for the birds

Reed Krakoff Says His Bird Print Was an Afterthought

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