In this exclusive, Preview chats with Michael Kors about his vision for his brand and why his staying power is unlike any other.
We shed some light on why Michael Kors remains a force to be reckoned with.
in an industry where relevance is just as (if not more) crucial than being trenddriven, it’s imperative for designers to have a strong connection with their clientele. Many have wondered (and still do) how Michael Kors has been able to do it for 37 years. Aside from the charisma and the passion, he says it’s all about maintaining his vision. “Consistency is key for designers because it allows your customers to trust you,” he explains. “I’ve always known what I wanted to design and for whom I wanted to design: glamorous sportswear for the ultimate jet-setter. Clothes that could keep up with everyday life but still look great.” Making the clothes work for the wearer instead of the other way around is key to Michael’s staying power. “Even on the red carpet, if we had two [options for] dresses, I would say to an actress, ‘Okay, which one feels more like you? If you feel like you’re in your own skin, you’re going to look better. Always.’” He adds, “My customers always know what they want. They are smart, confident and can do a million things at once and make it look easy. They demand comfort, quality and luxury and they need clothes that can keep up with their lifestyle. But above and beyond all that, they love glamour, and we give them [the kind of] glamour that works for their lives.”
Because fashion continuously shifts to match the times, Michael knows that he needs to constantly move just as fast, if not faster. “[When I was younger], you would see pictures of Jackie Kennedy, particularly when she was married to [Aristotle] Onassis, [or] of Elizabeth Taylor, and these women were always on the go, on the move. Before that, when you thought about wealth, it was about a slow life. It was about getting on a ship with trunks, [which was] very formal. And suddenly, [traveling in style] was about white jeans and a black T-shirt, but very glamorous. I think that was the beginning of life in the fast lane. So now, we design for a life that’s fast, where people want to look glamorous and feel great, but it has to function.” Michael says his jet-set aesthetic has always leaned toward sportswear, and explains, “[Now] when we say sportswear, it doesn’t really mean it’s just for sport, it’s just an attitude of a fashion that is built for movement and speed.”
Michael’s journey wasn’t easy. Since his departure from design school after two semesters, he went from working in retail, then being crowned as the new fashion ingenue by Anna Wintour in the ’80s, to filing for bankruptcy and having to restrategize and reorganize his company. He then became the creative director of French fashion house Céline, to being one of the judges for 10 seasons of Project Runway, and earning in excess of a billion dollars from his company (as of press time, his holding company’s acquisition of Jimmy Choo has generated a new level of interest in his brand). In spite of everything he has been through, one thing is certain: Michael has no plans of taking it easy. And why should he? “Fashion’s rules have disappeared,” he muses. There goes one less thing to slow him down.
In Asia, I think the customer doesnt have so many rules—shes always experimenting and trying something new, and thats exciting. In America, a 20-year-old normally wouldnt be as sophisticated. Its just the reality.”