for the birds

Reed Krakoff Says His Bird Print Was an Afterthought

Photo: Andrew H. Walker/2012 Getty Images

Reed Krakoff appeared at New York’s French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) last night for its Fashion Talks series, where he talked a lot about … birds. “There was a story this weekend in a newspaper about these birds in fashion prints,” he said. “It was something that was just added at the last minute. Because we were finished with the collection pretty much and I kept saying we need something  surprising, something that was unexpected. So I was looking around the office and I had been looking at those prints and we just kind of pushed them into the collection.”

Of managing both Coach and his own eponymous line, Krakoff explained, “One is like a teenager and the other is like a baby. … They’re like having two children, they really are. And I already have four children, so I actually have six children!” One of Krakoff’s actual (human) children was present at the event and asked her dad a question during the audience Q&A. (She wanted to know his favorite piece he’s designed. Answer: The Boxer bag.)

Here’s a roundup of Krakoff’s other morsels of wisdom.

Reed Krakoff on his parent’s support: “My dad would not let me go to Parsons unless I got a degree in economics [from Tufts] — and I barely got it. When I told my mom about my plan to become a fashion designer, she just looked me in the eye and said, ‘What if you’re no good?’ And then she said, ‘Nobody makes any money doing that.’ … [Later on] I was so proud when I got a job at Narciso Rodriguez and I came home and called my dad and said I got this job, and he said, ‘Wow that’s great, how much are they paying you?’ I said, ‘Nothing!’ And he said, ‘That must have been hard to get.’

On getting started at Coach: I don’t know if I can make it clear what kind of courage this man [Lew Frankfort, chairman of Coach] had hiring me. … I met with the head of HR, I thought I killed it, I came back and their comment to Lew was, ‘It’s your funeral if you hire this kid.’

On failing and almost getting fired: “One of the gifts I’ve had at Coach is the ability to fail and the ability to try things. When I started, I had a lot of failures, and of course at some point I was told that if I had another one, I wasn’t going to be there. That’s actually true. A lot of designers don’t have that kind of time. I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve been able to kind of flail around and try things. And fail. You have to.”

On fashion critics: “During my career exclusively with Coach I won CFDA awards and accessory awards … all kinds of good things and I never really had a critic talk about me. … [With the Reed Krakoff brand] it’s definitely part of the game. But I’ve learned a lot from any difficult criticism and it’s made me better for sure. … There’s something that I’ve done after every collection is finished — I sit with the design team, and I tell them how I feel about it before the reviews, because I don’t want anyone to think I’m waiting until some person sitting at a computer somewhere tells the world that they loved it or they hated it.”

On young designers: “I feel a lot for designers today — they don’t get time from the big companies. They get two collections, and they have to redefine a brand, and get great reviews, and be commercially successful, and have an iconic handbag. It’s just not possible. And I think unfortunately that’s what people expect these days.”

Reed Krakoff Says Bird Print Was an Afterthought