Michael Kors, The man who built a $1 billion fashion empire
Michael Kors is among fashion’s bona fide elite. With a billion dollar fashion empire, a stellar client list including Kate Middleton, Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie, an impressive 8.4 million followers on Instagram, and over 600 stores worldwide, you’d be forgiven for expecting Kors to have an air of haughty exclusivity about him. In reality, a closer look reveals a down-toearth designer committed to championing ‘accessible luxury’ in the fashion world. His inherent love of people from all walks of life has seen him win countless friends and fans, as well as global recognition for his extensive charitable work.
Born Karl Anderson, Michael Kors grew up a stone’s throw from the Big Apple, in Merrick, Long Island. A child model and actor, he showed an early eye for fashion and, in 1977, enrolled at the famous Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. The rest, as they say, is history.
Following graduation, he started his own label in 1981, with his first runway show in 1984 receiving widespread acclaim for his 'elegant but minimal dressing'. In the following years, he experienced dramatic career highs and lows, from becoming creative director for luxury French brand, C.line, to filing for bankruptcy in 1993. Since relaunching his namesake company in 1997, his success has been consistently stratospheric, with highlights including finding TV fame as a judge on the Emmy award-winning show, Project Runway, and joining the likes of Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani and Valentine in 2014 as a member of fashion royalty’s billionaires club.
The Michael Kors line has steadily expanded and now includes womenswear, menswear, sportswear, bags, shoes, sunglasses, jewellery, beauty products and even fragrances. His overarching aesthetic is one of modern polished luxury, uniquely combining classic elegance with a distinctive, sporty edge. It is his desire to make his line accessible to all that has been one of the keys to his success. Kors cares about being inclusive, his clothes come in a wide range of sizes from petite to plus-size (unlike many luxury fashion houses, which only cater for the smallest sizes) and are priced at the affordable end of the luxury market.
This season’s must-have Michael Kors ‘Brooklyn’ bag is priced at $398, a far cry from the thousands of dollars at which other designer handbags retail. In an interview with the Evening Standard, Kors explains, “for a lot of fashion people, price and the idea of wearability and saleability are dirty words. As are age, size, height. I never felt that way, even a long time ago.”
While his designs may be accessible, they embody luxury, as do his spectacular stores. In May 2016, he launched his newest European flagship store in London’s Regent Street. It perfectly represents his simultaneous love of elegance and modernity, with a beautiful historic fa.ade and a sumptuous modern interior.
While Michael Kors most certainly lives among the A-listers, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Oprah Winfrey and Sarah Jessica Parker among his large crowd of friends, he is also deeply devoted to his philanthropic work. For over 26 years, he has helped fund New York charity God’s Love We Deliver in their aim to deliver muchneeded meals to those suffering from AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses. In 2013, he partnered with the United Nations World Food Programme to tackle the issue of global poverty, launching campaigns such as ‘Watch Hunger Stop’ and ‘Selfless Selfie’. Kors pledged to personally donate 100 meals for each ‘Selfless Selfie’ posted on World Food Day and has so far helped fund over five million meals to hungry children worldwide.
Named one of TIME’s most influential people in 2013, Michael Kors has proved he has influence far beyond the fashion world, and has used it to give something back to those less fortunate than himself. And that seems to be the essence of his charm and success: he loves to help, to please and to delight everyone, from clients to consumers to charities.