Coach's Reed Krakoff announced today that he's stepping down from the role of creative director to focus on his namesake luxury label. While Krakoff's contract with the brand doesn't end until the summer of 2014, he'll be working on an advisory basis until then. Which means that Coach's search for a new creative director is most certainly under way.
Krakoff's partnership with Coach's retiring CEO Lew Frankfort lasted a remarkable 16 years, and launched the leather-goods label into a new financial stratosphere. In 1996, when Krakoff came on board, sales were $500 million. In 2012, they reached almost $4.8 billion. Frankfort's successor, Victor Luis, is already in place. (And a longtime member of the Coach team.) Whomever is brought on to replace Krakoff will have to be able to handle the tremendous financial pressure of being a public company. They'll also have to help expand Coach's brand beyond handbags as part of a new strategy the retailer announced in January. Clothing, in particular, is an area where there is tremendous opportunity for growth, both abroad in and the US.
But who will it be? We're sure Coach will search internally first--and the search could end there. But it's fun to consider outsiders. Here are our semi-educated suggestions for whom Coach should appoint as its next creative director. What do you think?
Jessie Randall The Loeffler Randall designer's all-American-with-a-hint-of-Brooklyn-cool aesthetic complements Coach's current direction. What's more, she has plenty of experience designing clothes. The downside? Being the creative director of Coach is not an in-and-out-once-a-season thing: it's a full-time job. Randall would have to restructure the way her own business runs to make it work.
Kate Spade How epic would this be? With husband Andy Spade launching the loungewear collection Sleepy Jones, it just feels right for this semi-retired designer to come back into the fold. (She left her namesake label in 2007 after selling it to Liz Claiborne, now known as Fifth & Pacific.)
Rebecca Minkoff The self-made entrepreneur started out designing clothes, but she's best known for her incredibly successful accessories collection. While her expertise is right on, this one is really a longshot. Mostly because her business may become big enough one day to rival Coach's.
Meredith German German doesn't have the apparel experience the new creative director will likely need, but she does have corporate experience. And the right kind, at that. Before launching her own collection, Meredith Wendell, German spent five years designing accessories at Marc Jacobs.
A Coach Lifer This is the most likely choice, if not the most interesting. There's a huge chance Coach will promote someone internally, as they did with incumbent CEO Victor Luis. Possibilities include Sandra Hill, executive vice president of women’s design and Jeffrey Uhl, senior vice president of men’s design, among others.
Derek Lam Lam's accessories experience is strong--he runs two successful handbag lines, and was creative director at Tod's for a time. Plus, his high-low collaborations with eBay, Neiman Marcus + Target and most recently, Kohl's, prove he can design for a more aspirational audience.
Luella Bartley Sure, she's a Brit. But Luella Bartley's weirdo-prep style, combined with her ability to create hit handbags, means she could be a wonderful out-of-the-box choice for Coach. (Plus, we miss her and want her to start designing again, very badly.)
Joy Gryson The handbag and shoe designer has worked for Liz Claiborne, Calvin Klein, and Marc Jacobs, where she headed up accessories design before leaving in 2006. But maybe most importantly, she's a Coach alumnae. That might give her an edge...if she wants one.
Phillip Lim Time and again, Lim has called his clothes "classic with a twist," which makes him a good fit for Coach. What's more, he's built a successful accessories line while keeping his prices at an "aspirational luxury" level.