Tiffany & Co.’s Reed Krakoff on Creating, Collecting, and Why What’s Popular Isn’t Always What’s Good

From left: Jerome Corpuz; Courtesy Tiffany & Co.

Reed Krakoff knows what he likes. The chief artistic officer of Tiffany & Co. spent more than 16 years turning Coach into a power player before bringing his ethos of everyday luxury to the iconic American jewelry house. He heralded his arrival at the company in 2017 with a debut home collection that included a ball of yarn and tin can made of sterling silver and “paper” coffee cups rendered in bone china.

A favorite book in Krakoff’s extensive library is Assouline’s Jean-Michel Frank, a tome devoted to the interior designer he has collected “probably the longest and the deepest.” Courtesy Assouline

Now Krakoff’s Tiffany regularly turns out tongue-in-cheek extravagances ordinary objects rendered extraordinarily: an Indian Scout motorcycle and an Aga range both in the brand’s trademark shade of blue; a sapphire and diamond butterfly brooch contained in a plain glass jar; a platinum and spinel brooch in a gold and silver matchbox; an entire collection based on an ’80s-era letter T taken from the company’s archive. This year’s project: renovating the Fifth Avenue flagship. (The store has been temporary relocated to 6 East 57th Street.) Throughout, Krakoff has continued to imbue all of the brand’s offerings with the same sense of whimsy and good taste for which the company is beloved around the world. “My creative process is always changing,” he says, when asked about what keeps him inspired. “It’s very organic and comes from just being really open to the things that are happening around me, whether it’s film, art, architecture, design, fashion, theater. All those things are bundled up together in a kind of cultural map that is really the cumulative inspiration that drives my work.”

Related: Inside the Exclusive World of Private Fine Jewelry Shopping

Designs from Tiffany & Co.’s new T1 collection, inspired by the jewelry giant’s T motif from the 1980s. Reed Krakoff came across it in the company archives, “doing research on collections over the last 30 to 40 years.” Jerome Corpuz

The shopping experience itself carries a special significance for Krakoff, who has spent most of his adult life in pursuit of beautiful objects. During his college years, that meant “Americana, Navajo rugs, and modern furniture, things like Eames and Knoll, many of them the kinds of pieces I grew up with” in his childhood home in Connecticut. Once he moved to New York City, it was the fashion illustrations he could pick up relatively cheaply while a student at Parsons, or the French brass pieces he found at Chelsea flea markets. In the early ’90s—“before there was the Internet, before there was an encyclopedic guide to everything that’s ever been done, before you could find everything everywhere”—he hunted for decorative treasures down winding Paris streets and through New York’s small auction houses. He kept his eyes peeled for “whatever I could afford, which was then not much,” he says. “Usually just a chipped and worn-out version of some of the great icons.” The seeking was the point: “I have to say, it was incredibly fun. It was really exciting, because you never knew what you would find. There was something kind of magical about that experience.”

From left: The temporary store at 6 East 57th Street. The renovation will be unveiled in 2021; Krakoff collects ceramics by Arts and Crafts artists like George Ohr. From left: Courtesy Tiffany & Co.; Alamy Stock Photo

To this day Krakoff maintains a love for things like stained glass “turtleback” Tiffany lamps and 18th-century American furniture, things that are “so not in style,” he says. But they’ve yet to let him down in the much-acclaimed interiors that he and his wife, interior designer Delphine Krakoff, have appointed for their homes in New York, Paris, and East Hampton, where their contemporary art collection (Alexander Calder, Frank Stella, Damien Hirst, Adolph Gottlieb, Allan McCollum) sits alongside the Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne, Jean-Michel Frank, Jean Prouvé, and Marc Newson pieces they’ve acquired over the years.

 When in L.A., Krakoff regularly visits Rudolph Schindler’s feat of 1920s modern architecture in West Hollywood. “It’s so weird. It’s really an incredible jewel box,”Krakoff says. Joshua White/MAK Center

“It’s kind of like a puzzle, trying to figure out what you like, what you’re attracted to, what you can afford at the time, and what you want to live with,” says Krakoff. “What’s not popular a lot of times is the most interesting. The art market and design market have really become a market. And what’s expensive is what’s popular, not what’s good. It’s just a matter of buying what you like, collecting what you love, collecting what you want to live with. Some things will be valuable one day, and some things will not.” His obsessions, he says, defy easy classification: “That’s what keeps it interesting for me, and I think that’s what keeps me from getting predictable, or getting stale. That’s what keeps me inspired.”