This past Monday evening, March 30, esteemed alumni Reed Krakoff (LA ’86) visited Tufts and spoke to an audience of alumni and students. As part of the Lyon & Bendheim Alumni Lecture Series, Krakoff came to Tufts to discuss his experiences in the fashion industry and to provide insights into the directions in which he believes fashion is moving. Krakoff is not the only Jumbo in his family; his nephew Justin is currently a first-year at Tufts and his daughter, Sophie, is a sophomore. Krakoff explained that he explored quite a few areas of study as an undergraduate student outside of his declared majors in economics and art history; he dabbled in psychology, briefly studied music at Berklee College of Music and explored studies in many other areas before settling down at Parsons. Once at Parsons, Reed said he never tried anything else but fashion design; he knew what he was meant to do.
After graduating from Parsons, Krakoff went on to work at Ralph Lauren, and then served as Coach’s creative director, where he is known for giving an entirely new feel to the brand and bringing it back to life. Most recently, Krakoff created his own line in his namesake, which features handbags, shoes and ready-to-wear clothing collections for women.
Krakoff spoke at length about the history of fashion and where fashion is headed in the future. Interestingly enough, Reed shared that a large part of his recent advice to new designers has been to know how to make money in the business. Krakoff contrasted this advice with the major concerns in the fashion world 20 years ago, a world in which business plans, IPOs and other important monetary considerations were absent from a brand’s development. Another intriguing transition has been the shift away from regionalism in fashion. Whereas in the past people would analyze “what Japan is wearing” or “what France is wearing,” today there is newfound cross-collaboration in fashion, as there are English creative directors who work for American companies, Spanish brands employing French designers and every combination in between.
Krakoff divulged his view on the incorporation of technology into fashion. He’s hesitant to develop more high-tech items, like handbags with compartments for built-in phone chargers, both out of concern for the weight of the bag and for inevitable technical difficulties that would need to be dealt with. Although technology and fashion continue to grow and develop, Krakoff doesn’t see the handbag changing anytime soon.
Krakoff mentioned that inspiration is tricky for him. He believes that things move too fast in our upbeat world to allow a person to sit down and be inspired by something. Instead, he is inspired by the work of his friends, many of whom are designers themselves. Reed recounted an American designer event hosted by Michelle Obama, which he and seven other American designers attended. Soon enough, all who were in attendance realized that each of them had interned for someone else at the table. Krakoff used this anecdote to emphasize his belief in the importance of internships and learning from others — not only in the world of fashion, but in all careers.
Krakoff left the crowd with some final words of advice, encouraging the undergraduates in the room to try, try and try again, as college is one of the only times in life that people can explore and find their own niche.