Reed Krakoff has had a legendary design career and is probably best known for his role in establishing Coach as one of the most fashionable and successful luxury goods brands in the world. In 2017, Krakoff was appointed as chief artistic officer at Tiffany & Co, where he oversees jewelry and luxury accessories and leads the brand’s artistic and design vision for store design, e-commerce, marketing, and advertising.
On October 20, Krakoff returned to his alma mater for the annual #ParsonsReunion, participating in an energetic conversation with Joel Towers, the executive dean of Parsons. The conversation was just one of the many highlights of a 2018 reunion that attracted everyone from the school’s most recent grads to those who graduated in 1955.
Alumni spent the day networking, sharing their success stories, and engaging in a series of events that reunited them with their college — and its community of collaborative, forward-thinking creatives.
The conversation with Krakoff, AAS Fashion Design ’89, included a comprehensive discussion of his fashion career, advice for aspiring designers, and his vision for Tiffany & Co., one of the the country’s most iconic companies.
Krakoff advised alumni that there are many ways to succeed in their careers.
“Once you realize there’s no one way of doing things, it gets a lot easier,” Krakoff said. “There are so many possibilities, you take setbacks as part of the process. Things need to morph. Those real moments — you can’t just force them; you just have to create an environment for them to happen.”
Krakoff said that he had a lifelong desire to work at Tiffany and that about two years ago, he began discussions with the company to make that dream a reality. In February 2017, he was named the first chief artistic officer in the company’s 181-year history. He praised the organization for being “amazingly supportive.”
“Tiffany was always a part of my life,” Krakoff confessed. “At the age of six, I remember the feeling of something like magic, and I wanted to be around it.”
Krakoff answered questions from the audience, including one from an alum who asked about the best path to becoming a creative or artistic director. Krakoff said that in the past, designers were not able to become creative directors, but that has long since changed.
“Design is everything,” he said. “If you can’t create the right product, it doesn’t matter.”
He advised design alumni to get involved with every aspect of a business, including advertising, marketing, and store design.
He recalled that when he was beginning his career at Ralph Lauren, he took the opportunity to do everything from dressing mannequins to folding sweaters.
When asked by a Parsons graduate the most important advice he would give to a budding designer, he recalled the words of his father: “‘Work hard. Don’t be a jerk.’ I want people to love coming to work.”
Kay Unger, a fashion designer, Parsons alumna, New School trustee, and Parsons Board of Governors chair, provided the introductory remarks for Krakoff’s conversation with Towers. She recalled her time at Parsons and noted how much the school has evolved in half a century and her pride in starting her own fashion company in 1970. She called her role at Parsons “the best second career ever” and told the audience that “all of us together can really change the world and make it a better place.”
Earlier in the day, alumni attended the Parsons Entrepreneurial Lab Expo Fair, participating in the ELab Expo Fair, Build Your Business Workshop, and Start-up Pitch presentations by ELab alumni.
One of the standout presenters at the fair was Alfonso Cobo, MS Strategic Design and Management ’18, a co-founder of Unfold. Cobo has turned the Unfold app into a $1 million-a-year business that offers storytellers a toolkit with which to create polished, design-driven Instagram stories with minimal templates. He and his co-founder were recently profiled by CNBC.
Another highlight of the reunion was the Virtual Reality Workshop, led by Maya Georgieva, director of Digital Learning at The New School’s XReality Center. Alumni were given the opportunity to produce their own 360 video projects and then viewed the results of their immersive storytelling at the closing party.
At the alumni exhibition closing party, alumni interacted with an exhibition called Primal Machines, curated by Collette Robbins, MFA Fine Arts ’07. The exhibition featured works by Parsons alumni that explore the psychology behind and the effects of our experiences as digital participants and consumers. The works in the exhibition “examine the attempts of media outlets, advertising, marketing, entertainment, and social media platforms, to predict, control and change social, political and economic behaviors.”
Other events included an in-depth architecture and sustainability tour of The New School’s LEED Gold–certified University Center building, led by Phillip Mattos, assistant chief engineer. The tour focused on the building’s sustainable design and the construction and operation of the center.
“Parsons is committed to renewal, to looking at what’s going well but thinking about what could change, what is education in the moment, and what are the challenges looking forward,” said Towers. “Putting design and innovation at the center is what I think led us to succeed.”