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“It’s more about, ‘What is my personal aesthetic?’” he says. “What do I feel is natural and believable, and something that I believe in? I do think that American design is incredibly important in the world of fashion and the world of design and architecture. It’s very inspiring and fertile, and that’s really more the reason.
“The real excitement for me is that I’ve really been able to focus in a very narrow way on ready-to-wear and on creating a real holistic approach to how that woman looks in terms of the cross-categories, like what is evening in this world and what is day? And what do we want to stand for? What is really the look of the collection?”
The brand is positioned at the designer level, and in addition to targeting upscale specialty and department stores, Krakoff will open his first freestanding store at 831 Madison Avenue between 69th and 70th streets this August, with plans for several more units nationwide and internationally.
Graziano de Boni, president of the Reed Krakoff business, said the company is looking at the new brand as an opportunity from the consumer point of view. He declined to make first-year sales projections. “We will be bringing a new, design-driven collection with a lot of innovation, craftsmanship and quality and price,” says de Boni, who joined from Prada USA. “We know that, over the last 10 years, between the boom and the deflation of the Great Recession, there has been a whole new market created in the luxury world. The retail world is looking for new opportunities and new brands, and novelty and newness, and we want to be one of them. We want to be a very important brand in this new decade in this new millennium.”
In addition to its own freestanding retail, de Boni says the distribution strategy calls for wholesale accounts strategically selected in the beginning, as well as e-commerce.
“We want to be strategic in that respect, and make sure that the brand and the business are cultivated in the right way, capturing the new consumer need in the designer world that is out there,” de Boni says.
As for Krakoff, some may wonder why he would want more — particularly with an already healthy career at Coach that has garnered him the respect of industry peers and made him extremely wealthy.
“My career has been a really organic experience,” Krakoff says. “For me, it’s important to continue to grow and challenge myself, and be inspired and explore new areas. It’s also a much more focused and pointed experience for me. The other experience is more about brand architecture and being able to holistically manage all these variables that make something successful.”
Coach and Reed Krakoff are being kept completely apart with separate teams and offices, and Krakoff says working on both has helped each.
“When I’m on one side, I have a little distance from the other,” he says. “It really keeps it very clean in my head. It’s helpful for me to go between the two. I think they inform each other. They help give me a little distance and keep me inspired. But it’s a very different experience, and it’s something I’ve really enjoyed.”
The new brand is likely to expose a new side of Krakoff that few have seen before — one he says is completely different from his work at Coach. Unlike most of his peers, who create a designer apparel line first before moving into a more mainstream realm, Krakoff is all too aware that he is on a reverse course, and he likes it, not least because it has given him an insight into designing as a means to sell.
“It has to be real. It can’t be clothes just for the runway,” he says. “I find it is a real trap to do clothes just for image. You have to create things that help you start to explore what the brand is about. People are so smart and so sensitive to what’s out there. People are so informed that everything you do has to be real.”