A series of "Fashion Talks" at the French Institute Alliance Francaise have become, in the words of its president, Marie-Monique Steckel, the "blockbusters of the spring season." Indeed, every seat in the house was taken at last night's kick-off discussion with Coach creative director and designer in his own right, Reed Krakoff (which will be followed by talks with Stefano Pilati and Dries Van Noten next week).
Introduced by Elle editor in chief, Robbie Myers, and moderated by Pamela Goldbin, the discussion mostly oriented itself around questions of identity and self-awareness in the fashion world. Both proved interesting talking points for Krakoff who, as a creative force behind not one, but two luxury fashion companies, must divide his attentions between the "giant puzzle" of Coach and his smaller eponymous collection.
"Coach is a part of me," said Krakoff. "I sort of see it as an algorithm. The scale of the business is so enormous -- running it is less about telling everyone what to do than really understanding what came before and what comes after."
His own collection, on the other hand, requires a more "pure," "organic" process. "It's like having two children -- and I already have four, so really it's like having six," he laughed.
Interestingly, Krakoff felt juggling both collections made him a more capable designer in the long run. "My work at Coach has gotten so much better because of my work at my own brand," he said.
To illustrate his point, Krakoff mentioned a meeting he'd had that very afternoon. "Usually, I see myself as a brand architect steering things along," he explained. "Sometimes, though, you have to dramatically change direction ... you have to ask yourself, 'What would we never do?,' and often that's exactly what you should do. If I'm tired of looking at something, it probably means everyone else is."
Krakoff's intimate understanding of large and small fashion businesses was further demonstrated in a Q&A section. When asked how social media affected either company, Krakoff remarked, "It seems to me that Twitter and Facebook have more of an impact with the bigger brands, where it's about getting people into stores." Intriguingly, Krakoff found that social media had significantly "less of an impact with luxury brands" like his own (extremely pricey) label.
The real highlight of the evening came when a young girl seated at the center of the auditorium -- later revealed to be Krakoff's 8-year-old daughter Lilly -- asked about his all-time favorite piece. "Good question, Lilly!" laughed Krakoff, who seemed genuinely stumped. "I guess it would have to be the Boxer bag. I sketched it in the car with my wife, and it just seemed to really capture this mood I was going after -- you know, classic and modern but still new and feminine. I felt really excited about that. So yes, Lilly, I guess that would be my favorite."