UNITED WE STAND How Michael Kors de­signs for every woman, ev­ery­where

Harper's Bazaar (UK) - - News - By LY­DIA SLATER

Michael Kors has been on a mis­sion

to cel­e­brate women ever since he de­signed his mother’s wed­ding dress at

the age of five. To­day, his in­clu­sive ap­proach tran­scends race, re­li­gion, size and age, as he brings his joy­ful, colour­ful fash­ion to the world

John Bet­je­man once mem­o­rably de­clared that, in the event of Ar­maged­don, he would head for Peter Jones, since noth­ing un­pleas­ant could ever hap­pen there. Wan­der­ing around Michael Kors’ Re­gent Street flag­ship prior to meet­ing the de­signer, I find my­self mus­ing along sim­i­lar lines. The mo­ment you walk in off the street, the world be­gins to seem a bet­ter place. Try­ing to an­a­lyse the source of my el­e­vated mood, I first no­tice the friendly young as­sis­tants, the op­ti­mism of the vi­brant colours and strong prints, the pleas­ant shock of the en­try-level pric­ing and the fact that ev­ery­thing seems to be avail­able in my size.

But what it re­ally comes down to, I re­alise, is the glo­ri­ous di­ver­sity of the fe­male cus­tomers. At a time when global po­lit­i­cal trends are push­ing us apart, the store re­sem­bles an un­usu­ally har­mo­nious UN con­ven­tion. Here are women from all cor­ners of the world, dressed in ev­ery­thing from hi­jabs to mi­croshorts; here are grand­moth­ers flex­ing gold cards along­side teenagers spend­ing their pocket money; here are the sylphs and the stat­uesque, wan­der­ing along the same rails in a soror­ity of style. Some­how, Michael Kors has pulled off the ex­tra­or­di­nary feat of speak­ing to us all.

‘My job is to make ev­ery­one look great,’ agrees the de­signer, when we meet the next day in his spa­cious Clar­idge’s suite (an­other place where it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to feel gloomy). ‘Whether it’s a teenager or an 84-year-old, whether it’s an Amer­i­can size zero or an Amer­i­can size 16… I don’t think it’s like, “Oh, if you can’t fit into this box then you’re not part of my club.’’’

Kors cer­tainly prac­tises what he preaches. His cat­walk shows are

renowned for fea­tur­ing women of all races, ages and, lat­terly, sizes. Bazaar’s July cover star, Ash­ley Gra­ham, walked his A/W 17 show, not as a ‘plus-size’ model but – his charm­ing term – as ‘part of the rain­bow’. ‘I said to Ash­ley, when we had her fit­ting, “You’re an amaz­ing beauty, ev­ery­one needs to see your body. The last thing I would do is put you in a tu­nic and a pair of elas­ti­cated trousers. Let’s cel­e­brate you.” I’m not try­ing to dress Ash­ley as a big­ger girl; I’m not try­ing to dress the older models as ma­ture women, or the teenage models to look young and kooky. I don’t ap­proach it that way.’ He launches into an anec­dote about dress­ing a ‘very pow­er­ful pro­ducer’ for the Os­cars, who as­ton­ished him by re­quest­ing a huge ball gown al­though her sig­na­ture style was el­e­gant and tai­lored, be­cause she wanted to sur­prise ev­ery­body. ‘I said, “I’m not the man for that.” And the moral of the story is, she did wear a big ball gown, they didn’t win and, af­ter, I saw her and she said to me, “Why did I want to be some­one else?”’ He has no in­ter­est in what he calls the ‘Cin­derella com­plex’ of dress­ing a woman to trans­form her. ‘I think most of the women who ap­pre­ci­ate what I do, they just want to look like their best selves, bet­ter.’

