Coach's designer offers advice on how to travel for business—and pleasure

Tommaso Sartori
| Credit: Tommaso Sartori

Thanks to Reed Krakoff, president and executive creative director of Coach for the past five years, the venerable luggage company has undergone a major reinvention. This year marks Coach's 60th anniversary, and Krakoff has been busy designing everything from a newly launched jewelry collection to a line of clothing essentials in leather, suede, and cashmere. Besides his visits to Coach's studio in Florence, Krakoff travels constantly, finding inspiration all the while. Travel + Leisure checked in to learn his travel secrets.

Flying I love it. I bring 50 magazines—home, fashion, food, travel—and tear through them, leaving the remains on the plane when we land. I also sketch a lot and watch movies. It's like a little adventure each time. In a really naïve way, I'm still excited by the prospect of traveling.

Hotel Surprises When I was 21, my boss sent me on my first business trip with about two hours' notice, because she couldn't go herself. I was overjoyed to be going to Paris. I even stayed in her hotel room at the Plaza Athénée. I had no idea the mini-bar items were so expensive, and I went crazy. The bill—for my snacks alone—was $500, and I had to pay for it when I got home. Now I never use the mini-bar; I just bring my own water and wine. But I still stay at the Plaza Athénée.

Packing Light I always pack twice. I go over everything and ask myself, "Will I really wear that?" It cuts what I take in half. And honestly, it's not as if when you're in Paris, Florence, or London you can't buy something to wear.

Shades of Gray If I have an event or a dinner to go to, I'll pack a suit and then wear the pants separately. I just take the things I've worn recently. With any luck, they'll have been cleaned in the interim. And I pack clothes only in blue, black, gray, khaki, or white. It's boring, but it works.

Fancy Footwork I always bring sneakers. It's amazing how acceptable they've become. For a while, Nike's Presto—the ones that come in small, medium, large, and extra-large—were in. Now it's a new Nike slip-on called the Rufus II. I've also designed a travel sneaker called the Transatlantic. It's a hybrid sneaker-shoe in black nylon with leather trim. That's all I wear now.

Luggage Triangle I don't check anything, especially when I'm going to Florence. Often, you'll make the connection in Paris but your luggage won't.

Room with a View I love the Savoy in Florence—it faces the Piazza della Repubblica. It's a little bit noisy, but I like being in the middle of the city where it's all happening.

Impulse Buying In Florence, not too long ago, I bought a suit an hour before I had to be at a dinner. The shop was tailoring the pants, and the concierge had someone pick them up while I got ready at the hotel. Only in Florence could you buy a suit, have it altered, and be wearing it in an hour.

Jet Lag At around 3 p.m. on the day I arrive in Florence, I'm lying flat on the floor of the design studio, asking people to bring me things. Espresso is a must to battle jet lag. I order one when I get off the plane and one when I get to the studio, and after that I'm more than ready to go.

Fashion Plates In Florence I always eat at Quattro Leoni [1R Via Vellutini; 39-055/218-562]. The crowd is a great mix of Florentines and New York fashion people. And the outdoor seating area spills into the most picturesque piazza. It's the perfect place to linger after dinner.

Local Color My favorite painting in the world is in a little church in Florence called Santa Fel’cita, on the south side of the Ponte Vecchio. It's The Deposition by Pontormo. The color is so exaggerated: the flesh tones are magenta, lilac, chartreuse. It looks so contemporary. I always stop in to admire it, even for just a minute. That kind of talent inspires me to go back to work.

Life Imitating Art My work is pretty much my life. I don't see a difference between sketching a handbag, going to Barneys, or seeing a Royère show at a museum. It's all about observing how people live and designing to fit their needs.

Artful Dining The Café Marly at the Louvre is the best. It looks out onto the I. M. Pei pyramid in the square. The interior was designed by Olivier Gagnaire, who's one of my favorite modern designers. It's not about the food. The mix of Louis XVI and modern décor makes it charming.

Period Pieces When I'm in London, I love to visit costume houses like Angels [119 Shaftesbury Ave.; 44-207/836-5678], near Piccadilly and the theater district. Their clothing archives go back 200 years. A lot of designers and movie costumers rent from them for inspiration.

Vintage Finds A few years ago I was on London's Portobello Road, thinking I was finding some great vintage pieces to bring back to the showroom. Then I heard the dealers talking about who was going to Cheap Jack's, on Broadway in New York, to buy more clothes. It was so funny—that store is only 20 blocks from my New York office.

Better Than Duty-Free The Clignancourt flea market in Paris is on the way to the airport. I try to book my flight home late enough so I have the morning to shop there and have lunch too. And since I'm going right home, I don't have to drag my purchases around for the whole trip.

Furniture Fetish At Drouot, the central auction house in France, they auction everything from wine to suits of armor. As soon as I get to Paris, I buy the weekly magazine called La Gazette de l'Hôtel Drouot at the newsstand. I've gotten a good bit of French furniture from the forties through Drouot. There's a whole movement of fashion people and architects who have started to collect pieces from that period. Sometimes, in magazine spreads of designers' homes, I recognize pieces from the galleries where I shop.

Shopping, Anyone? Luisa Via Roma [19—21R Via Roma; 39-055/217-826] in Florence is a men's and women's store that reminds me of what Charivari used to be in New York. It's this great mix of European and American designers. Gerard [18—20 Via Vacchereccia; 39-055/215-942] has a hip following for its eclectic mix of designers, too. Its owners have been around for as long as I've been going to Florence, and they're still cutting-edge.

Must-Buys In London, I always get port-flavored gummy bears called Wine Gums. I never go for the best chocolate; I go straight for the chocolate with the scenic pictures of Switzerland on the wrapping, or the chocolate Eiffel Towers.

REED KRAKOFF, Tome Traveler
I buy design books wherever I go, since I've already gone through the collections of the hotels where I stay. Here are some of my favorite bookshops around the world.

FLORENCE Messagerie has a comprehensive decorative-arts section, with a particular focus on Italian interiors, furniture, and fine arts. It's the kind of place where you can find five books on Giorgio Morandi. 68R Via Tornabuoni; 39-055/268-636.

PARIS Bibliothèque Forney, near the Centre Pompidou, is one of the best places for 20th-century European decorative-arts books. This is where a lot of American booksellers go to stock up. 1 Rue du Figuier; 33-1/42-78-14-60.

LONDON Foyles specializes in historical books, first editions, and collectibles. This store is like a perfect British library, with ladders and mahogany cases and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. You feel as if you're in a Merchant Ivory film. 113—119 Charing Cross Rd.; 44-207/437-5660.

NEW YORK Ursus Books has every art book, monograph, and exhibition catalogue you can imagine. It's a great place to hang out—more like a library than a bookstore. 981 Madison Ave.; 212/772-8787.