What do MoMA and Maria von Trapp have in common? Things, silly! Dear, determined Maria chased away fears by singing about her favorites. MoMA used a different word for its recent exhibit, “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” but potato, po-tah-to.
In December, Kors and his husband Lance LePere took in the exhibit. “It really just started my head rolling,” Kors said during a preview. “How do I design the piece that you grab for on a regular basis?” He set out to design a collection of exactly that — go-to, essential items aka favorite things. Cue Julie Andrews. (Kors did, for his soundtrack, three-quarters through the show.)
The fashion kismet of it all — museum show, show tune, Kors’ desire to celebrate his customers’ individuality — made for a collection that, while a little disjointed (items will do that to you), presented beautiful, inviting clothes that radiated the designer’s innate optimism and corresponding belief that fashion should be good for what ails you, not a device for exploring kernels of social discontent. A show, he said, “for people who find joy in getting dressed.”
You name it, this collection had it. (Except for real fur — Kors recently swore off the stuff. But there was plenty of great-looking faux.) It had it all for women and men, worn with the casual panache intrinsic to Kors’ ethos. Big coats; little jackets; sweaters, both classic and tweaked, with glittering floral embroidery; logo play (sweater emblazoned with a giant KO in front and RS in back); natural-waist dresses with a waft of the Forties: a poetic Pierrot number de-sweetened in silk camouflage; curvy slipdresses. The favorite things continued with handbag matched to skirt; girlie grunge boots, printed with flowers; fluffy slippers; men’s patterned totes, and, something of a surprise, tartans galore.
If there was a recurring theme (beyond wonderfully inviting clothes in which to feel your most best), it was Kors’ unexpected embrace of patterns: Fair Isles and argyles; animal spots; a bower of flowers on prints, jacquards and sparkling embroideries. And those tartans, worn in combinations with terrific gusto. One look featured a red-and-black plaid cape, muffler and tote (for good measure) over a floral dress and brown leopard-spot boots; another red tartan sweater was paired with a marigold tartan scarf and camo print pants. The guys got similar treatment: huge mohair sweater worn with marigold tartan muffler and red tartan pants; plaid peacoat and muffler, striped sweater and herringbone pants, all in black and white.
The collection definitely projected that sense of joy-in-dressing to which Kors aspired, and another kind of joy as well. The glorious Joan Smalls closed the show in black sequined pants and a gray varsity T printed in front with 19 and in back with 81. 1981 — the year Kors went into business. Through good times and some bad, he’s hung in there and ultimately thrived. A favorite thing? Better even than whiskers on kittens.