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Kors (Karl Anderson), Michael

fashion american luxury lothar’s

B. August 1959

Birthplace: Long Island New York

Awards: Dupont’s American Original Award, 1981
         Council of Fashion Designers of America Womenswear Designer of the Year, 1999

Michael Kors designs great American sportswear. He began his professional career in 1978 as a salesperson/designer at Lothar’s, a once famous New York boutique. Recognizing the value of the hands-on training he was enjoying there, he left Fashion Institute of Technology after one semester, preferring to spend more time at Lothar’s, sketching outfits and having samples made for display in the store’s windows. Celebrities and fashionistas who shopped there were disarmed by Kors’ charming personality and willingness to escort them right into their dressing rooms, discussing their outfits and pinning up their hems.

His mother, a former Revlon model, had originally thought Michael would go into show business. As a child, he appeared in several television commercials on behalf of products including Charmin paper goods and Lucky Charms cereal. But, by the age of ten, Michael was also selling clothes out of his basement, a sure sign to Mrs. Kors that her son was not destined for the stage, but rather for fame in the fashion world.

In 1981 Kors brought a small collection of sportswear to Bergdorf Goodman, where buyers quickly recognized the appeal of his casual approach to chic clothes: Kors makes luxury simple. Today, he continues to use a sophisticated blend of beautiful shapes and lush fabrics like cashmere, kidskin, and charmeuse. Kors takes his inspiration from Halston, the designer who changed the way American women dressed by exalting American style and panache during the 1970s, and Coco Chanel, who also challenged the way women dressed. Kors believes that comfort in clothing should be a requirement, not an added benefit, and that dressing can be easy and elegant simultaneously.

Of course, Kors’s career has not been without setbacks. In 1993 his company went bankrupt owing to a flawed licensing agreement with another company. However, his admirers remained faithful, and he remained true to his fashion philosophy: timelessness is the essence of fine clothing. Certainly that is why Bernard Arnault, renowned financier of fashion and owner of Moët Hennessey-Louis Vuitton, the luxury goods conglomerate, took notice and hired Kors in 1997 to modernize the image of his French luxury label Celine. Arnault was so happy with the results, he purchased a portion of Kors’s own company, which produces the Michael Kors signature collection and KORS, the bridge line. This kind of alliance was one of several forged at the end of the twentieth century—young American designers were hired by venerable European fashion houses to introduce the American concept of sporty elegance to European women.

Michael Kors, despite his fame, still enjoys chatting with his customers, whether he is making a guest appearance in a department store or appearing at Celine in Paris, a fact that greatly pleases his boss/partner Bernard Arnault. The days young Michael spent at Lothar’s apparently served him well—that and the indisputable statement he has made many times: “I just love clothes!”

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