Like its luxury leather, Coach's design only gets better with age. And not unlike any stylish grandmother, they spoiled us on their 65th birthday last fall by handing down their bright, modern "Legacy" collection, inspired by their own early designer, Bonnie Cashin. And it keeps getting better. They just opened a 1,200-square-foot Legacy store in New York City's West Village.

I talked to Stephanie Lake, creative director of the Bonnie Cashin Foundation and curator of her archive at UCLA to get the scoop on Bonnie Cashin, who died in 2000.

Cashin was hired by Coach founders Miles Cahan (who created the very first "duffle sac") to head their handbag design division. "Cashin loved to cross-reference industrial function with high fashion," says Lake, adding that she snapped up the idea for the signature toggle from everyday life—the hardware fastened on her convertible's top.

The toggle is just one theme throughout the new Legacy collection that encompasses vintage Cashin—polished, yet easy and fun—along with beautiful interiors and sturdy leathers. "She wanted a coat to look just as stunning hanging on the back of a chair—clothing was kinetic art to her." These days, Coach's line passes pieces of the legacy that, to Cashin at 89, was not yet finished.

It turns out Lake, who was a Sotheby's auctioneer 60 years younger than Cashin when they met, says they "just clicked—we were like sisters." Lake has spent the rest of her life paying tribute to the designs. Following years of exhaustive research, Lake plans to shop her book on Cashin, titled "Chic is Where you Find It," in the new year. Lake has also created the website, bonniecashinfoundation.com.

As for the personal legacy Cashin left Lake? "Ohh," says Lake, who owns her entire collection from 1945-85 pauses, and sounds sad for a moment. "She shaped the rest of my life — it was an enormous compliment that she entrusted me as her biographer. I wear her pieces every day."

Check out the Legacy store at 372-374 Bleeker Street; 212-206-8343.

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