On a recent spring night, Michael Kors went to his old haunt Studio 54 to see “Sondheim on Sondheim,” a recent Broadway production by the Roundabout Theatre Company. Lee Radziwill sat across the aisle from him, and as the lights dimmed, Barbra Streisand took her seat. Vanessa Williams, who stars in the show, was decked out in Kors. “I sound like Cindy Adams, but only in New York could this happen,” Kors recalls.
That the designer himself was right at the center of it should come as no surprise. Since launching into fashion almost three decades ago, Kors has become a central character on Seventh Avenue and beyond, and his telegenic turn as a judge on “Project Runway” has made him a national celebrity.
The recipient of this year’s Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award started his career at Lothar’s, where he designed a collection for the boutique and was discovered while merchandising its windows. “Dawn Mello was at Bergdorf’s at the time and literally tapped on the window and started talking to me,” Kors recalls. “She thought I was the display person, which I was, and she said, ‘Who designs these clothes?’ Six months later, I put together the first collection, gave her a call and said, ‘I am ready to roll.’”
Bergdorf Goodman picked up the collection, and before long, Kors was in business, delivering his goods to Bergdorf’s in his aunt’s Mercedes, and getting to know his customers at trunk shows. “I really knew nothing,” he now admits. “I had no idea how people shipped clothes and didn’t even know there was UPS. My seamstresses from Lothar’s were sewing in my apartment. I rented the sewing machines because it was cheaper than buying them, and I rolled them up Eighth Avenue myself to save on the delivery costs.”
His first runway show, in 1984, set the tone for the entire brand. “I had no money, but I never really thought that was a reason it shouldn’t be less than glamorous,” says Kors. “Iman, Diane Dewitt and every other major girl was in the show. I learned from Lothar’s that it was all about the woman. She made it come to life. Iman in a turtleneck and a pair of trousers is as dramatic as a ballgown.”
More recently, Kors, like no other, has been able to reach a wide range of customers — anyone from a 60-year-old Park Avenue matron to a twentysomething working girl or an 11-year-old mall rat. Today, he brings pieces from all three lines — Collection, Kors Michael Kors and Michael Michael Kors — under one roof in his lifestyle concept stores, which are slated to number 80 in North America before the end of the year. They underscore how his idea of the good life can extend to all tiers in fashion, and happily coexist.
“I still think that, in a fashion world that craves cool, I am very happy for things to look happy,” Kors says. “I am very happy for people to look affluent. When people say, ‘The economy turned — do you think you should look sad?’ I say, ‘No.’ Maybe you don’t want to look ridiculous or over the top, but I’ve always tempered my designs with something more casual and sportier.”
It’s a philosophy of which the rest of the world has taken note. “American designers sometimes feel like the stepchild to Europe, and meanwhile, you travel the world and people are wearing sportswear,” Kors says. “I don’t see a lot of people wearing ballgowns in any city. I couldn’t be happier and more proud to be referred to as all-American and a New Yorker.”
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
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“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye