For nearly four decades now, Michael Kors has been one of the most persistent and winning personalities in fashion—a designer with rare talent who has blended luxury and popularity to create a global empire. But the question is, with the internet upending the industry, how will he push forward? Kors answers as only he can: By going big and doing it all.
Michael Kors has FOMO. “Terrible FOMO,” he emphasizes, sitting in his office, which overlooks Bryant Park and the bustling center of Manhattan. This is why he went to the opening night of The Lion King yesterday, “even though it had been a craaaaaazy day at work,” and why, despite his having about a million things to do, he will go see Jennifer Lopez perform at Madison Square Garden tonight; wouldn’t miss it for the world. “Not a chance,” he says. After that, he will hop out to Fire Island, even though he has to be back in the city for his perfume launch with Gigi Hadid on Monday. “If you’re not out and about, and you don’t have, you know, a little bit of FOMO, a little bit of this sort of like, ‘What’s going on?’ thing, constantly, you’re gonna get left in the dust.”
Moving, shaking, keeping a finger on the pulse, this is the oxygen that has kept Michael Kors—the person and the brand—alive for all of these years. It’s what has allowed him to transition from his position of the designer BFF of Claudia, Christy, and Naomi into the BFF of Gigi, Bella, and Kendall without it seeming like 30 years has transpired. (It helps that Kors, now 60, looks deal-with-the-Devil or maybe-a-really-good-dermatologist identical to the way he did when he was 30: same all-black ensemble, same shock of boyish blond hair, same smiling face—round, firm, and tawny as a pumpkin and usually accessorized with aviator glasses.) His ability to appeal equally to fans of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and those of Nicki Minaj has solidified his status as one of the quintessential American designers and has enabled him to grow the company he helped build, now called Capri Holdings, into an empire with a market cap of $4 billion. It’s a giant that encompasses not only the three brands that bear variations on his name but also, more recently, Jimmy Choo and Versace. Those two acquisitions, insiders say, all but announce the company’s ambition to become the next big luxury conglomerate, an American version of France’s powerful LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Not that Michael Kors is buying the Champagne—or the cognac—just yet. “Right now, there’s no plans for that,” says Kors, who demurs on questions of business, other than to allow that these are challenging times for the fashion industry: Department stores are closing faster than you can say “Amazon Prime,” and the promise of the internet has devolved into a bloody battle in which legacy brands compete with upstart designers for increasingly demanding consumers.
“What do they want?” Kors asks rhetorically. “They want everything. ‘How does it make me feel?’ ‘Can I wear it year-round?’ ‘Where was it made?’ ‘How was it made?’ ‘How will it look after 10 years?’ ‘Will I get bored with it?’ ‘My earbuds go here. Where does my phone go?’ It’s a puzzle, and it’s constantly changing.” Kors takes pride in always having been a consumer-focused designer; his bread and butter has been give-the-people-what-they-want basics, which, as his company has grown, he has endeavored to make available at a variety of price points. “We do it all,” he says proudly.