Enter any upscale restaurant, bar, hotel or even mall and you’ll catch a flash of a MK-embossed bag – usually a tote from the very popular Jet Set collection – or a wallet. This is what experts call the Kors effect. Not many know that the Michael Kors brand has been in existence since 1981 – when the designer would produce exquisite, beautifully-crafted dresses for New York socialites, who were his regular clients. What started out as a small womenswear brand has now expanded into a multi-million-dollar conglomerate producing clothes, sunglasses, shoes, jewellery, watches, wallets, belts, fragrances and, of course, handbags.
This September, the brand showcased a sexy and strong collection of shoes and clothes that channel the ’40s-by-way-of-the-‘80s (says Vogue) at New York Fashion Week. This marks Michael Kors’ return to form after a brief decline in sales over the last three-four years, because to what many called overexposure. Michael Kors is now hailed as the comeback king of 2016 by CNN. Of course, this is also in part to the celebrity support the brand enjoys – this year at NYFW actress Blake Lively and fashion icon Anna Wintour were front and centre. So just how did this brand, which was relatively unknown a decade ago, suddenly become so popular?
Michael Kors: A Brief History
It started in 1981, when Michael Kors, then a young new designer on the New York fashion scene launched his womenswear line, which instantly became popular with the city’s fashion-forward. The line retailed at luxury stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. Encouraged by its success, Kors launched the KORS Michael Kors line in 1990. However, he had to discontinue it in 1993 due to bankruptcy.
After working with the luxury brand Celine for a short period, during which he was credited with launching an uber-successful ready-to-wear collection, Kors appeared as a judge on fashion reality show Project Runway in 2004. The show catapulted him to instant fame, and led to the introduction of the MICHAEL Michael Kors line as well as the reintroduction of the KORS Michael Kors line, as we know them today.
With its emphasis on affordable luxury and following the same business model as fellow competitors Coach and Kate Spade, Michael Kors soon became a label sought by many across the globe. By this time, the brand had become a huge fashion empire, with Michael himself serving as the chief creative officer and director of the brand. The first Michael Kors retail store opened in 2006 in New York – by May 2015 this number had risen to 526.
By 2014, Michael Kors sales had increased significantly, which was evident by the bags being ubiquitous on every woman’s arm.
Michael Kors in 2016
This is the comeback year for Michael Kors. This year, while other retailers shut stores, Kors opened 114 new ones. According to the CNN report, Michael Kors is now number one in women’s handbag sales in the US, with a 25% market share – and offering more accessories has helped Kors win the “handbag wars.”
He’s recently opened his first European menswear store and has the likes of It Girls Sophia Richie and Solange Knowles front his latest campaign, MK bag perched firmly on their shoulders. And on the personal front, Kors has also had an orchid named after him at the Singapore Botanic Gardens – this honour has been previously bestowed on Elton John, Andrea Bocelli and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Michael Kors has a slew of celeb fans – both Indian and international. Among the international celebrities who have worn Kors’ designs are Olivia Wilde, Dakota Johnson, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lawrence, Taylor Swift, Kate Middleton and Angelina Jolie. Even first lady Michelle Obama wore a black sleeveless Michael Kors dress for her first term official portrait.
We’ve also seen Kors designs on Indian celebrities, including Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Nargis Fakhri, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Malaika Arora Khan, Anushka Sharma, Freida Pinto and mostly recently, Vaani Kapoor.