At the age of 57, Michael Kors is something of a fashion emperor. The billionaire designer and entrepreneur’s namesake brand has close to 700 stores – two of them are in Jakarta, at Plaza Indonesia and Plaza Senayan, and there is one in Surabaya – and an annual turnover of US$4.5 billion. Kors is the face of his company, often to be spotted at the parties he loves to throw in New York, London, Shanghai and Tokyo. Supermodels like Karlie Kloss, Alessandra Ambrosio and Lily Aldridge grace his advertising campaigns. Jennifer Lawrence, Taylor Swift, Kate Middleton, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lopez are among the gorgeous celebrities who wear his clothes.
In 1981, Kors launched the Michael Kors womenswear line at Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue. In 1990, the company launched KORS Michael Kors. A bankruptcy in 1993 forced him to discontinue the KORS line for a time. He managed to get back on his feet by 1997 and launched a lower priced line. At the same time, he was named the fashionably first women’s ready-to-wear designer for Celine.
Kors has been honoured for his philanthropy. He has been fighting hunger for more than 20 years. A longtime supporter of God’s Love We Deliver, he has worked with the New York-based organisation to distribute meals to people with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses.
In 2013, he partnered with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) by designing the 100 Series watch. A portion of the proceeds from his special-edition timepiece helps WFP deliver school meals.
Kors has become a master of social media in growing his fashion business. For example, he leveraged Snapchat’s filters feature to drive up sales of Kendall II sunglasses on America’s National Sunglasses Day in June. “The filter… featured a pair of Michael Kors sunglasses that could be superimposed on a user’s face, letting the shopper virtually try the glasses on. The campaign… was very well received by users and stands out as an important example of how to leverage social media to grow e-commerce sales,” Luxury Daily reported. “Michael Kors’ Snapchat campaign generated a lot of interest among its target demographic – millennials and Generation Z shoppers. The Michael Kors Snapchat lens was viewed over 104 million times.”
What’s a typical day in your life like?
What I love about my job is that there is no typical day, it’s never the same. I might start with a walk-through of our show space, then go into a meeting with the design team, do a phone interview and review a catalogue design – all before lunch. The pace, the change of scenery, the newness, it keeps me excited and inspired after all these years.
This year, you showed your 35th fall collection. How has time shaped the identity of Michael Kors’ collections?
To tell you the truth, I’ve always stayed true to my vision. I started all those years ago with an idea of what I wanted to design and who I wanted to design it for – glamorous sportswear for the consummate jet-setter, and that’s still true today.
You recently expanded into menswear. Does your menswear share any similar traits with the womenswear?
We’ve actually had menswear for a long time. It has more of a focus lately because more men are interested in fashion than ever before. In terms of the similarities, both collections are made to keep up with life today – to be versatile, seasonless and functional while still being luxe.
How would you describe Michael Kors women and men?
They’re smart, successful people who can do it all and look great doing it. They’re at ease everywhere in the world and are always on the go.
What Michael Kors items do you think have the potential to become iconic?
I think there’s always something to be said for a bag that is timeless, seasonless and can pull any look together.
You jumped on the “see now, buy now” bandwagon last February. What was the thinking behind it? How did the customers like it?
I think everyone has to find the system that works best for them. For us, we wanted to give our customers a few pieces that they could fall in love with and incorporate into their wardrobes immediately. We’ll be following this format for our spring show as well.
Speaking of shopping, you have also introduced #InstaKors. Do you believe that this is the future of online shopping? Would the shift affect the retail industry in the long run?
I don’t think it’s the only answer, but I do think it will be a part of how we shop in the years to come. Social media has become such an integral part of the fashion world, and our lives in general, that to give our fans a way to easily shop the pictures they’re loving is a natural step for us. I think these opportunities will continue to arise and evolve because fashion is, at its core, a reflection of the world we live in – and that world is more connected than ever before.
Michael Kors is continuously growing and expanding. What is the next milestone for you? Where would you ultimately want to take the brand?
We’re excited about our launch of wearable technology this coming fall – we think our customers will love the balance of fashion and function. After that, we’ll have the next iteration of our Watch Hunger Stop campaign in October. Beyond that, we want to be everywhere that our customers are.
What are the Michael Kors’ essentials for jet-setters? How do those essentials enhance one’s travelling experience?
A pair of aviators, a luxurious leather carryall and a great watch – they’re packable, work anywhere in the world and give any look the perfect finish.