In the ever-so-competitive world of American fashion, a presence for nearly three decades is enough to put any designer on the global map and make them stay there. Michael Kors is no exception.
Best known for his phenomenal work in the fashion industry, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2010. Read on to find out more about his journey across the fashion map…
Michael Kors, like those with a creative curve, has dabbled in different waters including a stint in acting. But he’s best known the world over for his phenomenal work in the fashion industry. Kors’ clothes have a meaning, in that every detail down to the last stitch is custom-designed with a certain aesthetic in mind. His clothes reflect his belief in simple, elegantly tailored clothing. Kors once said that there is not a detail, including a button, that doesn’t have a reason for being there. So his lines are no less than a work of art – each piece containing elements, all of which are crucial to the final creation. Kors’ sense of fashion displays an infatuation with the traditionalism of the Eastern Seaboard haute bourgeoisie.
Yet he also likes to tweak it for customers who want to look polished and prosperous, but hip. Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston, Uma Thurman, Linda Evangelista, Nicole Kidman, Blake Lively, Jennifer Connelly and Cindy Crawford are among the many actors that sport Kors’ creations, from clothes and bags, watches and accessories, etc. Although he is a globally recognised designer, his journey has not been without its ‘ups and downs’. But Kors’ humble roots never deterred him from chasing his larger-than-life dreams.
Few people know that Michael Kors was named Karl Anderson, Jr. at birth. Born on 9th of August, 1959, in New York’s Long Island, to Joan Krystosek (a one-time Revlon model) and Karl Anderson (a college student), Karl’s parents separated when he was two. He changed his name when his mother married Bill Kors, an entrepreneur. He later explained to People magazine, “My mother said, ‘You’re getting a new last name, so why don’t you pick a new first name?’ Michael and David were her favourites. I chose Michael as my first name and David as my middle name.” And so came to be his name, Michael Kors.
At the age of five, Michael was discovered by a TV producer at a birthday party, and he appeared in TV commercials for Lucky Charms, Charmin and freeze-dried apples. Thus began his acting career. Owing to his mother’s modelling career, he was exposed to the apparel industry at a very young age and found himself immersed in fashion at as early as six years. In the 1970’s, with pop culture being a religion of sorts, Kors found himself making whip-stitched leather vests, batik T-shirts, and copper bracelets, after school and he’d sell them in his parents’ basement, which he called the Iron Butterfly. It was in 1974 that he got a break when his trendy T-shirts were picked up by a manufacturing company.
In 1977, he started attending The Fashion Institute of Technology to study fashion design and became a ‘slave to trendiness’ and ‘wore tight white silk shirts that laced up the front and platform shoes.’ He left school after nine months when the owner of Lothar’s, a chic boutique across from Bergdorf Goodman in New York City, offered him workspace and carte blanche to design what he liked.
Kors’ began his career in fashion properly at the age of 19, when he got the chance to design and merchandise a collection for the renowned boutique. The success of these clothes caught the attention of the fashion press prompting Kors to start out on his own. Around this time, he earned his first Vogue credit with a red Lothar’s sundress, which the magazine lauded for its ‘bareness, wrap-on ease and vibrant colour.’ His parka for the store, the one in metallic silver leather, was also featured in Vogue. In 1981, the Michael Kors label was formed; his first women’s collection was launched at Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue, amongst other stores. Since his collection was established, it has never strayed from Kors’ initial vision of chic, luxurious American sportswear – something that reflects the designer’s remarkable consistency.
A momentous moment for Kors came in 1983 came when he received DuPont’s first American Original Award. Incidentally, it was the same year when Karl Lagerfeld’s muse Inès de la Fressange was captured by a fashion photographer, in a Kors cashmere tank and pin-striped skirt. The irony of it all! He went on to stage his first runway show in 1984 and also launched Michael Kors/Lyle & Scott – a line of cashmere separates created in collaboration with a venerable Scottish firm.
