“I’ve always held on to that idea that fashion can transform you and transport you. It has the potential to change you, your mood and your life quicker than anything else. It can help tell everyone either who you are or who you want to be.”
With a sharp focus on providing his customers with accessories and clothes that are consistently polished, chic, relaxed and glamorous, Michael Kors has created an enduring and iconic luxury lifestyle empire with a distinctive point of view and global reach.
Raised in Merrick, Long Island, a suburban town 23 miles from New York City, Michael Kors revealed his eye for design at the age of five when he advised his mother, Joan, on her wedding dress for her second marriage. Kors went on to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, where he studied fashion design. He left school to start his own label in 1981, following accolades for his work at Lothar’s, the trendsetting boutique on New York’s West 57th Street. The first Michael Kors Collection runway show was held for the Fall 1984 season; in its review, WWD referenced his “collection of haute, classic sportswear” and “elegant but minimal dressing.”
As he continued to build his own business, Kors also served as creative director of Céline, the renowned French luxury brand, from 1998 to 2004. He is credited with restoring the brand’s former luster, re-establishing it as one of the major European fashion houses.
Michael Kors, the company, has seen significant growth since its founding in 1981. Today it is a global fashion luxury brand with an array of products (including handbags, footwear, ready-to-wear, sunglasses, watches, jewelry and fragrance) under the Michael Kors Collection, MICHAEL Michael Kors and Michael Kors Mens labels. In December 2011, Michael Kors Holdings Limited went public on the New York Stock Exchange in what was then the biggest IPO for a U.S. fashion business in history. In 2017, Michael Kors Holdings Limited acquired luxury footwear and accessories brand Jimmy Choo. The following year, Michael Kors Holdings Limited changed its name to Capri Holdings Limited, effective December 31, 2018, and completed its acquisition of Versace.
As of September 28, 2019, Michael Kors had 850 stores globally, with flagships in many of the world’s most sophisticated cities, including New York, London, Paris, Milan, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Dubai, Shanghai, Istanbul, São Paulo and Beijing.
The fashion designer also focuses on giving back. For more than 25 years he has been a passionate supporter of God’s Love We Deliver, a New York-based non-profit organization that cooks and delivers nutritious meals to people living with serious illnesses in and around New York City. His personal gift in 2012 to the organization, where he is on the board, helped initiate a major expansion of their facilities; the opening of the new Michael Kors Building at God’s Love We Deliver was celebrated in 2015. Also in 2012, Kors established an endowed scholarship at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), his alma mater.
As the Michael Kors brand began to expand globally, so too did its philanthropic efforts. In 2013 Michael Kors launched “Watch Hunger Stop,” partnering with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to help fight world hunger. Proceeds from annual special-edition products, as well as from other targeted initiatives, help provide food to children through WFP’s school meals program. Over the years, Halle Berry, Kate Hudson and Lupita Nyong’o have joined the Watch Hunger Stop campaign to help raise funds and awareness. In 2015 the designer was named Global Ambassador Against Hunger, now Goodwill Ambassador, for the United Nations World Food Programme. To date, Michael Kors has helped WFP deliver over eighteen million meals (and counting) to hungry children.
Kors has been the recipient of numerous industry awards, including The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Womenswear Designer of the Year in 1999 and Menswear Designer of the Year in 2003. He has also been awarded The Accessories Council ACE Award for Designer of the Year in 2006 and Fashion Group International’s Star Honoree at its annual Night of Stars Awards Gala in 2009. In 2010, the CFDA acknowledged Kors with their most prestigious honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour. He also received the Award of Courage from the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) in 2011. In October 2012, God’s Love We Deliver honored Kors with the Golden Heart Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2013, Kors was selected for the Time 100, the magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world; he also made the New York Observer's list of the 100 most influential New Yorkers. In 2016, he was awarded the McGovern-Dole Leadership Award by WFP USA, presented by Vice President Joe Biden. In addition to these accomplishments, Kors was a judge on the Emmy-nominated show Project Runway from 2004-2012. The show was syndicated internationally.