Five Questions with Reed Krakoff

The fashion designer on pleather, celebrities he'd like to dress next and why the fuss about Ann Romney's $990 shirt was silly

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Ben Gabbe / Getty Images

New York Fashion Week just ended. What designers are you looking forward to seeing in London, Milan and Paris?
Can I be honest? The truth is I don’t look at other people’s collections. It keeps me focused on my own vision. It keeps me from being distracted. Sometimes you see things that are in the same vein and you don’t want to do it because someone else has done it. Or you see something opposite of what you’re doing, and you doubt yourself, and it just creates a lot of stress.

You’re best known for your leather designs, first as executive creative director at Coach and now with your eponymous line. It can be costly to stock your closet with several leather pieces. Is pleather ever acceptable?
For me, no. That’s an easy answer. But other people love it and it’s fun, and it’s definitely more accessible. I’m not going to stand in the way of anyone else.

Earlier this year, Ann Romney caught a lot of flak for wearing a $990 shirt of yours. What was your reaction to the fallout?
I thought it was really silly. I’m always happy when a woman is excited to wear my clothing, period. I take it as a compliment. Both [Michelle] Obama and Romney buy designer clothing, and I thought it showed how lopsided these conversations are. They both can and should wear what they want. Her husband is quite wealthy, so why is it a big deal? I just didn’t get it. It’s so ironic because the other side of this debate is quite well-known for wearing designer clothing as well.

This June, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) named you accessory designer of the year. What’s the one bag a woman should splurge on?
For me, one bag isn’t enough ever. But if you had to pick, I would start with the Atlantique tote in a great, bright color. It’s something you can wear to work, on the weekend, everyday—those are always the best bags. They’re cool and not too trendy.

Who is a celebrity that you haven’t dressed but would like to?
I would love to dress Jessica Pare. She gave me my CFDA award, and I just think she’s cool and sexy and has a great strength about her. In addition, Jennifer Connelly. And Rooney Mara—I loved her in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and she has a cool toughness that’s super sexy.

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