With the launch of Reed Krakoff’s new Reed collection for Kohl’s this week, the retailer is introducing the designer to its customers as “the man behind a million bags.”
That seems to be a lot of bags. Of course, Krakoff is as well known to fashion audiences for his creative direction of Coach for well over a decade, until 2013, as he is for the signature Reed Krakoff collection that he designed for five years, a collection so high up on the scale of luxury goods that the prices sometimes could make you gasp for oxygen.
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As far as designers go, he is one of the rare few who has managed to straddle both the attainable and aspirational markets at the same time, even though it was only for a few years. His newest venture at Kohl’s—which looks great, by the way—is an entirely different approach, with new versions of his hallmark handbags priced from $59 to $129. There’s ready-to-wear, too, and mini versions of his bags that you can buy to decorate the full-size ones.
The smallest size of his RK40, introduced in 2015 under the Reed Krakoff label, cost $1,290. At Kohl’s, the RK40 under the Reed label costs $129 (and that’s before applying any discounts or coupons). So it’s certainly understandable that there would be a lot of buzz and excitement about him joining the Kohl’s designer roster, and as the designer notes in our preview Q&A, there are lots of reasons why he’s excited, too.
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Why did you choose to recreate your luxury designs for Kohl’s, rather than making more of a distinction between, as high-end designers who have dabbled in mass retailing have in the past?
The inspiration really came out of the luxury collection. Some of the silhouettes are recognizable, because I thought it was important to have a sense of continuation from where the brand began. People will recognize some of these bags as iconic, and now be able to buy them with a different attitude at a more affordable price.
Whether people are buying more approachable or more expensive things, as long as you are not offering both at the same time, it does make sense. Maybe some of the people who were buying from the more expensive collection will come to Kohl’s and buy these. It’s affordable, and more importantly the bags are great looking and functional. You can’t be too obsessed about price.
Can we expect to find you shopping there yourself?
I am going to visit a few stores because I’m curious to see customers’ reactions, and also how the product looks in the store. I want to learn about the customer and the environment as I’m working on the next delivery.
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With fashion in such a state of massive transitions now, how are customers changing, and what role do they play in the future of fashion?
People are always looking for things they love, and they have become accustomed to the fact that you can buy amazing things at a reasonable price, so now they demand more. There are so many choices that the customer is used to getting exactly what she wants and the price she wants. Now she can also shop any time for anything, anywhere. It’s hard to imagine what it was like before, when you had to know someone to get a deal. But the fact that there is so much great design out there is also making people more rigorous about what they buy, and what they want to buy.
So where is this all heading, and why did you think Kohl’s was the place for you to reach them?
From my perspective, the turnaround of fashion has gotten so fast that the seasons are blending together. People don’t shop or dress the way they used to, which is why there is this movement toward showing product when you can buy it. So there is going to be a weeding out, for sure, as fashion is becoming more and more competitive. You have to be exceptional for people to want to buy into your brand.
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Also, once people start seeing what you can achieve at a certain price, there’s no going back. But I think it’s probably good. No matter what, the customer is in charge now, and it’s up to the designer to respond in a way that makes sense to them. This collection with Kohl’s started as a one-time idea, but it has become something I really believe in, the ability to create something at a price that’s really incredible.