Reed Krakoff’s New York office is a study in contrast, much like his eponymous two-year-old fashion label’s arty-meetsarchitectural aesthetic. Its white walls are tidily lined with an eclectic selection of art, including album covers, a portrait of an art-dealer friend, a Patti Smith sketch and, most surprisingly, a UFC glove (he’s a big fan of the sport).
Krakoff’s career shares similar contrasts: For the past 16 years, he has been president and executive creative director of Coach, the accessible luxury brand he helped transform into a multibillion-dollar powerhouse while developing his own ultra-luxe line on the side.
Last month, it was announced that Krakoff will be leaving Coach next year to concentrate on that line. (Coach has been a backer of the label, but it isn’t yet clear, according to Women’s Wear Daily, if it will be sold or to whom.) A few days after his departure plans were made public, he sat down with Globe Style to discuss the move, designing with intuition and the thrill of going it alone.
You are leaving Coach to focus on your own label. Why now?
We’re at the point where there’s so much excitement [around the Reed Krakoff brand] and so much opportunity that I really need to dedicate myself to it. And that’s really what drove [the decision]. We want to build a story and I just want to do that in a fuller way.
To date, you’ve launched Reed Krakoff handbags, jewellery, limited-edition fragrances and ready-to-wear lines. You also have flagship stores in New York and Tokyo. Where do you go from here?
I’ve done this for a while and I just know that you need to constantly stay ahead of what people expect. For example, we just did a project with a Kenyan engineer where I created an installation of solar lanterns that he made. I could barely get it done, but [projects such as this] will lead to something else in my work. They feed the dynamism of a brand.
You’re an avid art collector, you’re into industrial design and you even briefly studied jazz guitar. Do these interests outside of fashion influence the way you design clothes?
I don’t see myself in fashion. I see myself in design. I am in a business that’s about creating visual ideas and smashing them up and seeing what happens. I don’t think about [influences] that much. That’s one of the great things about working within your own brand. You can be incredibly intuitive and, if you give in to that, it’s what leads to having a strong style and a strong point of view.
Are you designing with a particular customer in mind? Or does each piece simply have to be interesting to you?
I’m really thinking about something that strikes me: the mix of intellect, strength, sexuality, timelessness. It’s something I cobble together by accident and not purposefully. At the end of the day, it’s just about [creating] desire.
How is the brand evolving?
I have been a designer for 25 years, but now I’m not looking to just make some clothes. I’m looking to build a brand. We want to build the next generation of luxury. It’s not classic [American] sportswear – people like Ralph Lauren have already done that extremely well. I’m trying to move to the next place.
You have been so successful with Coach, a brand that’s accessibly luxe. The Reed Krakoff line is luxury in its most rarefied form. Why the shift?
It’s really my genuine aesthetic. There will always be room for something that’s new and something that inspires people. In a lot of ways, the luxury business is maturing. The most important thing is to have a strong point of view. Everything else is just talk after that.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Reed Krakoff is available at Holt Renfrew.