Venerated fashion designer Reed Krakoff, 50, was born and raised in Connecticut. A graduate of Tufts University and Parsons the New School for Design, he worked for iconic American brands Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. In 1996, he assumed creative control at Coach, where he helped grow the company’s annual sales from $500 million to $4 billion. He launched the Reed Krakoff Collection in 2010 and left Coach last year to concentrate on his own brand. From 2006 to 2010, he served as vice president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and he has been honored as the CFDA’s Accessory Designer of the Year three times, most recently in 2012. He is also a published photographer. He frequently collaborates with his wife, the Paris-born interior designer Delphine Krakoff, with whom he has four children. He lives in New York.
Jonathan Soroff: I need a good man purse. When is Reed Krakoff going to do that?
Reed Krakoff: Soon. I’m looking forward to getting into men’s in the next couple of years.
For most brands, typically, handbags. Leather goods. The margins are higher, and women tend to buy more bags than other things these days. They carry one every day, after all.
Desire is number one. You have to make someone really covet the object. Then it has to have functionality and be unique.
In terms of my aesthetic, it’s still evolving. I’m heavily influenced by travel, the art world, the design world, popular culture. It’s always in flux. I think that’s what keeps the work interesting. So for me, it’s a never-ending process.
Yeah, my wife and I do all our interior design projects together. We also do the stores. And we’re doing a project that’s launching at the Milan Furniture Fair, which is exciting.
There’s no good taste or bad taste. There’s taste that’s developed, or not. I’m always interested in anybody with a unique approach, whether or not it appeals to me.
I always try to challenge it, which is different than doubting it. But I try to expand on what I think is interesting or appealing.
Jean-Michel Frank. He only lived until his 40s, and he died 73 years ago, but his work is still relevant and copied widely today. Also in the interiors world, Jacques Grange. My wife, Delphine. And then there’s a very prominent landscape architect, Perry Guillot. His work is really fascinating to me.
It’s funny, I’m not really inspired by periods. When I do inspiration boards, there’s never a historic theme. I don’t do vintage. I’m really more about the design itself and working with fabrics and leather and materials. It’s more an aesthetic that drives me.
Not in that way. I might be interested in images that catch my eye, the way colors are combined or something’s constructed, the way things are made. It’s more an abstract or structural thing.
The ’70s, by far. It just feels played out, and I don’t think it was that great the first time.
Oh, I fall in and out of love with everything I do. I don’t like to live with something too long or look at it constantly, so it changes. I have to leave it alone for a while and then rediscover it.
I designed one for my wife. One of the main components is vetiver, and then it has a citrus note to it, so it’s not totally feminine.
What do you think is the secret to reinvigorating these old luxury brands?
Every brand is unique, like people, and you really have to understand and pay attention to the personality and the history. I think that’s key. And the second is a lot of time. It takes a while.
Can I pick a few? We have a few who wear the clothing, carry the bags, wear the shoes. Michelle Obama for sure. Julianne Moore. Stella Tennant. As for someone we don’t have yet, I’ll name three: Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep and Rooney Mara.
Yeah. Definitely. The women who wear our clothes are really varied. Lots of different needs.
Yes, but also that you can only get that bag from that brand, and it kind of breaks a rule. It’s iconoclastic. It’s not a specific detail or color.
Good question. I’m hesitant to answer that. Why don’t I just say anyone who sells too much logo product.
To stay relevant. There’s no conclusion. It’s just to stay relevant, which is incredibly difficult. The market evolves. The economy changes.
It’s my favorite color. It’s the color of my stores. It’s a delicate color, but when it’s right, it’s perfect, because it can be so many things: cool, warm, masculine, feminine. It’s seasonless. I love gray.
It’s so funny. I’ve known him a long, long time, when he was at Parsons. I’m an alum. But I’m going to leave that decision to Tim.
It’s funny. When I was much younger, working for Ralph Lauren, he told a story about how he called the front desk one day, and they said, “Ralph Lauren.” He said, “This is Ralph Lauren,” and they were like, “Yes, it is.” He had to explain to the person that he actually was Ralph Lauren. So yeah, it is funny to call the office sometimes.
Sale items. They think that just because it’s a good deal, they should buy it, rather than because they love it. Better to buy one thing you love at retail than five things on sale.
Your definition of luxury?
Time…with nothing that you have to do.