The Boy Inside the Man: Michael Kors Started Young and Took on the World

By Paddy Kamen



Not very many five year olds are advising their mothers on wardrobe matters, particularly wedding attire. But then, Michael Kors was no ordinary five year old. When his mother, Joan, was choosing a dress to wear for her second marriage, Michael’s keen eye for fashion was already apparent and his opinions did not go unnoticed.

Kors has gone on to build a fashion empire, although one wouldn’t necessarily know that from the way he dresses himself (jeans, a black ‘t’, and jacket are de rigueur). But despite the fact that he eschews personal adornment, Kors is famous for adorning others.

Kors attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, just over 20 miles from his hometown of Merrick, Long Island. It was during his fashion school years that he enjoyed his first, early success with his apparel designs at the then trend-setting NYC boutique, Lothar’s. The acclaim for his work prompted him to leave school and begin his career in earnest, with an emphasis on apparel that is both chic and relaxed.

Kors’ first runway show in 1984 drew the attention Women’s Wear Daily, their writer observing that his designs represented “elegant yet minimal dressing”.

Kors did double-duty from 1998 to 2004, when he served as the creative director of the famous French design house, Celine, while also building his own label. Now the president of his own design empire, New York City-based Kors sells luxury accessories, including handbags, footwear, sunglasses, ophthalmic eyewear, watches and jewelry to 74 countries. The company has more than 200 stores carrying the Michael Kors, KORS, and MICHAEL labels; fromMilantoDubai, fromIstanbultoLondon, flagship stores adorn the world’s high-end shopping districts.

Marchon works closely with Michael Kors on the Michael Kors Eyewear collections, launched in 2005. “Michael is very much involved in the design process,” says Leslie Muller, vice-president of design at the NYC headquarters. “He loves eyewear as a category and is constantly thinking of sunglass styles that will complement his collections. I think Michael says it best, ‘Eyewear is an item that should be emotion driven. Consumers must learn to think of glasses as something that shapes their moods. Eyewear can complement a mood, an outfit. One day you might feel glamorous, another day retro, later in the same day, sporty. You can have a whole wardrobe of frames.’ ”

Michael Kors eyewear design is intimately associated with his apparel and handbag design. “The signature hardware and iconic design elements that are found in Michael Kors handbags and apparel define the eyewear collection as well,” notes Muller. “For example, the “Tonne” hardware found on the handbags collection is also translated into the hardware elements of the 2012 sun and ophthalmic collections.”

Felix Sides, vice-president of sales for Marchon Canada says it is this cross-product integration that makes Michael Kors work in eyewear stand apart from other designer brands. “The eyewear, like his clothing, is sexy, sophisticated and timeless, while delivering style that is approachable. The collections are of a very high quality, craftsmanship and design. The shapes and sizes are perfect for the Canadian market. They feature recognizable logos and are priced right.”

Hot styles for the 800 stores across Canada that carry Michael Kors Eyewear include aviators, oversize plastic and straight top frames. Sides points to models M2040, M2453 and M2770 as top sellers.

The eyewear fits a variety of lifestyles and a wide range of consumers. Michael Kors customers are men and women who are college educated, appreciate quality and are value driven. Indicative of the wide appeal of the brand is the fact that both Taylor Swift and Diane Sawyer wear Michael Kors.

Kors has received many industry awards over the years including a prestigious Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and ACE Designer of the Year from The Accessories Council. He also received the Fragrance Foundation’s FiFi® Hall of Fame award in 2010 and the Award of Courage from the Foundation for AIDS Research in 2011.

It appears there’s no stopping Michael Kors, a veritable force of nature in the fashion world. And Marchon will continue to work closely with him to translate the elegantly minimalist elements of his apparel and accessories into eyewear that is coveted around the world.