By  on September 28, 2009

DALLAS — Michael Kors and Laura Bush were a potent combination at the annual Crystal Charity ball luncheon and fashion show at the Neiman Marcus flagship here Tuesday.

There were few signs of economic malaise as new fall dresses and suits — including dozens designed by Kors — cloaked hundreds of women, some of whom accessorized with a blazing array of diamonds.

“I’ve heard the consumer is hibernating, but I look around and I see signs of life,” said Karen Katz, Neiman Marcus Stores president and chief executive officer, as she addressed the crowd from a perch on the mezzanine overlooking the main floor.

Below her, a runway stretched along the jewelry and handbag cases, edged with rows of women seated on white chairs. The show featured Kors’ fall collection plus 10 looks from spring 2010.

“When I lived here, I did come every year [to this luncheon], but this is the first time in 14 years,” said the former first lady, who moved back to Dallas this year and was seated between longtime Crystal Charity patrons Annette Simmons and Nancy Dedman.

The fund-raising event, which presents 10 women as “best dressed” and draws more than 500 high-profile guests, was expected to net $600,000 for the children’s charity, contributing to its 2009 goal of $4.1 million.

After the runway show and lunch, a trunk show of Kors’ resort deliveries was set up in the second floor salon.

“We’ve seen two things are so important for us,” Kors said. “One is giving women clothing and accessories that are fresh and new but still have longevity. The other is diversity. I have three different shoe lines, two handbag [labels] and a diversity of prices so it’s not all high-end or midlevel.”

Kors said the strategy of mixing price points is working in his 45 Michael Kors accessories and shoe boutiques, adding that all are profitable. The plan is to have 100 units by 2012. In addition, Kors has opened stores for his designer collection in Palm Beach, Fla., London and Milan and is hunting for locations in Paris and Germany.

The designer has been traveling so much that he missed taping several episodes of this season’s “Project Runway” reality show. Kors said he sees none of the contestants’ drama in the sewing studio until each episode airs.

“I’ll be watching it and [co-star] Nina [Garcia] texts me to say, “He’s so awful,’ or, ‘She’s such a bitch.’”

From Dallas, Kors was headed for Paris to buy fabrics, to Milan to fit his pre-fall line and then back to London to launch hisfragrance, Very Hollywood, followed by a jaunt to Los Angeles to shoot an ad campaign.

When does he have time to design? “You have to be thinking and watching all the time,” he said.

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