Michael Kors: An Inside Look at the Lifestyle Brand

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Behind his trademark aviator sunglasses lie eyes that hold an understanding of the modern woman and what she wants to wear. An understanding, that’s as keen and sharp as the lines of his perfectly tailored pieces, the kind of pieces that make you say, “Of course it’s Kors.”

And that’s what impresses us the most.

IT’S A LIFESTYLE, AFTER ALL

 “A hallmark for me is that I’ve always had and always will have empathy for the customer.”

Since the 1981 onset of his eponymous lifestyle brand, Michael Kors has been distinctly crafting a collection of clothing that speaks to what he truly believes. “I’ve maintained my aesthetic for over 30 years because it comes from an authentic place,” the designer explains. “It’s all about balancing seemingly different elements. That’s what makes sense to me: You want something modern but glam, sporty but sexy, tailored but easy.” He has maintained incredible momentum on expanding upon said collection, and believes his success is due in part to staying true to one concept. “I’m incredibly proud of the lifestyle concept because it makes [a woman’s] shopping experience seamless. It’s all in the mix of aspirational, high-end accessories with ready-to-wear pieces that are more affordable but still luxurious. It’s really a very modern approach to how women dress now.”

 

The needs of the modern-day woman are what designers should have in mind as they trudge forward in the race to the fashion finish line, but is often ignored for an artful, aesthetically appealing yet virtually unwearable collection instead. So we found it incredibly refreshing that Kors credits the one thing that has remained most constant in his career as his innate desire to fill a void for his customer. “A hallmark for me is that I’ve always had and always will have empathy for the customer—I absolutely believe you must work on solving her wardrobe problems and providing answers to her style questions every single day. Otherwise you’re done!”

 

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Truth be told, when you’ve nurtured your clientele from birth, they’re likely to faithfully follow you ‘til the end. Today, through various brand expansions, the Michael Kors woman runs a wide gamut. Kors knows who his customer is, and defines her as such: “The signature collection [Michael Kors] customer is a tried and true luxury shopper while my other customers may be a bit more eclectic in their style. But I’ve found there is a lot of crossover with all Michael Kors customers—they lead busy lives and want pieces that are on-trend but not trendy and that solve wardrobe problems instead of creating them. ”

He goes on to describe the ladies who wear MICHAEL Michael Kors, and says that they embody a similar attitude, yet one that is far more practical by nature. “MICHAEL Michael Kors is about a certain attitude more than anything; [she’s] cool and of-themoment but not trendy. She’s a traveler and engaged in the world around her in terms of pop culture, art, food and her friends. When she gets dressed she’s interested in pieces she can mix up as opposed to creating a head-to-toe look. But the Michael Kors collection customer pulls MICHAEL Michael Kors items into her wardrobe also, with pieces that give her a fresh take on something or adds a little unexpected moment to her look.”

This all speaks vividly to the fact that Mr. Kors is flying in global airspace and every component of his brand plays a crucial role in his journey. “It’s important for a global brand to have a strong mix of merchandise for different lifestyles and at different price points,” he explains. “So MICHAEL Michael Kors is a huge part of rounding out that offering.”

GIVE ME MORE

Expansions have included an onslaught of brick and mortar openings all over the world. This of course also comes with time and experience. And it’s nice to reach that point when your brand has as strong a sensibility as Michael Kors, especially with such extras as the timepieces—which you’d have to be hell bent to try to avoid as they’re gracing posh wrists the world over. “You know,” he recalls, “I realized during our 30th anniversary that people understand what it means when you describe something as ‘very Michael Kors’!”

Currently, there are Michael Kors Lifestyle stores throughout North America, the Philippines, the Middle East and in Munich, London, Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, Taipei and Madrid. His brand has quite a presence, one which he simply describes as “incredibly exciting.“ The cities in which he has chosen to open boutiques have a level of sophistication that fits right in with the Michael Kors woman’s glamorous luxe lifestyle. This will continue to be the roadmap the brand uses as it continues to look for new opportunities in places that make sense for their market globally. “All the things that have become signifiers of American sportswear and particularly of the Michael Kors brand now have global appeal. The balance of sexy and sporty, of tailored and easy, of glamorous and casual work for women who lead chic, busy lifestyles around the world.”

On the home front, expansions in South Miami and New York City are making headlines, but its the west coast that’s waiting with bated breath for a new Michael Kors lifestyle store to open this fall. In September, Los Angeles’ Art Deco-style outdoor entertainment and retail marketplace The Grove will open a nearly 4,000-square-foot replacement to the existing Michael Kors space—a larger space for a larger demand.

Those who live close to the City of Angels should consider themselves lucky, as the store will carry an assortment of accessories from both the Michael Kors and MICHAEL Michael Kors labels, including handbags, small leather goods, footwear, eyewear, watches and fragrance offerings. The new boutique will also house a MICHAEL Michael Kors ready-to-wear salon area decorated with zebra carpets, mirrored surfaces, vintage appointments and clear acrylic nesting tables.

Every line, of course, has their signature piece, and Kors had a ready answer when asked what item he believes represents his brand. He does not go back in time to the beginning of his career, but selects a modern-day favorite instead. “I absolutely loved the long, handdyed chiffon dresses I did for spring,” he says. “They were the perfect mix of relaxed and glamorous.” He will always maintain the consistency of the Michael Kors aesthetic.

What has made Kors such a successful designer? It’s really the lessons he’s learned along the way, such as how to fulfill his customer’s needs. “Listen. Work hard. Believe in yourself,” he says. “Respect your customers’ opinions. Have fun. Have a laugh. Be curious.”

And if you are curious (as you should be), Kors spills the beans on his personal fall favorite, a fur-collared coat that he called “plush, cozy and chic as all getout!”

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