In a little black dress designed by Hubert de Givenchy, opera gloves, and large, round sunglasses by Oliver Goldsmith, Audrey Hepburn pulls up to Tiffany & Co. in a yellow cab on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. It’s the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, filmed in October 1960, and, 60 years later, it continues to be one of the most recognizable images in fashion and film.
In Highsnobiety’s New Luxury, a book that delves into defining modern aspiration in the age of hype, Hiroshi Fujiwara, also known as the Godfather of Japanese streetwear, shared just how important his first visit to a Tiffany & Co. store in New York was. There, he discovered items like a Tiffany Rolex watch; the collaboration between the premier brands inspired Fujiwara to launch GOODENOUGH upon his return to Tokyo. “That’s really how the whole thing started. Always work with the brands that are the best in what they do,” he told us.
Few brands have achieved this level of influence, and for Tiffany & Co that’s an understatement. Its significance in pop culture extends beyond evoking images of Old Hollywood and American luxury – it’s intertwined with some of the most important moments in our personal lives. A Tiffany engagement ring placed in its famous blue box, for instance, has long been the choice for couples the world over to symbolize their love and union.
“Up until three years ago, the Love & Engagement category used to be called Bridal. The name changed to mirror the shift in men just buying rings for women to mean much more.”
But for a brand that was founded in 1837, how does all of this evolve? “Tiffany is always evolving – we wouldn’t be where we are today if we didn’t. It’s about framing this new narrative behind who Tiffany is and how we fit into people’s lives today,” Reed Krakoff shared with us. Krakoff is the visionary who’s ushering in Tiffany & Co.’s next chapter. Since joining as Chief Artistic Director in 2017, everything from product design to the Fifth Avenue flagship store in NYC have been reimagined in an effort to reflect the future of the brand and expand its customer base.
Designing for today’s consumer means understanding and responding to generational differences in culture, something Krakoff applies skillfully in his role. “Up until three years ago, the Love & Engagement category used to be called Bridal,” he recalls. It was a seemingly simple change, but a powerful one. It opened up the category from a place rooted in traditional gender roles to include modern expressions of love. “The name changed to mirror the shift in men just buying rings for women to mean much more.” Men, for example, are buying diamond rings for themselves or for each other.
Of course, this move toward gender inclusivity mirrors the one the fashion industry has seen in the last few years. From Jaden Smith in skirts to Ian Isiah in heels to Rhuigi Villasenor carrying Chanel purses, some of the most revered men in culture have been using fashion to challenge conventional gender norms for dress. And jewelry has followed suit.
Krakoff, 56, founded and designed his own namesake label from 2010 to 2015, and prior to that served as executive creative director for Coach from 1998 to 2014. Tracing men wearing jewelry from the 1970s onward, he said that, “There were times when men were flashier, then minimal. Today it’s a bit of everything. For men, we describe it as ‘accessories’ rather than ‘jewelry.’” Krakoff explained that men choose, say, a ring or necklace, because it’s something they want to wear like anything else, and not something they’d wear if they purposely wore jewelry.
“Jewelry is so personal, it becomes part of the wearer. I think some people wear Tiffany diamonds formally and others in a more informal way,” he added. “There’s no rulebook, and I think that sense of versatility is what today’s consumers are looking for.”
Part of Tiffany & Co.’s success with the modern consumer comes from its effortless style. For Krakoff, it’s about products that stand the test of time, but that aren’t too timeless. The same design philosophy has been carried over to its Fifth Avenue flagship store in NYC, which is now closed for renovation and set to reopen in 2022 (a temporary location at 6 E 57th Street has opened in the interim).
Krakoff is working with OMA, the architectural firm co-founded by the great Rem Koolhaas, who’s worked on the Fondazione Prada (among countless other projects) and inspired artists, including Virgil Abloh.
“When it was built, the store’s ground floor was the largest column-less room in existence,” shared Krakoff. In keeping with the innovative spirit inherent to the location, OMA was brought in to work on the first floor and the top three stories, the latter of which will be transformed into a sleek glass structure with an outdoor patio. OMA unveiled renderings of the reimagined flagship earlier this year and, in a press statement, said, “It is a symbolic ending to the building that reflects an evolved luxury experience that is more a journey than a destination.”
“Retail has changed and it demands people are lured into a place where you want to spend time and are engaged,” Krakoff said. OMA’s renovation is a physical embodiment representing where Tiffany & Co. is going, but in many ways it’s also a commentary on where culture and luxury, particularly American, are heading too. Under Krakoff, the modern-day Audrey Hepburn, dining atop Fifth Avenue, can be anyone – any gender, age, race, or sexual orientation. Like the jewelry itself, it’s all open to personal interpretation.