MICHAEL KORS IS not a man of few words. The New York designer, who has come to define modern American luxury, is known for his grand pronouncements and witty zingers. His funny one-liners from his stint as a judge on reality show Project Runway have become the stuff of legend, repeated – and watched online – ad nauseam by his fans. Here’s a little refresher: “She looks like toilet paper in a windstorm,” or “The only possible accessory she could use with this is a wand.”
Kors, however, doesn’t just like to joke around. He built a successful business by unabashedly celebrating women and dressing them in timeless pieces that defy trends and make them look like a million bucks. We met the designer – and a coterie of his fabulous female fans – right after his autumn/ winter 2015 show in New York on a freezing day earlier this year. The mile-a-minute Kors held forth on topics ranging from Barack Obama’s suits to the flawless style of the Queen of England.
When it comes to talking matters of style there’s no one better than the man himself, so without further ado let him delight you with a few pearls of wisdom.
ON THE ESSENCE OF THE MICHAEL KORS WOMAN
My women are what I refer to as very glamorous jugglers, women who I think have busy lives, travel and somehow manage to have family, career, homes ... They look great but never become fashion victims. They make it look easy but it’s not. In the public eye, you look at a woman like Angelina Jolie. How does she do all this? How do you look great and do everything she does? Blake Lively, same thing. Kate Hudson, same thing. They’re businesswomen, creative people, travellers, moms, wives – they look great but never become strictly fashion victims or bloggers wearing crazy clothes on the street. They’re real women and the simple truth is, the real trick is, for me and my job, to take the guesswork out of it and make it seem that it looks effortless when in fact it takes a lot of effort. It’s not easy and I’m always thinking about that kind of woman.
ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS CLIENTS
I’m friends with them. First off, New York women are very vocal. They tell you everything. They tell you if something is uncomfortable or if they feel great wearing it. Someone like Aerin Lauder, I’ve known her for over 20 years. When I first met her she was just entering the workforce and she was a young woman in a corporate situation trying to find a way to look at work that was appropriate for someone in her early 20s – you’re young and you’re an executive. She used to love wearing very short skirts and she’d say to me, “I don’t know, do you think they’re too short for the office?” I’d say, “Maybe it’s a weekend skirt,” and now she’s running her own brand, she’s a great mom, travels the world constantly. I went to a dinner at her house last summer and it was one of those summer nights where it’s a little cool outside and she had on shorts, and she said, “I’m freezing, but I don’t want to change.” So she went upstairs and came back, and she was wearing one of these transparent cashmere cardigans we made years ago – my clients keep their clothes for a long time. She came down in this cardigan and it was not in the best shape. I looked at her and said, “I can’t believe you still have that!” She said, “I love this, it’s the perfect weight. It’s just enough, I love the length, the perfect proportion.” I stored that in the back of my head and next season we made that again. So if you listen and you keep your eyes open, you learn.
ON THE 21ST-CENTURY GLOBETROTTING WOMAN
Everyone is stealing from each other. The Asian customer probably travels more than any other customer in the world. The Hong Kong customer sees everything that’s happening all over Asia – both in cities and in resorts, what’s happening in California, New York, Paris, London ... I think everyone’s taking from each other but you could say that California defines casual and New York defines speed. Paris is glamour. London is quirky and eccentric. Milan is chic and Japan always avant-garde. Now I think, if you’re a certain fashion customer, you take all of it and mix it together. There are no borders.
ON WOMEN IN POWER
When you see a man who’s powerful, you don’t really want to notice what he’s wearing. You want him to look his best and smart, and you want him to be able to focus on what he’s doing. And I think for a woman in power it’s a similar thing. I don’t think she has to look like a man, but I don’t want her to walk into that room and for you to say, “Oh, look at that dress!” I want to focus on her and then after you say, “Oh, I like what she’s wearing.” It’s the same for men. President Obama wears these really beautiful suits and they fit him perfectly. I never notice that, but then every time I see him in person after I’ve spoken to him, I realise, “Oh, that’s a really beautiful suit,” and I think that’s the key. Queen Elizabeth knows that; she’s a style icon because she found what works for her, consistently. I think Queen Elizabeth looks perfect.
ON YOUNG HOLLYWOOD
I feel like Emma Stone is talented, smart, funny – she’s kind of a new Katharine Hepburn, because she likes to break the rules. She does things her own way. She would wear trousers to an awards show. She always does something different and I think that she’s a little bit of a tomboy in a good sense. I also love Scarlett Johansson. I think she’s kind of old-school Hollywood. She’s quite used to being called a dame, a broad. She’s all of that – I’m always intrigued by her. There are a few other girls I like. I’m just thinking of all the younger girls like Hailee Steinfeld, who’s 18 years old and charming, talented, sophisticated. A long time ago I thought that a young customer for us was probably in her 20s, but now we have teenage customers who are very sophisticated – and she’s really the example of that. She really has a great eye for fashion and all of her movies are interesting.