Kevin Krier, founder and chief executive officer of Kevin Krier and Associates, died Wednesday in San Francisco at the age of 64.
The longtime fashion show producer died after a short illness, according to Anne Taylor-Davis.
Forward-thinking in his approach to fashion shows, award galas and image-making, Krier was among the first to encourage designers to pull back the curtain on their runway shows, collections and glamorous lives. Krier was an established presence on the American and European fashion scene for many years. Krier produced Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent shows for 10 years in collaboration with designer Tom Ford. Krier also orchestrated the annual CFDA Awards from behind the scenes for 15 years, including the gala when Princess Diana bestowed an award to the late Harper’s Bazaar editor Liz Tilberis. In the years before social media, he understood the power of celebrity and the importance of young designers to be seen. In a 2010 interview, he told WWD how important it was for them “to be out there, because people’s memories are very short.”
His client list was an encyclopedia of designers Giorgio Armani, Carolina Herrera, Tommy Hilfiger, Todd Oldham, Wolfgang Joop, P. Diddy’s Sean Jean, Badgley Mischka, Ellen Tracy, Ronaldus Shamask, Nautica and David Chu, Kenneth Cole and Tiffany & Co.. The Hastings, Minnesota-born Krier earned a bachelor’s degree in theater arts at Macalester College. After moving to New York in 1979, he started his career in fashion at the storied shoe retailer Susan Bennis/Warren Edwards. Before celebrity dressing was an entity into itself, he excelled at wooing private clients and cultivating public relations. That experience no doubt served him well at his next job as a market editor at Esquire Magazine. From there, Krier joined the Men’s Fashion Association as associate fashion director under the late Chip Tolbert.
Krier ventured out on his own in the high-rolling late Eighties, opening KKA in 1987. The 30 years that followed were dedicated to creating runway extravaganzas and customized events for global brands, luxury companies and such charities as AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Heart Truth’s Red Dress Collection and Naomi Campbell’s Fashion For Relief foundation. The Red Dress event, for example, was among the first to recruit an all-celebrity lineup with fame-minded ones like Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian being among the numerous participants. In 1998, when 7th on Sixth (the precursor to New York Fashion Week) was looking to raise its profile, a 40-minute TV special featuring runway footage and backstage interviews with designers, journalists and fashion insiders was planned. Trans World International, IMG’s tv subsidiary, created the all-encompassing special that was hosted by model Carolyn Murphy with Krier’s production company. Krier understood that the masses would want to see what happens during collections week from a backstage interview to a runway point of view.
Former CFDA executive director Fern Mallis recalled Friday how Krier was involved with producing the CFDA awards, as “we transformed them from a very closed, elite event to one that embraced the whole fashion industry at Lincoln Center, and once at the [ 69th Regiment] Armory.” She added, “He was extremely creative and passionate and brought together a host of creative young filmmakers from Douglas Keeve to Spike Jonze, and many, many more to do videos for the designers. He corralled great presenters from Cher to Elton John, Peter Fonda, and Audrey Hepburn.”
Krier also produced hundreds of memorable runway shows in the tents at Bryant Park for all the major designers, Mallis said. “He loved being the maestro in this business, pulling together all the best creative teams to make fashion magic. He definitely made a difference.”
Taylor-Davis said of Krier, “His background in theater served him very, very well in that he understood not only the art of theater, but the mechanics of how to make a stage work and how to give a fashion show something of a theatrical environment. Kevin did so many of those incredible shows for Tom Ford. [There was] one where the runway was a mass of rose petals. There were disco balls. There was just everything.”
She said she hired Krier in 1985 as director of special events. “We used to do a lot of retail events for our clients — in the days, when you can imagine, yes, brick-and-mortar stores. I know that all sounds made up.”
In a 1996 interview with WWD, Krier spoke of the importance of music in fashion shows and his intrinsic analysis of the crowds. “I can see from my booth when the music is working because the audience becomes transfixed and taken away.” He said, “What works is something that is fresh or interesting to the audience, pieces that jog their memories, but not too literally.”
But Krier did have a final say at times. “I think if someone asked me to use the Macerena, I’d kill them and then fire myself,” Krier said.
Krier was also candid about life’s mindless guilty pleasures in a 2010 interview. Asked about his fashion week coping mechanisms, Krier admitted to DVR-ing the ABC soap opera “One Life to Live.” He said, “I know I should say something chic like I go to Pastis. But once I have my ‘One Life to Live’ fix, I can go do anything.
Two years ago, Krier waved good-bye to Manhattan, decamping to the West Coast where he divided his time between St. Helena, Calif., and San Francisco.
Krier is survived by his mother Shirley and two sisters Barbara Stricker and Kim, and two brothers Kerry and Jeff. Funeral services will be private, but a memorial service is being planned.