Michael Kors Celebrates 30 Years
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Bette Midler serenading Kors backstage at his fashion show
|Blake Lively with the designer|
When she met Kors in the 1980s, Russo was a young model, freshly transplanted from her native Burbank to New York, and he was a kid with a cherubic face and untamed curly hair. “I didn’t know anything about the business at all, and I would go to these offi ces with my portfolio, and people were so dismissive of me,” remembers Russo. “Then one day I went to Michael’s studio, and he walked in like sunshine. He was so young himself, and I don’t know if he could feel that I was awkward or insecure, but he really put me at ease, and I loved him for that.”
While she’s worn his clothes consistently on red carpets over the years, Russo most famously worked with Kors when she wore pieces from his collection in 1999’s The Thomas Crown Affair, a film that has attained something of a cult status among fashion lovers for the styling of Russo’s character. “I’ve got a few of those pieces to this day, and I still wear them because they’re just as amazing now as they were then,” she says. “There’s a beautiful black sheath, a coat and a few turtlenecks. Everything he did was so perfect for the character; she needed to be strong and all business, but also beautiful and sexy, and the clothes really helped make that statement. I don’t know any other movie I’ve done in which the clothes defi ned the character the way Michael’s did.”
And the Stars Came Out
Russo was among the star-studded lineup that turned out to commemorate Kors’ 30th anniversary during the debut of his fall collection, shown at New York’s Lincoln Center Theater in February. The A-list front row included Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anjelica Huston, Debra Messing, Angie Harmon, Patti Hansen, Emma Roberts and Bette Midler, who had a plan of her own for the designer. “The show day was full of surprises, and normally I’m not good with that—for my 30th birthday I re-did the guest list for my surprise party,” says Kors. “All the celebrities normally come backstage before a show starts—you get a second to catch up a little, and they try to take a sneak peek at the racks before the show. But Bette had not arrived, and she’s always unbelievably on time. Then I heard she was there, but everyone said, ‘No, you can’t say hello yet, just wait here.’ I asked why, and I was told, ‘Just wait, you don’t have to know everything.’”
When he finally was allowed to greet Midler, she had a ukulele in hand and launched into a rousing chorus of “Happy Anniversary.” “I grew up enraptured by her music, so that was a big moment for me,” says Kors. “You hear designers complain all the time about how hard our jobs are, and I always think, Why would anyone complain? You get to do what you love to do, and you get to experience things some people only dream about. And I think about that when I think about the morning of that show, and how my day started with thinking, Why is Bette Midler carrying a ukulele?”
Fall 2011: All About the Clothes
Michael Kors’ Fall 2011 collection is undeniably a celebration of what he loves, and what women like Russo and Midler love about him. “I didn’t want it to be a reminiscence of 30 years; I wanted it to say what I’m about as a designer,” he says. That was translated into exquisitely tailored menswearinfl uenced suits in deep charcoal and ankle-length cashmere coats in Kors’ beloved camel, juxtaposed with divinely draped dresses in silk charmeuse and jersey, as well as a splash of effortless one-shoulder gowns and some cunning jumpsuits—many woven through the thread of a glam ’70s Studio 54 moment. The overall effect was precisely that balance of yin and yang—hard vs. soft, structured vs. supple—at which Kors quite simply excels.
“First off, I’m outerwear-obsessed and tailoring-obsessed, and somehow I think we’ve lost the idea of tailoring in fashion,” says Kors when asked about the roots of the collection. “I don’t like thinking there’s a whole generation of women who don’t understand one simple truth: When you put on a beautifully tailored coat, and it’s cut a certain way, it not only does wonderful things for your body, it also lasts for years, and it doesn’t have to be masculine—it can be very sexy.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY INEZ + VINOODH (PORTRAIT); DAVID X. PRUTTING/BFANYC.COM (MIDLER); IVAN MATHIE (BLIGE); BILLY FARRELL/BFANYC.COM (RUSSO); DAN AND CORINA LECCA (RUNWAY)
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.