GOOD TIMES AWAIT
1999 – A remarkable year for Kors as he received the most prestigious award in the fashion industry – the CFDA Award for Womenswear Designer of the Year. It was also when noted fashion house LVMH bought a 33 % stake in Kors’ business and promoted him from designer to creative director at Céline, a French luxury label owned by LVMH.
In the six years he held that position, he continued to expand his own brand, launching menswear, accessories and perfume lines. In January of 2002, Kors’ company launched a full scale men’s collection, which had previously been a capsule menswear line. The line received a fantastic response and in 2003, the CFDA bestowed Kors with the distinct honour of Menswear Designer of the Year.
True to his word, in fall 2004, Kors unveiled his latest collection MICHAEL Michael Kors, a lower-priced womenswear line, with an unprecedented launch in over 350 stores nationwide. The collection included women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, accessories including handbags and small leather goods, men’s tailored clothing, dress shirts, neckwear, and timepieces for both women and men. The same year, Kors was asked to be a judge on a new reality television show called Project Runway. From this point on, he came to be better known outside the fashion industry as well.
Kors believes in simple lines and clean cuts when it comes to his clothes and his designs are meant for those who have a clear idea of what they want. Kors’ wearers would typically be well-grounded people who have the no-fuss approach to fashion and life alike. The Michael Kors woman is effortlessly elegant, strong and capable, feminine and graceful, all at once. She’s bold but not loud and simply refuses to be pinned down under one look. She could go casual chic or dress it up with an evening gown. There’s no telling.
The Michael Kors man is earthy; he is firm but not rigid. He works hard during the week but believes in the well-deserved weekend getaway. And his fashion sensibility reflects this. He’s athletic, and comfort clothing is a priority for him.
Kors’ eyewear is no exception to his fashion philosophy that simplicity rules. Oversized sunglasses by Kors are a hot favourite of the top actors of Hollywood. A dedicated fashionista, Angelina Jolie has been photographed several times wearing sunglasses by Kors.
Angular shapes are predominant, hence one will find more square and rectangular-shaped sunglasses with mostly brown gradients. There’s even the round oversized that comes in gradients of pink and purple. What’s interesting is the detailing around the temples and sides in gold. Then there’s the classic aviators for both men and women. Large rectangular sunglasses for men come in sporty blue and black gradients, with classy silver detailing on the sides.
What really takes it up a notch though is the MK logo on the side, which is often embedded with crystals giving it the right touch of glamour. And for those who prefer to retain the geek in them, Kors offers some great spins on the good old spectacles. And apart from colours like red, brown, black, blue and a surprising green, they even come in animal prints adding some tease to the wearer’s personality!
Kors’ knack for catering to clients’ fantasies — and his visibility as a judge on fashion reality show Project Runway — have combined to transform this once modest business into a fashion brand with more than $600 million in wholesale revenues from over 1.000 multi-brand retail outlets, globally. Once mainly a clothing brand, the Michael Kors line now includes handbags, shoes and other accessories (accounting for 85% of its sales). In addition to the top-notch designer collection, there are two lower-priced women’s lines, Michael Michael Kors and Kors Michael Kors (shoes and coats), as well as a menswear label.
Speaking about his fashion philosophy, Kors once told Women’s Wear Daily, “Ultimately, clean lines have greater longevity, which women appreciate, and to which they can add their own personality.” This should give a clear picture of why this designer resonates in the sensibilities of many a fashionista. The designer received a lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2010. A well-deserved award considering he has been around for over three decades now and carved a niche, launching collections and new lines consistently. One can’t predict what this artistic powerhouse will come up with next, but we know this for sure – Kors will not disappoint.
Michael Kors Timeline
- 1977 Attended The Fashion Institute of Technology, Manhattan, New York.
- 1983 Received DuPont’s first American Original Award.
- 1997 Became the creative director of Céline, a French fashion house owned by LVMH
- 1999 Received the CFDA Award for Womenswear Designer of the Year.
- 2004 Launched MICHAEL Michael Kors label.
- 2008 Made a cameo appearance in the hit TV drama Gossip Girl.
- 2010 Received Lifetime Achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
___________________________________________ – Ishita Bal