Michael Boris Preps for a Wider Audience

The designer, who for 35 years has been quietly designing luxe, easy sportswear for private clients and a few specialty stores, is looking to shake things up.

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Michael Boris, who for 35 years has been quietly designing easy, luxurious sportswear for private clients and a few specialty stores, is looking to shake things up.

This story first appeared in the March 27, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The designer had a short-lived partnership with Kell­wood Co., but they parted ways last year following the departure of Kellwood chief executive officer Michael Kramer. Since then Boris has been building the business on his own, hoping to broaden his distribution with better specialty stores.

“This was the year I thought I’d push myself even more. I believe it’s a product more people would like to wear. I’m taking small steps to make that happen,” said Boris from his sun-filled atelier in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park neighborhood.

In addition to his made-to-order business for private clients, Boris sells Wilkes Bashford and Mitchells and does trunk shows several times a year at Neiman Marcus. The designer produces his entire collection in his workroom on West 38th Street in New York.

Boris harbors no ill feelings about his nine-month partnership with Kellwood. “It was best that we parted friends. Mike [Kramer] had great ideas for my brand, such as launching a secondary line. Now I can do it on my own,” said Boris. The Kellwood partnership was forged to help Boris expand through freestanding stores; additional wholesale accounts, domestically and abroad, and e-commerce. While he’s striking out on his own, he hasn’t ruled out taking on a new investor.

Boris’ designer collection runs the gamut from sportswear to eveningwear. “My evening­wear tends to be sporty,” said Boris. Many of his pieces are hand-embroidered, beaded and hand-stitched. For fall his collection features 23 looks, ranging from double-faced cashmere pullovers, gray windowpane cashmere wide-leg pants and cashmere jackets with silver fox trim to double-faced cashmere long sheath dresses and oversize cashmere coats and hand-embroidered beaded pants. “I obsess over beautiful workmanship,” said Boris. Styles wholesale from $490 to $6,000.

For spring 2014, Boris plans to launch a secondary line called Gypsy from Po’Keepsie. That line will wholesale from $75 to $300 and will be a little younger than his namesake collection. “It will reflect the hippie, fun side of me. There will be more mixing and matching of prints and fabrics,” he said. He plans to manufacture the collection in the U.S. “There’s enough that you can get done here if you have the right workers. I prefer to have things done here,” said Boris.

A graduate of Traphagen School of Fashion, Boris at one point had three stores in Rhinebeck, N.Y., including a multibrand boutique with other designers, a home-furnishings location and a Collection unit, as well as a store in nearby Poughkeepsie. Boris also had a store at 242 West 10th Street in New York that closed last year and continues to operate a store at 1051 Bush Street in San Francisco. He plans to open another store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Over the years Boris has dressed such women as Patti LaBelle and Brooke Shields.

Boris plans to show his collection to retailers on April 9.

While Boris declined to reveal how much volume he does, he said, “I’m pretty happy with where we are. I’d like to push it to the next level.”

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