Unlike many of his fellow visionaries in the world of high fashion, Michael Kors has no desire to make clothes that people don’t actually want to wear. “When I put on a show or I design a collection, it doesn’t come to life until I see it on the street,” Kors explains on a sweltering summer day in Manhattan. “I think people gravitate toward what surprises them and feels indulgent, but also to what adds to their sense of style and confidence, something that feels like an old friend you can grab on a regular basis.”
And that wearable approach to modern design — all-American glamour meets sportswear — is no accident. At 57, the Long Island–born icon prides himself on the fact that his art is a business. “I don’t want to sound like the Gurumayi or something, but the reality is: Balance is everything,” he says. “I try to bring balance to what I design; I try to bring balance to how I approach business.”
And if you happen to appreciate his masterful gifts of observation, on full and hilarious display during his 10-year judgeship on America’s Project Runway (“Not a lot of women want to have cancelled on their crotch”), all the better. As his longtime stylist and collaborator Paul Cavaco puts it, “Michael has balls.”
The Kors formula works. His 35-year-old namesake company, which consists of Michael Kors Collection, MICHAEL Michael Kors, and Michael Kors Mens, is worth nearly US$9 billion (Kors himself is worth about US$1 billion since the company’s 2011 IPO). In the last year alone, total revenue for Michael Kors Inc. increased nearly eight percent to US$4.7 billion from US$4.4 billion. On any given street, at any given time, whether it’s an oversize bracelet watch or a crocodile-embossed leather bag, you’re bound to encounter a Kors classic. The brand now operates in 668 retail locations around the world, from Dubai to Munich, Beverly Hills to Seoul. Actress Kate Hudson, a close friend, thinks his enormous success comes down to natural ability. “Michael has impeccable taste and he loves and understands women,” she says. “He keeps his design aesthetic both contemporary and timeless.” Kors’ singular focus was never in doubt. His mother, Joan, was a former Revlon model, his grandfather was in the textile business, and his uncle worked in the garment district in manufacturing. “They could debate the merits of single-breasted versus double-breasted or what do you wear when you leave the beach club: ‘Should you wear cream or should you wear white?’ I listened to all of it,” he remembers.
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