Michael Kors Talks Luxury for the Modern Woman

He’s a pioneer of American luxury fashion, building his label up from the streets of New York City into an international brand. Michael Kors discusses the essence of his approach to fashion – and life.

From jeans to sneakers, through all the pieces that make up everyday sportswear – you can thank America for the uniform that most of us choose to wear most days. That, says Michael Kors, is his country’s great fashion gift to the world.

American designers have always tended to focus on women on the go, none more so than Kors, speaking in London on a quick but packed visit for the opening of his new townhouse store on Old Bond Street. “American fashion is about life being fast – and designing things that work for the fast life,” he says.

After more than 35 years in the industry, Kors is full of anecdotes from the world of luxury design. In a fiercely competitive industry, he’s turned into one of the great survivors. His staying power can be attributed to his accessible approach to fashion and his enthusiastic embrace of all aspects of the modern industry, from social media to the celebrity circuit.

When reality TV show Project Runway first launched back in 2004, Michael Kors served as a judge despite the show being considered low-brow TV fare by many in the industry. Kors went on to judge through ten series – and both Zac Posen and newcomer designer Brandon Maxwell have followed in his footsteps, appreciating the huge media exposure.

Michael Kors
Photo: Ethan James Hart

Michael Kors is the core brand of American luxury fashion group Capri Holdings, which now includes both Versace and Jimmy Choo. Fourth quarter financial results released on May 29 exceeded Wall Street expectations, with all three names contributing. The Michael Kors brand alone is on course to make annual revenues topping $4.5 billion.

The point about Kors is that he never settles – he’s constantly on the move, building bigger and better with each step.

And now there’s an Old Bond Street store that pays homage to sophisticated glamour, with the added twist of creating an atmosphere of hanging out in someone’s posh townhouse. Fresh flowers hang from the storefront, welcoming clients into a multi-level retail experience that houses the Michael Kors Collection women’s and men’s ready to wear, accessories, and footwear.

To mark the store opening, Kors hosted a private dinner attended by stars including Gemma Chan and Naomi Harris. Chan wore a creamy floral crepe-de-chine ruffle dress, while Harris sported a chocolate herringbone wool blazer and matching cuffed trousers. Both looks were from the Fall 2019 Michael Kors Collection.

Michael Kors Townhouse, Old Bond Street

Kors champions relaxed sense of luxury based on style as much as fashion. “Fashion is about change and newness. And style is consistent,” Kors explains. “You want to be glamorous, but you want to be comfortable. Even the most indulgent person is still practical.” His philosophy is summed up in this spring’s Michael Kors Collection, which ranges from floral lace jumpsuits to bejeweled shift dresses in turquoise and bubblegum pink

Grafted onto that is an optimistic attitude – an attitude he applies both to fashion and to the currently charged political climate in America.

Kors learned about fashion working on the shop floor at Lothar’s, a New York boutique, in the late 1970s. Laughing at the memory, he recalls once helping Jackie O in the changing rooms – he remembers she wore ripped tights under her boots. Kors’ fashion, and his take on it, is rooted in such real-world practicalities.

He launched his own label back in 1981 at a time when a very polished take on luxury fashion was the message. “Luxury isn’t as perfect as it once was,” he notes. “It’s certainly more relaxed. I think what we stand for now is this idea of everyday luxury. It’s not luxury on a shelf, it’s not like special occasion; it’s grab for it and use it every day. Everything we do now, no matter how opulent it is, I want to make sure that it’s not precious. I think that’s more important than ever.”

Michael Kors
Photo: Ethan James Hart

Michael Kors has an impressive following among celebrities, supermodels and high-ranking politicians including Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi. They love his classic cuts and clean silhouettes. Kors isn’t in the business of creating fantastical ball gowns – “Gowns?!” he exclaims. “Never!”

“The reality is, people live a casual, fast life,” he adds. “It is my job to figure out how to give them something that still makes them feel easy and relaxed, without giving up quality and glamour.”

But something else about the Kors brand is the breezy sense of optimism that permeates throughout the brand. The clothes are bright, with plenty of flowers and frills – pieces that seem to almost bounce with joy. Kors recalls being surprised to see Pelosi wearing a bright pink dress designed by him; the politician shared that it made her feel strong and confident.

His optimism, even in the era of President Trump, is grounded in the notion that being positive isn’t just lip service, it has to be connected to action. “I think rather than hunker down and get mired in something sad, you have to think about how you can find the will and stand up and say it’s going to get better,” he notes.

And he recalls another comment by Pelosi that has a very timely ring to it: “Don’t agonize, Michael. Organize!”

The page could not be loaded!