hike in prices. For now, they sit on a fence between high stakes premium and luxury. Ralph Lauren is an often creative alternate option. Expect great quality still shy of the peaks you’ll reach with Gucci or Louis Vuitton.
A little History
Michael Kors is the all-American success story: rising from a background in retail in New York, his look is best summed up as casual jetsetter, clean-lined and sporty with bright colours a frequent plus point.
His designs may not be avant-garde or risqué, but they’ll provide a generally sleek accompaniment to clothes that draw a soft line between sophisticated work-meets-leisure wear.
DKNY would appear to tick many of the same boxes you check with Michael Kors, although the latter is more business-oriented New York brand with an increasing focus on smart casuals.
Both brands were prominent in the 90s following massive international expansion. DKNY has changed direction since the departure of Donna Karen as chief designer and is no longer considered in the luxury bracket, having stopped delivering a runway collection in 2017 when it played heavily on the athleisure theme.
To some, Michael Kors has also reached an unreturnable point of saturation, with hundreds of stores around the world and some question mark over the originality of some of his ideas. Nevertheless, as with many premium brands, while you may not always find radical new designs in his collections, there’s much to be found for those with the right eye and an insistence on smart quality
Coach differs in that its history dates back to the forties (it’s also a New York brand) and because the focus has always been almost exclusively on the production of leather goods and bags. A little more design nous granted due to its early innovations in leather and locking parts, but you pay a little more for this.
Where to Start?
DKNY totes are not uncommonly in the same price range of Michael Kors products, and there was a time when prices upwards of this were common in the brands mid-nineties runway-rocking heyday. Nowadays, expect to pay around £100 for cross body bags, sometimes with a leather covering, but frequently made from PVC or polyurethane.
Handbags, with a similar leather finish can be bought for around £100, but as full leather is introduced into the line, expect better quality and more original designs with plays on the DKNY logo in graffiti or in charm bracelet locks well clear of the £150 mark
For Michael Kors, starting with crossbody bags at around the £200 mark, your travels and related luggage will ascend skyward of £250 for a quality tote or sling pack, further for a desirable backpack and further still for [men’s] duffle bags, and suitcases.
Mini bags, cross body, satchels and smaller totes are usually canvas or desirable (and genuine) Saffiano leather with either the MK logo ingrained in the pattern of the bag, or as hardware logo for all leather looks in various colours.
Shoulder bags, currently stocking in quilted or woven leather or with many of the usual imprints and styles, can be expected to retail north of £300. Michael Kors Collection is your entry point into the luxury sphere, with bucket bags in leather or calf hair in the vicinity of £850.
Coach bags starts playing at around £300 for smaller ‘swinger’ style bags and then runs up to around £400/£500 for totes and onward through variously coloured and textured-leather shoulder bags, with a few signature styles selling for over £600.
Piece by Piece – What we Love
- Michael Kors Grained Leather Voyager Tote Bag
Michael Kors bags are famed for their use of Saffiano leather (made popular by Gucci), which features a machine-imprinted grain and is frequently coated with a synthetic-like sheen for a modern look. The Voyager appears at first site to be part-leather/part canvas, but look closer and that repeated MK logo is actually ingrained on leather.
- Nouveau Hamilton Small Satchel Bag
With double top handles with a removable, adjustable cross-body strap, a top zip closure and gold coloured hardware, this modern update on the Hamilton collection comes with the same repeated MK logo embossed over pebbled Saffiano leather.
- Charlotte Handbag
The Charlotte is a crisply designed handbag with added ‘origami’ style side flaps that fold out to provide extra storage space, making it a surprisingly voluminous bag; a pre-tote if you will. With subtle silver-coloured hardware, it downplays ostentation in favour of a smooth finish and all-business silhouette; black is therefore our preferred colour, but red, light pink and light blue all light the mood and emphasize the MK penchant for versatility and aspirational leisure.
- DKNY Elissa Shoulder Bag
Gold coloured hardware on a black grained leather base. A smart boxed-style make this the prototypical DKNY work accessory; it could almost have emerged from out of one of Donna Karen’s late eighties collection, easily perched on the shoulder of a politician’s wife. The locket charm and DKNY block logo tone things down ever so slightly.
- DKNY Bryant Cross-body bag
Like the Elissa, the Bryant is a no-nonsense little accessory that functions as a day or night go-to. Featuring magnetic clasp closing, adjustable shoulder strap and hardware in gold-coloured metal with a toned-down pendant; the Bryant is available in a myriad of colours, and on this occasion we might be tempted away from black to dark blue; it still adheres to the DKNY bags’ sensible door code, but allows for a little manoeuvring through shades of blue, grey and even red in your main wardrobe items.
- DKNY Jacquard Large Tote Bag
A little jewel in the DKNY crown; a tote after all is the bag that’s going to receive some heavy non formal action and that – for this – can probably be premium instead of out-and-out luxury. In appearance, the Jacquard ticks all the luxury boxes anyway; attractive logo façade and spacious, split/zipped interior complement its conservative cream and tan finish to make it a pretty accessory for street and leisurely concerns.
- Coach Black Leather Clutch Bag
The quality of the leather and the easy (but undoubtedly first-class) build of this clutch are what stand out. In various guises, what the C logo (bold but not ostentatious) and all-round gold-coloured hardware steal the day. Coach is clearly a step-up; OK none of the runway histrionics of other luxury brands and Coach sells hard on its label, but also on a reputation for delivering the goods that will only grow.
- Coach Accordion Zip Around Purse
A Coach staple, but rest assured, the younger crowd are also searching out these cross-grain leather beauties in their original form. The horse and carriage print variant ads a little subtle brand-love, and with Coach riding high following a nostalgic but also forward-thinking A/W 2021 video campaign, expect stocks and street-cred to fly into luxury realms
- Hutton Shoulder Bag
Featuring the Coach-made-famous turn-lock key enclosure, the Hutton is formal in comportment, ultra-practical inability with slip and zipped internal pockets to get you through a multi-functioning and busy day.
And the Winner is …
Really it’s a matter of price over style. DKNY offers some fantastic-looking, dynamic and good quality bags for those who don’t expect leather (all the time) and are not expecting to turn heads as they step onto 5th Avenue.
Michael Kors might just be what half of 5th Avenue is carrying right now; such popularity comes at the expense of true originality, but there are still multiple jewels in the MK crown and quality (in Saffiano leather) is a given.
Coach is riding a wave of popularity at the moment that is unprecedented in recent years. They’re the closest thing (in style and undoubted quality) that mere mortals can get to a couture invitation. If price is no hindrance here, they win. But if price is no hindrance, how about a Gucci?
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