Tiffany & Co.’s Chief Artistic Offi cer Reed Krakoff on that magic ingredient called humour.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Tiffany & Co.’s Chief Artistic Offi cer Reed Krakoff on that magic ingredient called humour.

Photographed by Reed Krakoff

My Reading Room

The elevator door opens to reveal a three-metre-long display table dressed up with  nery that would fit perfectly in the pages of an interior magazine. To its right is a cosy corner with sofas and shelves of coffee table books that read like Rizzoli’s summer catalogue. Beyond that, it’s a retail space that any respectable urban creative with disposable cash (or not) would be happy to shop in: Chic, modern and stylish. As I soak in the atmosphere, surrounded by beautiful products I can’t keep my hands o , I can hardly believe that it was only 10 months ago in April that I last visited Tiany & Co.’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue, New York.

I’m standing in the midst of the Home & Accessories collection on the fourth floor and so much has changed that it’s almost surreal. For one, the renovated space (which welcomed visitors to its new look in November) now boasts The Blue Box Cafe, Tiany’s  rst-ever retail dining concept that proved so popular, the brand was forced to introduce a month-long reservations system. Then, there’s the seamless integration of art with commerce, all delivered with a chic industrial feel, somewhat like the Pin Art-style portrait of Charles Lewis Tiany who looks on sagely from one of the walls.

It’s clear that Chief Artistic Ocer Reed Krako  has been very busy indeed; not just with how the store looks, but what it offers: Take, for example, the headline-grabbing Everyday Object collection (which includes a US$1,000 tin can and a US$9,000 ball of yarn; all in sterling silver, of course) which was released in November. Then, there’s the healthy range of leather goods and handbags, punctuated with the brand’s signature blue in clever, snazzy ways, that reinforce the something-for-everyone motto of Tiany’s retail mix.

“Everything starts with the product. To create an offering that’s surprising and new so that people want to come back to the store to see what we’re doing,” says Krako at our interview. “Jewellery is expensive; it’s something that’s not at all disposable like ready-to-wear or shoes. You can’t have a new collection coming in all the time. So, it’s  finding the balance: How do you create enough newness, at a more rapid pace, so that people start to think of Tiany when they’re just interested in browsing? It’s about creating excitement around the brand and desire for people to want to be a part of it. And clearly many, many people do. But I think that there’re many who feel that maybe Tiany’s is a little bit too traditional for them; or they’ve been there recently and feel they know what’s there. When people walk into the store and think: ‘Wow, there’s all this new jewellery, new collections, new ideas that I didn’t expect to see’, that’s really the goal.”

Coffee can; necklaces; bird’s nest with porcelain eggs; rings; earrings, Tiany & Co.

OPPOSITE: Vases; alarm clock; marker; rings; bracelet; creamer; sugar bowl, Tiany & Co.

It’s about creating excitement around the brand and desire for people to want to be a part of it. And clearly many, many people do.”

It’s an entirely convincing vision that finds extra credence in Krakoff ’s ability to craft the brand’s designs, as well as the artistic direction of its stores, e-commerce, marketing and advertising strategies, in a role that was newly created for him. And he has put that advantage to good use: Under his direction, the jeweller’s campaigns have featured a diverse range of It girls like Elle Fanning, Zoë Kravitz, Annie Clark and Janelle Monáe, who not only resonate with different style identities, but subcultures as well. Then, there was the “Believe in Love” campaign released earlier this year that celebrates love in all its forms and delivers an empowering message of inclusivity, with Alicia Key’s powerful vocals driving the point home.

Krakoff knows the business of luxury and conducts it with finesse. This is, after all, the man who is credited with having turned Coach into the accessories behemoth it is today during his 17-year reign as its Executive Creative Director. Now that he’s at Tiffany, he’s intent on doing what he does best within its amazonite walls.

“I think it’s the only way brands can operate today, having one clear voice,” he reflects. “I don’t know how to evolve a brand when you can’t impact the marketing, the product, the stores; because it all has to work together. It’s a dream job; it really is. It’s fun. You know, I love what I do, and I come to work happy every day. I understand the brand; I grew up with it. I think it’s just a matter of redirecting things. There’s nothing wrong with the company, it’s just the next chapter.”

Yet, for all that, Tiffany is an American jewellery institution, and the time of unveil has finally come for his first-ever fine jewellery collection; one that Tiffany CEO Alessandro Bogliolo is reported to have said is the most important high-end jewellery collection for the House since the launch of the Tiffany Key in 2009. Titled “Paper Flowers”, Krakoff turned to a watercolour artwork of an iris from the brand’s archives for inspiration, dressing it up in diamonds, tanzanites and yellow diamonds—the latter two stones being ones that are deeply entrenched in the Tiffany legacy. However, in true Krakoff form, the designer then turns expectations on its head, imbuing the pieces with a modern edge that comes from the confident juxtaposition of “something romantic and natural and something more industrial or artisanal”, as he puts it. ProP sTyling: noemi Bonazzi

It is de rigueur for jewellery houses to focus on letting their gemstones take centre stage with minimal metal for their settings. The six-pronged Tiffany setting, for example, was introduced in 1886 to hold its diamond above the ring, enabling light to pass through it to create the illusion of a bigger stone that seems to float on air. In his collection, however, Krakoff has made metal a leitmotif: In addition to making it more visible, tiny balls of platinum also stud the designs to make it seem as if the flower’s petals have been pinned together by rivets.

“The collection started with the idea of taking something feminine and historical to Tiffany and recreating it in a modern way,” he explains. “It is a good illustration of that mood, that attitude, of something that’s pretty but not traditional. Something that could be modern, kind of cool, and everyday... They’re precious but they’re not too precious to be worn with whatever you’re wearing every day.”

In this aspect, his first jewellery collection for Tiffany is yet another manifesto of his design philosophy; one that presents ubiquitous items like paper plates and paper cups in a new, fresh light that renders them instantaneously luxurious and covetable. And much like his homeware collection, there’s a sense of irony, wit and humour that permeates the jewellery, infusing them with a modern sensibility that will resonate with the Gen Z audience that every brand is intent on wooing.

“You have to imbue a product with some kind of higher meaning than just ‘it’s a bracelet’. That’s the thing I was trying to inform all these products with, and wit is a part of [that]. But this idea of wit is uniquely Tiffany’s, in this space especially, so it’s a great place for us to play. But it also relates to American design, which is functional,” he continues. “It’s not meant to be put on a shelf somewhere; it’s meant to be worn and used. Taking something that’s everyday—a paper cup, a straw, something like that—and rendering it in something extraordinary, is again that juxtaposition of ideas. It’s really throughout the entire collection—that’s what creates that tension, that sense of humour, that wittiness.” 

My Reading Room
My Reading Room
"Tin can; clothespin; necklace; ring, Tiffany & Co."
My Reading Room
"Vase; ruler; paper weights; earrings; bracelet; necklace, Tiffany & Co."