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Reed Krakoff, the creative force behind Coach, is out to build the next great American fashion house — under his own name.
Reed Krakoff, as the new company is called, has been in the works for more than a year and will launch to retailers and editors in February with its first collections for fall 2010. The company is funded entirely by Coach Inc., which is likely to make it a hefty competitor on the fashion landscape, given Coach’s financial resources.
And, given Krakoff’s track record, nothing is being done halfway, from the separate offices for the brand to its scale — stretching from women’s ready-to-wear to jewelry to handbags and shoes — to plans to open freestanding stores worldwide.
“It’s the next generation of where American design is going,” Krakoff told WWD exclusively.
“It’s been exciting to do something really personal,” added the president and executive creative director of Coach, who has significant experience in rtw, having toiled at Anne Klein under Narciso Rodriguez and served in top positions for five years at Ralph Lauren before joining Coach 13 years ago.
In creating the collection, Krakoff is seeking to tap into what American rtw is about now, whether it’s in the form of a whisper-light, easy cashmere sweatshirt with seams trimmed in butter-soft leather, a cropped pouf skirt with patch pockets done in custom-printed matelassé or an organza shell coated in airy petals of the same material. On average, rtw will retail from $495 to $1,195.
“It’s a mix,” he said of the line’s aesthetic. “It’s a paradox, combining something poetic and beautiful with American utilitarianism.”
The line, which will cover fall, spring, pre-fall and resort, has been delineated as a separate entity from Coach based in rtw, with accessories, fragrance and other elements to round out the lifestyle mix. There is also talk of going into men’s and home furnishings, although no timing has been set.
“Initially, Reed Krakoff will be launched with a number of boutiques in the U.S., Japan and Hong Kong, as well as limited distribution in specialty stores,” said Coach chairman and chief executive officer Lew Frankfort. Krakoff said early plans are for up to 10 freestanding stores for the collection.
Reed Krakoff, the company, is housed in a separate building adjacent to Coach’s West 34th Street headquarters in Manhattan. Krakoff, who will keep an office in each building, has appointed a design team based in the new space. The firm is seeking to appoint a president and possibly other executives for the new venture.
“The most important thing to me is the idea of the brand being this idea of a paradox and that things are referential,” said Krakoff, who has collaborated extensively with artists, has expanded his creativity into photography and has been vice president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America since 2007.
The designer speaks often of “paradoxes” and that may be because, in the fashion industry, he himself can be said to be one. Not only does he immerse himself in all things aesthetic, but he also has a deep understanding of business, marketing and branding, and Krakoff is banking his line will marry all three, as well. He has an extensive knowledge of all aspects of the design world — from furniture to apparel — and doesn’t hesitate to discuss his ambitions for his own brand, expressing his admiration for the likes of Balenciaga and Miu Miu.
One of Krakoff’s first signature apparel designs made a quiet debut on his wife, Delphine, at this year’s CFDA Awards. The look was an elaborately appliquéd organza top and belted cummerbund miniskirt. Krakoff said the line is about experimentation, combining and layering fabrics and other media, such as Mylar sequins and coated paper, for an unexpected take.
“It’s about a new craftsmanship,” he said. “I want people to see and feel that.”
The fashion house’s main logo was inspired by the work of a Thirties silver maker with hints of constructivism composed of the initials RK, emanating concentric lines and arcs. In addition, there is a Cy Twombly-inspired scribble logo pattern and a geometric pattern that vaguely echo the designer’s initials that will show up in burnout velvet prints and the like.
While the line is rooted in apparel, accessories are a key component and several brand icons already have been established as identifiers. A vertical quilted ribbon motif will show up on everything from bags to jewelry to fixtures in the firm’s network of retail boutiques, as will a gold “bubble” that will appear on everything from jewelry to the zipper pull of a clutch.
Handbags, fashion jewelry with genuine gemstone elements, footwear and eyewear will be part of the mix for fall. Handbags will sell from $695 to $1,295.
Coach Inc., which reports its fourth-quarter and year-end sales and earnings today, certainly has the deep pockets to back such a full-fledged venture. For 2009, its sales are expected to rise to $3.23 billion from $537.7 million 10 years ago. While its growth has slowed somewhat given the economic downturn, the brand remains one of the industry’s strongest performers. But Coach shares fell sharply Monday on fears its return to growth might take longer than expected, and the launch of a venture like Reed Krakoff could turn out to be a significant engine for the future. Coach has been extremely cautious about launching apparel or other collections under its own brand.
Andrew Jassin, managing director of Jassin & O’Rourke Group, a New York industry consulting firm, said with a strong balance sheet and a great deal of patience, now could be an optimum time to launch a brand.
“This is a good time to experiment because expectations are a bit lower than ever before,” said Jassin.
“He’s going to have to get a consumer connection quickly,” he added of Krakoff. “America’s a place where people come to look at what we do. It’s still a focal point for consumerism.”
Krakoff is braced for such a challenge.
“We think there’s a major opportunity for modern American luxury,” he said. “[Today,] women have to fall in love. If you have to explain to people why they need it, you’ve lost it. It’s very intuitive.”