That Perfect Blue
Known for helping transform Coach into a multibillion dollar fashion brand focusing on colorful but accessible handbags, Reed Krakoff has turned his attention to something more sparkly — diamonds.
Since 2017, Tiffany & Co. has pinned its hopes on Krakoff — and his ability to intuit what customers want. With consumer tastes evolving, the company bestowed upon him the title of chief artistic office and tasked him with refreshing its image and offerings. Nearly two years later, that process is well underway.
In addition to a home accessories collection, the designer (and Tufts graduate) launched fine jewelry collection Paper Flowers this summer, and released his first Blue Book Collection last month. We chatted with Krakoff about his vision for the iconic brand.
Q. Before we launch into your designs for this year’s Blue Book Collection — which debuted in 1845 — give us some background on how you view it today.
A. Blue Book is a creative laboratory for us to explore new design ideas in ways we can’t do in a larger commercial collection, when there isn’t the time or budget. That’s unique to Blue Book, to focus on one idea for one period. Blue Book is about challenging ourselves to discover new techniques, new ways of handling stones, new ways of setting them. It’s a testament to the virtuosity of the team at our workshop to achieve something that hasn’t been done before. This is the place where we dream, where anything is possible.
Q. Where did you look for inspiration for the theme of this year’s Blue Book Collection: The Four Seasons of Tiffany?
A. I spent a good bit of time in the Tiffany archives. I looked for concepts that had been interpreted in many ways over the years. Nature came up over and over again. In the 1930s, there were the [jeweled] dragonflies and butterflies; similar pieces are still produced today. Nature is closely tied to Tiffany’s history, and a broad enough topic to explore in terms of composition, material, and color. At the end of the day, though, you put it away and start from scratch. It’s about what’s relevant today; what’s the next idea, and the next chapter in the long history of Tiffany.
Q. How does the collection relate to current design trends?
A. I don’t think about design in that way. If we’re engaged in popular culture, in design, film, fashion, and museums, then there’s a cultural map in our heads. It’s all intuitive.
Q. Is there a chance that any of the Blue Book pieces, which are one-of-a-kind, become accessible to a broader market?
A. Later, it translates to more commercial concepts. We’re working on a collection now that mixes golds and different colored stones; the same kinds of motifs we used in Blue Book, in a more day-jewelry look, without as rarefied a price. The Paper Flowers collection has very special diamond pieces in a more affordable range up to very important red carpet pieces. Many people can find things to suit their budget and their lifestyle.
Q. What else did you observe in the archives?
A. The consistent commitment to outstanding diamonds — quality, scale, variety — is a big part of Tiffany’s history. I want to maintain and support that. We’ve launched a new setting, Tiffany True. It’s a proprietary cut that’s a modified square, with a more geometric, architectural feel. It’s a complement to the six-prong Tiffany Classic setting.
Q. There’s a strong taste for more distinctive wedding ring styles right now. Where is Tiffany’s place in this?
A. The Tiffany True line includes a series of stacking bands that the wearer can style in a way that is personal to them. The bands can serve as commitment rings. Some people want something other than single stone rings. There’s also a bracelet in the collection. Does commitment have to be [marked with] a ring? Maybe not.
Q. You spent some time in Boston as a student. How do you feel about the stereotype that Boston is conservative and traditional?
A. I see Boston as much less conservative than others do. For me, it’s always been a place where people enjoy fashion. Boston has always had great shops — Alan Bilzerian, Neiman’s, Saks. I visit a few times a year. I always try to go the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum when I’m there. Boston has such a rich culture, with thousands of students, so many different industries, and a huge music scene. There is a lot of creativity in Boston. It’s a place where people that want to express themselves.
Marni Elyse Katz blogs at stylecarrot.com