No won­der Kors’ clothes seem par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar with women of strong per­son­al­ity. His fans in­clude An­gelina Jolie, Jen­nifer Lopez and Bette Mi­dler, not to men­tion a tri­umvi­rate of First Ladies. Kors was a vo­cal sup­porter of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign and gave her his Award for Out­stand­ing Com­mu­nity Ser­vice in 2013; Michelle Obama posed in a sleeve­less Kors shift for her first of­fi­cial por­trait; and Me­la­nia Trump has been wear­ing his de­signs for state func­tions. ‘All have been clients, hon­estly, from be­fore…’ he says. ‘I’ve had con­ver­sa­tions with all of them, where I’m like, “Well, what about this?” or “Try that,” but they still know what fits into their pa­ram­e­ters. Hope­fully when they put some­thing on, they know it’s go­ing to look great 360 de­grees around.’ Equally vi­tal, he con­tin­ues, is com­fort. ‘That just adds to your own sense of con­fi­dence, and that’s the best thing I could do.’ It’s an at­ti­tude that, sadly, is not as preva­lent as it might be in high-fash­ion cir­cles, where all too of­ten, de­sign­ers ap­pear to sub­scribe to the dic­tum of il faut souf­frir pour être belle. For Kors, by con­trast, look­ing good is sim­ply a mat­ter of wear­ing what works for you; which is why he de­clares that the best-dressed woman in the world is, in fact, the Queen. ‘She would be my ul­ti­mate per­son to be able to dress,’ he says en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. ‘To pull it off with such aplomb, it’s amaz­ing. She has to­tal un­der­stand­ing of her life, her needs, what’s the best part to show off… I love the con­sis­tency, I think it’s bril­liant. At the end of the day, con­sis­tency is what be­comes style ver­sus just fash­ion. And you don’t even no­tice it, you know?’

Kors owes his fe­male-friendly ap­proach to an up­bring­ing in a fam­ily of what he calls ‘very strong, very opin­ion­ated women who all knew them­selves well’. His par­ents di­vorced when he was small, and he was brought up in a ma­tri­archy, headed by his mother Joan, a for­mer model. ‘I was sur­rounded by aun­ties who were very fash­ion-y, my mom, my grand­mother, great-aunts… And they were all very spe­cific in their look. My mom is su­per-un­der­stated, al­ways neu­tral, clean lines, sporty, and my grand­mother was the po­lar op­po­site – jew­ellery, colour, fash­ion, glam­our. She would travel with six wig boxes and take fur to the Caribbean be­cause it might be chilly from the air-con­di­tion­ing. I thought both had some­thing right about them.’

The young Kors him­self also had a keen eye for style. At the age of five, he reimag­ined his mother’s wed­ding dress for her sec­ond mar­riage, and as a teenager, sold clothes from his par­ents’ base­ment, be­fore en­rolling at New York’s Fash­ion In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in 1977. Within four years, he had launched his first wom­enswear line, and by 2014, he was one of fash­ion’s self­made­bil­lion­aires(havin­gal­so­found­time­for stints as the cre­ative direc­tor of Céline and asa Project Run­way judge). This sum­mer, it was an­nounced that he had in­vested £900 mil­lion in buy­ing Jimmy Choo.

Nat­u­rally, such suc­cess is born of a for­mi­da­ble work ethic. ‘We live by the cal­en­dar, and the cal­en­dar is jammed,’ he says. He plays just as hard. ‘I talk jet-set, I live jet-set,’ he says. ‘It’s not a fan­tasy con­cept.’ He and Lance LePere, his hus­band of six years, di­vide their time be­tween homes in Man­hat­tan, Long Is­land and a third, new prop­erty on the Gulf of Mex­ico. As well as con­stantly trav­el­ling for work, they like to is­land-hop – ‘Any­where from Phuket in Thai­land to Capri to the Caribbean. If I can just be bare­foot, I’m thrilled,’ says Kors. The night be­fore our meet­ing, he hosted a noisy party at the Saatchi Gallery that went on into the small hours, cel­e­brat­ing ‘the most ex­cit­ing, in­ter­est­ing and beau­ti­ful young women in Bri­tain’; and be­fore he flies out again to­mor­row, he in­tends to defy his jet-lag to see the Na­tional’s eight-hour pro­duc­tion of An­gels in Amer­ica. ‘When it’s the­atre that great, it’s fine,’ he says.

The sched­ule sounds ex­haust­ing to me, but Kors prefers it that way. ‘I some­times think to my­self, what if I had what I’d call a grey life, an in-be­tween life? I don’t know how great I’d be at it,’ he says. ‘But quite frankly, the world is in such a state of change and flux in how we dress and how we live, and how we present our­selves, I don’t know how you could be bored right now.’

Not bored; but you might pos­si­bly be a bit scared? ‘No, not scared,’ de­clares Kors. ‘I’m an op­ti­mist. A re­al­is­tic op­ti­mist.’ And one de­ter­mined to bring his fash­ion rain­bow to colour lives that are greyer than his own.

Kors’ fans in­clude

An­gelina Jolie, Jen­nifer Lopez and Bette Mi­dler, and a tri­umvi­rate of

First Ladies

Michael Kors in his of­fice in New York

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.