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Who Is Reed Krakoff, the Man Behind the New Tiffany & Co.?

By Guan Tan

 
Tiffany & Co.
 

Since the American fashion designer Reed Krakoff came on board in 2017, worldwide net sales for Tiffany & Co. climbed. In September this year, his first jewellery collection christened "Paper Flowers", will drop in stores. The brand has dubbed it the most significant launch since the famed Tiffany Keys, effectively bypassing the Tiffany T and HardWear collections. Yet, who is he?

Unlike many other fashion designers who have attained celebrity status and have their lives sprawled all over the internet, the American fashion designer Reed Krakoff's profile remains unaccounted for. The press knows that he was raised in Weston, Connecticut. To that, the 54-year-old designer vaguely expounded in an interview, "I grew up in the country, but as I got older — when I was in college and later — I became more of an urban person." Krakoff went from the country to New York City's Parsons School of Design and he graduated from the Associate's Degrees Fashion Design in 1989.

Post-graduation, Krakoff's trajectory was well-accounted for. He joined Anne Klein, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger — where he was fired in 1996 and he was grateful for it. "Tommy was like, 'Your heart isn't in it. You shouldn't be here.' We're friends. It was the best thing he ever did. It was amazing that he saw in me that it wasn't right for me anymore. He pushed me and I ended up at Coach."

Krakoff joined Coach in late 1996. He was 32 years old, and he went at godspeed. Krakoff cast his nets out far and wide — he designed and sold both clothes and accessories in the likes of raincoats, sunglasses, bags, hats, gloves, shoes, and scents. He reportedly made a US$500 million Coach into one that raked in more than US$4 billion in revenue. Later, he was dubbed the man "who made Coach". Some time down the road in 2009, the parent company of Coach decided to fund and launch an eponymous line for Reed Krakoff. This came in a time when Coach's sales activities were struck by recession, and sales and profit figures were dwindling. 

And the man who went at godspeed halted in his tracks abruptly. In 2013, Coach announced that Krakoff was leaving the brand in June 2014, and that would mean that Krakoff would have spent a good 17 years at Coach. Following that, rumours swirled that Krakoff "had simply walked away from his own brand". His eponymous brand ceased operations for good. Although the brand announced that they were in the midst of rebranding and will soon relaunch, the brand never did.

Till date, Reed Krakoff's eponymous brand has not seen a relaunch. Krakoff has, instead, invested his time and creative efforts to Tiffany & Co.
Till date, Reed Krakoff's eponymous brand has not seen a relaunch. Krakoff has, instead, invested his time and creative efforts to Tiffany & Co.

A year passed with no news from Krakoff. The next inkling of his activity came from the American jewellers, Tiffany & Co. in July 2016, when the brand announced an upcoming collaboration of accessories and household items. Subsequently, Tiffany & Co. named Krakoff their chief artistic officer. 

At this juncture, Tiffany & Co. was going through a dry season as well. In the fiscal year of 2015, the company announced that they "did not meet the expectations management held at the start of the year... worldwide net sales declined 3% to $4.1 billion in the year." And in 2016, "worldwide net sales of $4 billion were 3% lower than a year ago."

From an outsider's perspective, it was an arguably troubled beginning between a stronghold jewellery brand and a fashion designer who left his own brand high and dry indefinitely — and one who not formally trained in jewellery design. 

Yet, the two parties are hopeful for the resurrection that they both need. "I'm honoured to join Tiffany as chief artistic officer and fully dedicate my creative focus to this storied American luxury brand," Krakoff expressed in the company's statement. From the then-CEO, Frederic Cumenal, "[Reed's] expertise and creativity will continue to help build Tiffany as a global house of luxury." 

Since Krakoff's entry to the brand, the brand saw "worldwide net sales increased 4% to $4.2 billion in 2017," the brand's current CEO, Alessandro Bogliolo announced.

In May this year, Tiffany & Co. launched their first jewellery collection with Krakoff. It is "Tiffany's most significant fine jewellery launch since Tiffany Keys in 2009," the brand reveals.

Titled "Paper Flowers," it is a 40-piece collection of both high and fine jewellery items. Krakoff was inspired by the iris, and allegedly cut and collaged pieces of paper petals together. "We started designing with many petals pinned together, sort of cascading as though they had come apart and come back together with each petal and each flower [is] completely unique. It was truly crafted one petal at a time," Krakoff wrote about the collection.

T Magazine Singapore
"These flowers are made from abstract petals that are pinned together with rivets, juxtaposing highly polished platinum and pavé diamond petals for roughness that's still very delicate and refined," chief artistic officer of Tiffany & Co., Reed Krakoff expressed.
Tiffany & Co.
"The inspiration behind Paper Flowers was the concept of combining the organic and feminine seen through a modern and graphic lens."
Tiffany & Co.From left: A single earring studded with tanzanite and blue sapphires from the high jewellery collection; three other earrings from the fine jewellery collection.
From left: A single earring studded with tanzanite and blue sapphires from the high jewellery collection; three other earrings from the fine jewellery collection.

Krakoff stayed true to his style — he went big, but made sure there were items at accessible price points. Take, for instance, the queen of the Paper Flowers collection is a bib necklace encrusted with 68 carats worth of round and pear-shaped diamonds is set at US$790,000. Yet, sitting in the same collection is a pavé diamond bracelet priced at US$2,5000. 

At Coach, Krakoff shifted the bags and accessories paradigm — making it a necessary quotidian item, a need instead of a want. Here, at Tiffany & Co., Krakoff is looking to make the same paradigm shift for fine and high jewellery pieces. "What interests me is when something is wearable and useful as opposed to something you'd put away and only save for a special occasion... Paper Flowers is about stripping away all of the rules associated with your fine jewellery. Things are meant to be worn, so we used precious stones and the finest materials, but in a way that you can live with every day." 

Harking back to the point in time when Krakoff joined Tiffany & Co., questions like "Can Reed Krakoff Rescue Tiffany?" floated around. It seemed as though there was a general sense of skepticism —and it was not unfounded. Yet, so far, he has helped the American jeweller move forward.

Krakoff's Paper Flowers collection will only drop in September this year. And that leaves him four months till January 2019, when the fiscal year closes, to generate more growth. It sounds like a rush, but in Krakoff's go-big style, that is maybe not an issue. Krakoff has amped up his efforts greatly, even announcing a collaboration with rapper A$AP Ferg four days ago. So, back to the question, 'Can Reed Krakoff rescue Tiffany?' The answer is arguably clear: "yes".

Paper Flowers will be available in the six Tiffany & Co. stores in Singapore in September 2018.