Michael Kors: A history

First published: 24-07-2014

The founder of the eponymous brand, Michael Kors started designing as an infant and is committed to elegant, sporty and streamlined fashion.

Having started his own label in 1981, the American designer became still more famous in 2004 when he starred as a regular on reality TV show Project Runway and has seen his company become an international, multi-billion dollar brand listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

His signature look is all-American, sporty luxury, with simple clean lines. Mr Kors' decision to design fashion may have been influenced by his mother's career as a model.

Born on August 9th 1959 as Karl Anderson Jr and starring as a child actor in commercials, Mr Kors designed his mother's wedding dress for her second marriage when he was five years old.

He became Michael Kors when he took his stepfather Bill Kors' surname, telling People magazine that his mother had said "You're getting a new last name, so why don’t you pick a new first name?"

In his teens, the precocious designer founded a mini boutique called Iron Butterfly in the basement of his parents' home in Long Island, New York, selling clothing and other items he had designed and made.

Commencing a course at Manhattan's Fashion Institute of Technology, he left before completing it to work as an in-house designer for French boutique Lothar's before launching his women's collection in 1981.

In 1993 Michael Kors the company was forced to file for bankruptcy, but has undergone a transformation in the intervening years and even produced the dress worn by Michelle Obama for her first official portrait as First Lady.

Speaking to Glenda Bailey, editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar, Mr Kors admitted the insolvency knocked his confidence at the time but explained that he refused to give up hope and within eight months the company was "back full steam".

"You can control what you design. If there's a question and the ground is moving, more than ever you have to stand your ground and be who you are," he stated, pointing to a cheaper line - KORS Michael Kors - that he launched following this period as helping to turn around the label's fortunes.

In 1997 Kors was named ready-to-wear designer for French fashion house Celine and worked there until 2003 when he left to concentrate on his own company.

The designer and watchmaker recently announced a jump in gross profits for the quarter to the end of March 2014 of 54.2 per cent to £328 million and chief executive and chairman John Idol attributed it to a talented design team.

Michael Kors Holdings Ltd (KORS) now has 555 stores around the world, including concessions, having gone public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2011. Mr Kors is its honorary chairman and chief creative officer.

In the designer's own words: "My plan has always been to stay curious, to make people feel great when they get dressed and to know what people want before they know it themselves."


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