Another Notch in His Belt at Coach
By MICHAEL SCHULMAN
October 24, 2012
TAKE a deep breath at the rail yards on the West Side of Manhattan. If you don’t smell leather, you’re not thinking like Reed Krakoff. Mr. Krakoff is the president and executive creative director of Coach Inc., and has been credited with leading the leather-goods brand from functionality to fashionability. Now, he’s shepherding the bag-and-wallet behemoth to its future home at Hudson Yards, the multibillion-dollar real estate Shangri-La scheduled to break ground this fall.
“It is a rarity for a brand, a city and an architectural project to come together,” Mr. Krakoff said the other day, dressed in his trademark chunky glasses and Turnbull & Asser button-down shirt. He was standing in a conference room cluttered with paper models at Kohn Pedersen Fox, the architectural firm that is leading the design of the Coach tower. But that’s not to say that Mr. Krakoff is not involved in every minute design decision, down to the oak floors that will be transferred to the new building from Coach’s original factory space, on West 34th Street. For more than a year, Mr. Krakoff and an in-house architect at Coach, Louis Minuto, have been meeting with William Pedersen, a principal at the renowned architecture firm, tailoring the building to Coach’s needs. Though Mr. Krakoff and Mr. Pedersen have contrasting personalities (detached aesthete versus nutty professor), their visions for the tower intertwine.
But it wasn’t always so. The first meeting last summer was “rough,” Mr. Krakoff said. From the nervous laughter of the architects nearby, that was clearly an understatement. “It was in no way critical of the architecture,” he clarified. “It just wasn’t our architecture.”
“If it’s fair to say, you had a concern about being in a large, anonymous office building,” said Mr. Pedersen, who had just been showing him the latest renderings. What Mr. Krakoff craved was a campus, and an “openness” that could bleed out into the city. In other words, Coach’s headquarters shouldn’t look like a bank’s.
After that infamous meeting, as Mr. Pedersen termed it, Mr. Krakoff invited him, Mr. Minuto and Marianne Kwok, the tower’s senior designer, to his East Hampton estate, once a summer home of the Bouvier family. His wife, Delphine Krakoff, made them lunch: steak, tomato salad, and corn on the cob. “We got to talking about our backgrounds,” Mr. Krakoff recalled. “We all actually grew up playing hockey.” Mr. Pedersen had played at the University of Minnesota with Herb Brooks, who went on to become an Olympic coach. Ms. Kwok never played, but, she said, “I grew up in Canada, so I understood.”
The result was better communication and a rejiggered design, including the addition of a glass atrium that could function as a social hub. “It broke the scale down,” Mr. Krakoff said, meaning that it would help to link the 46-story skyscraper with the pedestrians below. The architects also tied the tower more closely with the High Line. An offshoot of the former railway, the 10th Avenue Spur, will run alongside the lobby beneath a glass veil, where pedestrians can gawk at Coach employees heading to and from work.
Mr. Krakoff also oversees the design of several dozen Coach stores a year. “Most stores we work on are renovations,” he said. The tower was an opportunity to create something from scratch, which was a challenge he clearly relished.
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“Office buildings are our factories – whether for tech, creative or traditional industries we must continue to grow our modern factories to create new jobs,” said United States Senator Chuck Schumer.