Not since Tom Ford has anyone been able to kick off a new label with the kind of resources Reed Krakoff has been able to garner this year. The soon-to-be-former Coach creative director is jumping off with a major splash, launching an accessory and ready-to-wear collection including shoes, jewelry, sunglasses and even watches in not just the Madison Avenue boutique that opened yesterday, but also another in Tokyo plus one about to open in Las Vegas, and wholesaling to just a handful of prestigious, influential retailers like Colette, and 10 Corso Como. Of course, the big bankroll here comes from Coach. Krakoff made his reputation by transforming the brand from a sleepy, preppy leathergoods brand to a contemporary accessory powerhouse, and now, they are returning the favor by backing him in the luxury line that, finally, fully reflects his sensibilities. Does the world need another expensive handbag maker? We probably don't need as many as we have already, but Krakoff has paid his dues and has decided that now is the time to cash in his chips with Coach.
And what sensibilities they are. The former Miu Miu store has been gutted and reconfigured as a high ceilinged setting for the new brand's debut. The new shop is dotted with showpiece furniture, but the focus is on the goods with the handbags at the forefront. Leather-lined and luxurious they are meticulously detailed and often feature Krakoff's Art Deco-inspired logo integrated into the design which, surprisingly, is subtle enough to pass as a design element rather than blatant status-mongering. The other surprise is that the bags appear to be made in China, not the norm for this particular stretch of Madison Avenue, with Prada, Ralph Lauren, Dior and Lanvin, just to name a few, all nearby. And most retail for under $1,500 —no small change, but just the opening price point for the luxury market these days. Country of origin issues aside, the quality of the leathergoods is excellent for the prices.
As for the clothes (made in the U.S. and Italy), they fall firmly in the designer price range, and reflect the sort of rich utilitarian style seen at Chloé and Céline right now. They are interesting and occasionally tricky, but the main event here are the bags and shoes.
Krakoff liked to oxymoronically refer to the made-over Coach as "accessible luxury", but he never quite managed to convince real high-end customers that even a deluxe Coach collection was for them. Now his challenge is proving to those same customers that a luxury brand materializing out of nowhere named for a designer they probably haven't heard of is worthy of their investment. This shop should go a long way to translating Krakoff's credibility in the industry to shoppers likely to be less familiar with the name.
Reed Krakoff 831 Madison Avenue between 69th & 70th Streets, Upper East Side