The History of Michael Kors

A powerhouse in the world of fashion, Michael Kors is a luxury brand that produces some of the industry’s most sophisticated, high-quality ready-to-wear pieces. From apparel, accessories, footwear to bags, their products exude excellent craftsmanship, enabling the company to establish its presence in over 100 countries worldwide. Here, let’s discover more about the beginnings of the fashion house and its fascinating history towards gaining its place on the global stage.

Personal Life and Early Years

Born as Karl Anderson Jr. on August 9, 1959, in Long Island, New York, Kors was inclined to fashion starting from a young age. His mother, Joan Hamburger, traced his penchant to the apparel industry due to her previous modeling career. When he was five, her mother remarried Bill Kors, changing his surname to Kors. His mother also gave him the liberty to choose a new first name. He renamed himself as Michael David Kors, an unpretentious birth of the now-big moniker in the fashion world.

In his teenage years, Kors continued to be a fashion bug and started designing and selling clothes from the basement of their house, naming his collection as “Icon Butterfly.” While he attended some acting lessons for a short period, he eventually stopped and instead focused on fashion designing. 

Early Career

In 1977, Kors went to New York’s “Fashion Institute of Technology” to pursue his dreams while simultaneously working as a salesperson for the trendsetting boutique, Lothar’s, located in Manhattan just across Bergdorf Goodman. After receiving a huge opportunity to sell his designs for the same store, Kors left the institution only nine months later.

Shortly after, Kors was noticed by Dawn Mello, Bergdorf Goodman’s former fashion director. Mello helped Kors showcase his womenswear collector at the store. His career catapulted from thereon, with his designs eventually stocked at Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Lord and Taylor, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Bergdorf Goodman

In 1981, he launched his eponymous collection, getting his first namesake runway show in 1984. Kors’ arrival in the fashion industry seemed relentless, as he started to attract celebrity fans from Courtney Love, Aretha Franklin, and Sharon Stone.

In 1990, he launched his lower-priced “KORS” line as a licensee. However, things started to dim after that, with the economic downturn and the financial issues taking a toll on the industry. In 1993, one of the brand’s licensing partners in Italy stopped producing his Kors collection, forcing him to file for bankruptcy and put the line on hold.

Bouncing Back 

Kors bounced back in 1997 after Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE (LVMH) invested in his company, allowing him to restructure and launch a lower-priced line. At the same time, he was appointed as the ready-to-wear designer of LVMH-owned fashion house Celine. The following year, he was named as its creative director.  Kors played an essential role in providing Celine its critically acclaimed ready-to-wear line and successful accessories.

In 2002, he introduced his first menswear line and was hailed as Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (CFDA) Menswear Designer of the Year in 2003. Sportswear Holdings Ltd. purchased an 85 percent stake in Kors’ company in the same year, buying out LVMH’s previous stake.

Michael Kors

Runway to Success

In 2004, Kors finally left Celine to focus on his own brand and launched his MICHAEL Michael Kors line. Its collection included a wide range of items, including ready-to-wear apparel, accessories, perfume, watches, handbags, swimwear, and footwear. The line became well-received despite the recession. Trasnecong the fashion world, he also signed up for Project Runway as a judge. He stayed until 2012, getting wide acclaim for his blunt comments and quick-wit.

Twenty-five years after its creation, the company opened its first retail stores. After a decade, Kors already had more than 770 Lifestyle stores across the globe, such as in Tokyo, Paris, Londo, Milan, Canned, Seoul, and Hong Kong.

Michael Kors shop

Some famous celebrities who wore Michael Kors’ designs include Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, and Jennifer Lawrence Taylor Swift. Influential people, such as Hillary Clinton, Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, and Kate Middleton, also donned dresses or pieces from Michael Kors.

Proving his status as one of New York’s most famed designers, Michael Kors received many accolades in his career. He became a part of TIME 100: The Most Influential People and New York Observer’s 100 Most Influential New Yorkers. He also received CFDA’s Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, becoming its youngest-ever recipient.

Final Words

Starting from a small shop in their house’s basement, the brandy steadily worked its way up and overcame setbacks to become the billion-dollar global company it is today. It’s no surprise to see the fashion house continue to dominate in the following generations, further providing the world of fashion with its iconic, well-crafted, and designed pieces, serving as insignia of the company’s fascinating journey and success.