Hitting stores May 9, the Michael Kors x Ellesse capsule offers a modern take on retro athleisure. The 24-piece capsule features a one-of-a-kind insignia that combines Kors’ logo with Ellesse’s tennis-and-ski-inspired one. A waved pattern with the Ellesse x Michael Kors emblem appears on the bags and accessories of the lifestyle collection.
The capsule includes bold track jackets and pants, vintage-style swimsuits and playful patterns, chunky sneakers, logo slides and neon bucket hats. Kors’ Hudson backpack and Bradshaw shoulder bag round out the offering. Prices range from $68 to $498.
The product is dual-designed and dual-produced. Sizes are XXS to XXL. The color palette combines Ellesse’s signature fiery oranges and reds with classic shades of navy blue and crisp white.
The capsule will be sold at select Michael Kors boutiques and e-commerce and via Ellesse’s e-commerce site.
Asked why he wanted to do a collaboration with Ellesse, Michael Kors said a little-known fact is that when he was a teenager, he was the night manager at a tennis club on Long Island.
“Then I became the ready-to-wear buyer for the pro shop. I was always personally a mediocre tennis player. But the two sports to me that were always glamorous and sexy, particularly when you look at images from the ’70s, were tennis and skiing. Both of these were such a part of fast-paced jet-set life. We carried Ellesse in our pro shop and we did very well with it. There was this blend of European glamour with the idea of athleticism and for me, movement is always very American.”
Kors said this capsule was something that he was always intrigued to do and loves things that are graphic and bold. He also felt it made a lot of sense when people today are wearing athletic clothes not just to the gym. “In the ’70s, I knew women who wore tennis dresses with a gold watch, diamond earrings and sunglasses even if they weren’t going to play tennis. They wanted to show off their legs and hit the town,” he said.
So tennis apparel is something that was deeply ingrained in Kors in his fashion memory and design ethos. “The funny thing at the time, I would sit and people would arrive for their tennis games, and I would be sitting and sketching, and inevitably they would say, ‘what are you sketching?’ and the next thing you knew, they were 20 minutes late for their game, and we ended up having fashion discussions.”
“I wanted to be able to collaborate with a brand that I think stands for quality, stands for timelessness, and has that hybrid of being a European brand that’s really global,” he added.
When asked how the design process worked with Ellesse, Kors called it a “real true collaboration.”
“We wanted to work with iconic pieces that are a mainstay of their collection, tweak them and work back and forth with their team. In a weird way, the design process was like a good tennis match. There was a lot of volleying back and forth,” he said. He added the collaboration for now is for one season. “Of course we will reassess and take it as it comes. I love the idea of launching it this time of year. I think all joking aside, maybe everyone should get out of their yoga clothes and get into tennis clothes,” said the designer.
He said skiwear is not in this drop, but it will be included in a second drop.
Kors said he hasn’t designed a separate activewear line previously, but has always incorporated it into Michael Michael Kors, which has a strong active component. Now it’s become a year-round part of the business, he said. “It’s the same now as the perfect blazer or great trench coat. Active is a mainstay of how people live and how they get dressed,” he said. Someday, he might consider doing a separate activewear collection.
As for whether the Kors x Ellesse line is more geared to performance or spectator, Kors said, it’s “demi-performance.”
“I’m definitely expecting people will wear it on the court. If we were going to the U.S. Open, we might put a little extra performance into it. But for most good tennis players, this will be performance-oriented,” he said.
One of his favorite pieces in the lineup is the pop-over, which is what you’ll put on after a tennis match and run around town in. “I love all the jackets, I’m a big believer that your outerwear is what gives your outfit personality. I also love that we incorporated swim into it for men and women. If you’re going on vacation, you’ll definitely want to have a swim component and an active component. I think the mix of the two is great. And of course, the accessories, the bucket hat, the backpack, the little bag. They automatically give personality,” said Kors.
Accompanying the launch is a campaign featuring model Emily Ratajkowski, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based rapper, singer and songwriter Jay Critch and models Lexi Boling, Herzen Clerge and Lucas Ucedo as well as musician Wolftyla and Japanese internet sensation Kemio. It was photographed by Lachlan Bailey and styled by Mel Ottenberg, editor in chief of Interview. Ads will appear on social media and in the boutiques.
“It was all about something that felt joyous, people celebrating being together again and being able to be out and about and travel. I think the product can be on anyone from [ages] 17 to 70 and any size. We love the mix of people we shot. I think when people wear these pieces it’s about feeling very confident, and I think Emily represents that. She owns her narrative. I’ve known her a long time and I think she’s very inspiring to so many women. You wear what you feel right in. Plus, I think she looks great in tennis clothes,” said Kors.
“What I always love about active when it’s designed right, so much of it is gender-neutral. The majority of the line is gender-neutral. It really speaks to the fact that this is for everyone and anyone,” he said.
According to an Ellesse spokesperson: “We were excited to do this collection because we saw the opportunity for Italian flair to meet American spirit, bringing glamour and street to life. We hope the capsule brings desirability to seasonal tennis looks off the court in a more fashion-forward, sophisticated way.”
The campaign was photographed on a tennis court at a Miami hotel.
Ratajkowski described it as a homecoming of sorts, working with Trey Laird, the creative director, and Bolling, whom she’s known since she was very young and they were both at Ford Models.
“Trey Laird, who cast the project, is somebody I’ve been working with [for] many years, and I [whom] hadn’t seen since the pandemic started. It was definitely one of those moments you feel like you’re coming out of a vacuum or a black hole. I’ve had a baby in that time and published a book….it was a really wonderful feeling of ‘life is back to normal,’” said Ratajkowski. She said everyone from those in makeup and hair, as well as Ottenberg, were people she used to work with quite frequently and hadn’t seen much.
Asked if she’s a tennis player, Ratajkowski said: “I wish. I’m not. I enjoy watching tennis. I haven’t played tennis in a long time. I’d be curious to see how bad I am.”
Overall, she said: “I think it’s a really well done collaboration. I’m a fan of both brands individually and they maintained the core DNA of Kors and Ellesse. It came together in this really cool, unique logo and print. All the pieces feel really luxe and are very comfortable.” As for her favorite pieces, she said she loved the sets — the sweatpants with the jackets and the hats that they had. “I loved the accessories. It was a full head-to-toe look,” she said.
“It’s always really nice to work with American brands and I work with a lot of European brands, particularly in fashion. Kors is such a classic American brand. I do a ton of work with Italian brands. To have a marriage of both felt really nice,” she said.
The capsule collection will also be brought to life in a series of pop-up installations and activations around the world. They will be launching the collaboration with global events in London on May 4 and 5, followed by the New York launch event on May 12. Teams have also designed special in-store installations at Kors’ Regent Street and Rockefeller Center flagships.
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