For Kaufman Franco fashion isn’t simply about great clothes, it’s a dialogue with their dream girl — a woman who is confident, sophisticated and has just a touch of sass.
“She’s kind of good girl/bad girl,” says Ken Kaufman, who along with co-creative director Isaac Franco invited SaksPOV to their 57th Street atelier for a chat about fashion and a preview of the fall 2012 collection.
If the house’s celebrity fans are any indication, Kaufman is right on target with his description. Halle Berry, Jennifer Aniston and Taylor Swift have all worn Kaufman Franco on the red carpet and then some. “It’s not really sexy,” says Franco of the collection. “It’s sensual, seductive. It’s not precious.” As if on cue, the two routinely finish each other’s sentences.
Founded in 2004, by the fashion industry alums who first met as students at Parsons in the 1980’s, Kaufman Franco embodies a perfect blend of streamlined designs, body conscious tailoring and couture-level details like embroidery and intricate hand beadwork to their ready-to-wear and evening looks.
Such finery, however wasn’t created overnight. Kaufman and Franco have spent the better part of 25 years toiling as designer at fashion houses from the Bob Mackie — whom under they learned how, with the help of gravity and corsetry hold a beaded dress up (not to mention the many brushes with fame they had outfitting Mackie’s arguably most famous client, Cher) — to Valentino in Rome, where they worked under the legendary Valentino Garavani and immersed themselves in extreme luxury (“We lined dresses with sable!” exclaims Franco). The duo were also behind the resurgence of Anne Klein in 2001, where they got to learn branding, creating accessories, eyewear and all the toppings that make for a jaw-dropping look.
“We learned each of these businesses from furs to shoes , sunglasses,” says Kaufman who, along with Franco credits their vast and deep experience as designers to the execution of their pristine garments. “We navigated our way through China and India on rickshaw bicycles to work with the best embroiderers.”
All of this research and real-world experience has resulted in a fall 2012 collection that is nothing short of breathtaking. Anatomical seaming is based on the musculature of a woman’s body, delicate lace is rubberized for a futuristic feel a beaded cocktail dress took hundreds of hours to create. The good girl/bad girl persona is articulated in a ladylike three-quarter coat with a floral applique executed in smooth black leather.
While the road has been long, the designers usher each new project with gusto and are proud to be self-funded. Their advice for young designers who want to follow in their footsteps today? Buck up. “It’s nothing like Project Runway,” laughs Kaufman.