Smelling the Coach Leatherware series makes me wonder why Coach didn’t start its fragrance line with leather in the first place. Leather is a natural for Coach, a company — like Hermès — that started in the tack business. Also like Hermès, Coach expanded to leather bags and belts, then to clothing and perfume. But that’s where Hermès and Coach part company. Although Coach has upped its style quotient, its quality has taken a nosedive in the past decade. (Just try to find a new Coach handbag with a leather lining.) Coach’s fragrances? Entirely forgettable.
Leatherware gives me fresh hope for the company. Each fragrance has personality and development, and they stand up to some of my favorite leather perfumes. Let’s go over them one by one.
Leatherware No. 1
Notes include citrus, coriander, saffron, greens, nutmeg, woods, and baseball glove leather. In short, No. 1 is a whopper aromatic fougère with lashings of coriander, sugared citrus peel, and resinous herbs. Its notes don’t specify lavender, but if it’s not there, then a crafty coupling of cypress or pine and herbs are faking it. The coriander and nutmeg are big here, too, and No. 1’s leather can barely compete. The whole composition remains crisp, clean, and powerful, without much dirtiness, save the coriander.
No. 1 is the most “manly” of the three Leatherware fragrances, but in my mind it’s manly like a Hummer is manly. A real man doesn’t need to drive a Hummer in the city, you know what I mean? It seems to be a compensation for — well, this is a family blog, so I’ll drop it there. But to me, No. 1 is a lot of swagger. At least it’s a nice, solidly constructed swagger.
Leatherware No. 2
Notes include citrus, rhubarb leaves, black pepper, greens, thyme, oakmoss, patchouli, musk, and baseball glove leather. Despite its unfortunate numbering, No. 2 is my favorite of the group and probably the most feminine of the trio of fragrances marketed for men. No. 2’s sneezy pepper kicks off the fragrance, but it’s underscored by warm, sweet wood and greens. A crisp floral heart — ylang ylang? a hint of rose and maybe even violet leaves and jasmine? — cool the fragrance and make its soft leather more approachable.
But what’s really interesting about No. 2 is that in its middle is a watery pool of green. It isn’t ocean-like or cucumber-y, but it’s the wet of crushed, green stems plumped with vase water, and it freshens the fragrance without making it feel brisk. Pepper continues to keep No. 2 from getting flabby.
The fragrance ages into a sweet, fuzzy sandalwood-suede that isn’t overly clean. Fans of Lancôme Cuir de Lancôme who want something with more tingle might want to give No. 2 a try.
Leatherware No. 3
Notes include pink pepper, cardamom, lemon, cypress, orris, cedarwood, woods, patchouli, papyrus, vetiver, and — surprise! — baseball glove leather. On first sniff, my brain went straight to Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental. Vetiver stars in No. 3, and it's inky and chocolaty, warmed by its patchouli and wood. Citrus, cardamom, and resins freshen the fragrance, but they don’t butch it up to the same extent they do No. 1.
The sales associate at the Coach store where I made my samples said that No. 3 is his least favorite because it’s “too loud.” To me, No. 1 is louder. I find No. 3 rich and oily, but a dark green vetiver-crude-oil oily and not leather oily. No. 3’s pink pepper isn’t assertive, and the orris is very subtle. If you’re a fan of Lalique Encre Noir, Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental, or Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Route du Vetiver, you should give this one a try.
None of the Leatherware fragrances as dabbed from my sample tube last much longer than four or five hours, but they all have hearty sillage while they last — especially Nos. 1 and 3. They come in simple, chic bottles that somehow look both modern and retro.
I can only hope the Leatherware series is a sign that Coach is ready to step away from trying to please the masses with expensive yet cheaply made products and is edging toward a return to craftsmanship and vision. Fingers crossed.
Coach Leatherware No. 1, Leatherware No. 2 and Leatherware No. 3 are $95 each for 95 ml. So far, they’re only available at Coach boutiques and online.