NEW YORK — Longtime friends Michael Kors and Aerin Lauder sat down with Alina Cho Thursday night to talk about easy American style, Charles James and authentic brand building.
About 75 guests listened in at the Friends of The Costume Institute event, which was held at Lauder’s Upper East Side townhouse. The Aerin Lauder brand, along with Condé Nast, will sponsor the upcoming Charles James exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.
Asked how he and Lauder first connected, Kors recalled spotting a photograph of her wearing one of his camel double-faced T-shirt dresses in The New York Times Magazine years ago and using it for one of his mood boards. “I said, ‘OK, this girl is inspiring for me and I have a feeling our paths are definitely going to cross.’”
Lauder described meeting Kors for the first time at Seventh on Sale in Washington, where Princess Diana was among the guests. “I just absolutely fell in love with Michael immediately. I think it was a cocktail party, dinner and then shopping,” she said.
“And we like to shop, we like a cocktail; we like camel.” Kors said.
On a more serious note, Kors described how the pace of everyday life has affected American designers’ place in the ever-shifting global marketplace. “The borders of the world of fashion have fallen. If New Yorkers were the first people who lived a very fast life, well, now life is fast today even if you live in Pocatello, Idaho. You could live in a small town in South Africa and everyone is plugged in. Everyone is traveling even if they’re not physically traveling. They’re on the Internet. They know what’s happening. They live a fast life,” he said. “The idea that American fashion is only sporty or English fashion is quirky, or French fashion is elegant and the Japanese are avant-garde — all that’s flown out the window and we’re all kind of living a similar life. But we invented style for a quick life.”
Noting how he typically does 40 global interviews at his runway shows, Kors said, “It certainly helps to be able to express yourself, express what the collection is about, be able to talk to people. In today’s world, there is a camera everywhere. For a designer who doesn’t have business skills or people skills, well, you’d better latch on to a partner who does.”
The designer continued, “What do you need to survive in the fashion world? You need it all. You need ideas, creativity, empathy, drama, drive, endurance, sense of humor, personality — looks don’t hurt — I mean, it’s all part of the fashion world. And you want to have endurance to last a long time. Aerin grew up in a legacy business, and I know that’s how she thinks also.”
Kors and Lauder also spoke of their interest in James. After Cho showed the crowd the elegant pastel-color Cecil Beaton photo that The Costume Institute is using to promote the May opening, Lauder said she has kept that photograph in her dressing room since her parents gave it to her for a birthday. “It was a beautiful moment in time, and that’s very much the inspiration for the show,” she said. “It was really a very interesting moment in time because it was American couture, fashion and feminine.”
Cho reminded the audience that even though James dressed luminaries like Millicent Rogers, Austine Hearst, Marlene Dietrich, Babe Paley and Elsa Peretti, he died alone and penniless at the Chelsea Hotel in 1978. He was also known to turn down clients for being too fat and speak his mind, she said. The latter was something Kors experienced firsthand, during his Fashion Institute of Technology days in the late Seventies. “I had a friend who was interning, basically trying to organize Charles James’ life, while he was living this squalid life at the Chelsea Hotel. My friend said, ‘He’s done all this work for Halston and he keeps screaming that Halston didn’t pay him. And that’s why he is doing so terribly financially,’” Kors said. “I thought, ‘Wow, he worked for Halston so he has to be making patterns for Halston.’
“As soon as we walked in, the place was in shambles. He had this anger about him that’s so sad when someone so creative has not been acknowledged for his worth. He had all his clippings and they were yellowed. He kept saying, ‘No one realizes the Seventies wouldn’t have happened without me,’” Kors said. “I think a lot of the clothes you saw in the Seventies were soft versions of his clothes, so he was right. But he wasn’t well; he had no money, and the anger was something that I couldn’t imagine. I couldn’t imagine having that kind of anger. I was 18 years old and the world was fresh as my oyster. And here he was looking at things the other way.”
Fast-forward to Kors’ current billionaire status and the designer said he is still the same person. “The worst thing you can do in life is to say, ‘Well, I’m here,’ because then guess what — you’ve lost your curiosity and you’re not ready to keep experimenting and trying new things. So I looked at the paper that day and said, ‘That’s great,’ and I went to a fitting.”
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews