Kevin Krier's first love was stage acting, which became the perfect bedrock for a career producing fashion shows and galas for some of the world's most famous people.
His clients ranged from young upstart fashion designers to such premier brands as Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss.
"Before the days of Instagram and social media, he understood how important it was to be in front of your customers, to meet and greet," said Anne Taylor-Davis, who hired Krier in the mid-1980s to produce shows for the Nautica brand. "He had a great sense of wit and humor, and an understanding of theater."
Krier died April 10 in San Francisco, having moved to California in 2017 when health issues prompted him to retire. He was 64.
Krier grew up in Hastings, the third of six children. His late father, Ozzie, sold Goodyear tires in St. Paul. His mother, Shirley, worked at Dayton's. "We didn't have a lot of money, but my mother liked nice things — nice clothes," said Krier's sister, Barb Stricker, who was nine years older than Krier. "In those days, the Miss America pageant was big. And Kevin would gather the family around and make sure we watched it. He was always organizing things and people."
John Novak and Krier hit it off when they were in middle school and maintained a 50-year friendship through jobs, travels, relocations and the deaths of close family members. In high school, they participated in a summer theater group called Soap Suds in the Park, where students performed one-act plays and handled the staging, fundraising, costumes and directing. Krier was exceedingly creative and organized even then, Novak said, with grand ideas for homecoming skits, winter carnivals and prom decorations.
"It was a far cry from the usual 1960s and '70s Kleenex pom-pom decorations," Novak said. "Everyone knew he was headed for big things in his future."
Krier studied speech communication and dramatic arts at Macalester College and performed in community theater before heading off to Manhattan in his early 20s.
He launched his own special-events production company in 1987, later adding offices in Milan, Paris, London and Tokyo. By 1999, his company was producing about 60 shows and pulling in $50 million each year, according to Forbes.
For 15 years, Krier was the behind-the-scenes maestro of CFDA Fashion Awards, considered the Oscars of the design world, including the 1985 event in which Princess Diana was a presenter. Krier worked with Naomi Campbell on her Fashion for Relief charity fashion show and produced the Red Dress Collection fashion show to raise awareness about women and heart disease. In the early 1990s, Krier sent a lanky teenage model named Gisele down the catwalk to open a show for fashion designer Todd Oldham.
Known for his rapid-fire delivery and colorful one-liners, Krier often worked 18-hour days in the lead-up to a big show, smoking Marlboro Reds to fuel his nervous energy. He selected the location, lighting and music. He cast the models, chose the flowers and — above all — did the supremely delicate work of figuring out seating arrangements.
"He was a force," said Taylor-Davis. "There was nothing subtle about Kevin."
His sister said going to New York to visit him was always an adventure. The best tables in the best restaurants, great seats at the theater, fine wine.
"I was the lucky sister," Stricker said. "He introduced me to things I would never have experienced otherwise."
Krier also is survived by another sister, Kim, and two brothers, Kerry and Jeff. The family is planning a memorial service for this summer in the Twin Cities.