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Coach Design Competition

Written by admin | Jun 07, 2011.

Written by: Joel Harding

In the Fashion student’s junior year, one is inundated with design competitions. Each contest has different requirements and potential prizes, some include trips to Europe, and others offer scholarships.

The hand-bag design competition with Coach was a new one this spring, which offered BFA, and AAS students in their junior or senior years a chance to design 8-10 handbags using Coach’s materials, hardware and silhouette. The task was to re-interpret a Coach classic: the leather duffle bag. This bag is a plain one-strap shoulder carryall for women.

Students with their Coach materials

Jessica Dover, Youjin Seo, Joel Harding, Reed Krakoff, Nelson Santovenia and Natalie Cheah

Joel working with Coach design team

My 10-bag collection was designed around the idea of the golden ratio and scientific beauty found in the natural world. Each bag I designed was measured out to fit numbers included in the Fibonacci sequence, and the color palette was derived from wild flowers.

This past semester, I changed my personal focus from womenswear to accessory design. Accessory design is a brand new focus area within the fashion department, so it is a very exciting, ground-breaking time.

With my personal specialization being in handbags and shoes, when I heard about the Coach Competition I immediately started sketching. Following the first round of design submissions, The Coach design team selected their top 5 candidates who were invited into the coach offices on 34th street to participate in the manufacturing of 1 of their 10 designs. The process was a dream come true for any design student- having the ability to see your design come to life and working side by side with the talented pattern makers and hand-bag engineers of a global company such as Coach allowed me to really see the complete design process from start to finish.

Joel explaining his floating strap

The process involved multiple creative team meetings. We worked on developing patterns, drafts and lots of problem solving. This included an hour-long discussion about how to realize a particularly tricky part of the strap I had designed! I had to communicate the strap vision from my sketches to the engineers, which was quite a challenging process. I wanted the strap to float seamlessly, and free of rivets, which as you can see from the photos, turned out perfectly. Thank you to the Coach team of three designers and two bag-engineers, who helped create my vision, which resulted in my winning the competition.

Joel's final bag

For me this process, and the subsequent internship at Coach has re-enforced my goal to be an accessory designer. I continue to learn how the industry functions with this on the job training and guidance over the summer months.

Creative Director Reed Krakoff is a wonderful mentor, and I would be overjoyed to follow his career path leaving Parsons.  However, my focus for now is on finishing my senior year in school, and creating and producing my thesis collection. But you can be certain I’ll be including hand-bags!

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6 Responses Subscribe to comments


  1. Theresa Kudryk

    As an accessory afficianado, I am extremely pleased and delighted to see such a new and sophisticated design from this young Canadian designer – Joel Harding. Congratulations Joel!

    Jun 22, 2011 @ 2:38 pm


  2. Daniel

    does the competition also include african fashion designers?

    Jul 02, 2011 @ 2:46 pm


  3. Gretchen

    Hello Daniel,
    Thank you for your interest in our competition with Coach. I am unsure as to the nationality of all of the students in the competition. If there is one student designer in particular you wanted to contact, please let me know. Thank you again.
    Best,
    Gretchen Harnick

    Jul 07, 2011 @ 10:47 pm

  4. I enjoyed reading the very interesting and informative article on the Coach design competition. Having seen many Coach purses over the years and quality of design, leather and craftmanship that goes into each handbag is visually captivating.
    A woman can have an immediate elevation of status just by owning a “real” Coach purse.
    Joel Harding is very talented and fortunate to win the competition and see his design come to fruition with help of Coach’s superb design team.

    Sep 28, 2011 @ 5:27 am


  5. Gretchen

    Thanks Ronald. That is so nice to hear.

    Oct 10, 2011 @ 7:49 pm


  6. wen wang

    I want to go to parsons. it’s my dearm……….

    Jan 20, 2012 @ 12:07 am

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