Michael Kors Celebrates 30 Years
BY LAURIE BROOKINS
|Kors with Rene Russo|
|Mary J. Blige performing at Kors’ party in Paris|
He wouldn’t typically be the first person to hit the dance floor, but Michael Kors just couldn’t help himself. “Fashion folk can sometimes get a little selfconscious, but right away I was out of my seat at the table,” he recalls.
It was a perfect spring night in March, and Kors was throwing a party to celebrate his just-opened store in Paris; the guest entertainer was Mary J. Blige, who was belting out her rendition of “Stairway to Heaven.” “She was pouring her heart into this, and I just thought, I’m going to rush the stage and turn this into a mosh pit,” says Kors. “I think I was doing some sort of demented bar mitzvah Watusi, but I didn’t care. She was singing for me, and I was going to dance for her.”
Blige wasn’t the only Grammy Award winner to serenade the designer this year, but more on that in a moment. If it sounds like Michael Kors leads a bit of a charmed life, he does—especially this year: 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of his eponymous label, and Kors has turned the milestone into a 12-month party. “It’s been an amazing whirlwind of a year,” he says, noting the celebratory mood was sparked by two events that occurred in 2010: Kors turned 50 in August of last year. “I admit it, though no one in fashion ever turns 40, let alone 50,” he says. “We’re all 38 or 39 forever.” And two months earlier the Council of Fashion Designers of America awarded him its Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award. “Those two things made me stop and breathe and say, ‘Wait a minute, we’re almost at 30 years,’” says Kors. “I’m not one to reminisce, but those moments did make me start to reflect and think about what I’ve seen, the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had, and how much fashion has changed.”
Kors Through the Years
He indeed has witnessed a wealth of change in those three decades. “Of course the Internet has revolutionized fashion and how we think about it, while plastic surgery has totally changed how we design, because people don’t have rules about how they look at a certain age anymore.” And yet the essence of what Michael Kors is all about—classic luxe that largely takes its cue from the highest ideals of American sportswear—has altered little. Schizophrenic collections can plague a designer as he or she gets older, always rooted in the pressure to remain relevant and current to ever-younger audiences who are not only discovering you, but often doing so online, making snap judgments mere seconds after you’ve sent a collection down the runway.
But not Kors: Ask him to describe the essential elements of his first show in 1984—which was presented in an art gallery in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood—and he might as well be talking about his Fall 2011 collection. “The clothes were superluxe and laid-back,” he says. “I’ve always believed it’s about the woman who wants to wear them, making sure she feels glamorous and yet comfortable and answering the call of what people are looking for in their wardrobes. That essence will always be there.”
Actress Rene Russo believes she may know an equally essential secret to Kors’ success. “It seems to me Michael is a naturally happy guy; he certainly exudes that,” she says. “He also always strikes me as a very kind person who really enjoys his life. All of that shows in his clothes.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY INEZ + VINOODH (PORTRAIT); DAVID X. PRUTTING/BFANYC.COM (MIDLER); IVAN MATHIE (BLIGE); BILLY FARRELL/BFANYC.COM (RUSSO); DAN AND CORINA LECCA (RUNWAY)