Ever since the launch of his eponymous label in 1981, New York native Michael Kors has enjoyed the status of being one of America's quintessential luxury sportswear designers. And as it stands in 2016, the Michael Kors name reflects a gigantic luxury lifestyle brand stocked in all corners of the globe, with a repertoire that includes the mega-successful Michael Michael Kors handbags, plus watches, jewellery, fragrance, and men's and women's ready-to-wear.
In fact, the global reach of the label is as impressive as the company's growth and profit margin. Thanks to a memorable (and often hilarious) ten-season stint as a judge on the TV series Project Runway, and a near-monopoly on the women's handbag market, Michael Kors is also a household name. Here, Buro 24/7's commercial editor Yeong Sassall chats with the designer about his glamour-heavy A/W '16 collection and what's next for the brand.
What was your inspiration behind the most recent A/W '16 Michael Kors Collection? Did you have a girl or muse in mind?
When I was designing this collection, I kept thinking back over the last 35 years - because this is in fact my 35th Fall collection - to this fabulous cast of women who have inspired me. I was thinking that it's really all about individual style, everything from swanky to tomboy, from glamorous to laidback. I wanted to offer this fabulous wardrobe that goes from day to dinner to dancing and allows women to emphasise their own unique style.
New York is intrinsic to the Michael Kors brand - how do you think that spirit has evolved in the 35 years since the brand launched?
New York is fast and sophisticated and very international but also very American. When I first started designing, I wanted to make clothes for women and men who lived a fast, sophisticated life - I was inspired by the original jetsetters like Ali MacGraw, Steve McQueen and Jacqueline Onassis, who travelled constantly and always looked amazing. So I started with sportswear, which is very American, and I've stayed true to that idea over the years. Of course, the whole world is connected now, but that New York sense of ease, speed and practicality still inspires what we do.
Danish model Freja Beja Erichsen opened your A/W '16 show, Aussie Julia Nobis closed it, and you also had California girl Kendall Jenner and Argentinian Mica Arganaraz on the runway. What qualities of these international models make them Michael Kors girls?
I love personality, and every one of those women has tons of personality. I mean, they're all gorgeous, but they bring so much more to the clothes. They're confident and opinionated and funny and smart. So when you see them, you see the whole woman, not just the clothes. I wanted to emphasise the idea of personal style that was at the centre of this collection.
A lot of luxurious details - like fur, ostrich feathers, sequins and brocade featured in the collection - but I love how the silhouettes were still modern. Why did you choose to include these details?
This season was about throwing out the rulebook and wearing what makes you feel good. Why should feathers be only for evening? If you have feathers on your jeans, you can wear them for work or play. If you own a pair of clean, cropped trousers in luxe metallic brocade, you can wear them with a T-shirt during the day and a silk chiffon bow blouse at night and look fabulous all the time. It's about juxtaposing unexpected things, and finding the balance that works for you.
This season was about throwing out the rulebook and wearing what makes you feel good
There was also a bit of a '60s vibe with the pea coats and tweed skirt sets - was there anyone who inspired these pieces?
I love the great '60s style icons - Catherine Deneuve, Lee Radziwill, Nan Kempner - so of course they were in my mind when I was designing. But really there was no one singular muse for this collection. There was the whole mash-up of glamorous, stylish women I've known or admired over the years.
The brand has been quick to jump on the 'shop the runway' trend - why is it so important that your customer can access some of the collection after they see it on the runway?
The world has gotten a lot faster. Today, when you see something you like, you want it right away. People expect instant gratification. And the weather is crazy everywhere, so the idea of strict seasons doesn't make as much sense as it used to. We want to be able to give our customer some special pieces that she can add to her closet instantly-those pick-me-ups that change your look and tide you over until the pieces that take more time to produce get to the store.
A lot of designers say social media has changed fashion - what's your experience with the way digital is shaping the industry?
Social media has changed everything, including fashion. It's made it much more democratic, for one thing. Now everyone is up-to-date, and anyone can find style inspiration anywhere in the world. Social media also makes it possible for me to speak directly to my customers, which I love. It's hugely important to me as a designer, and to us as a brand. On the other hand, sometimes it can all be too much-if you see every look from every show months in advance, it lessens the excitement and impact of fashion. So the fashion world needs to find a balance, and I think it'll be different approaches for different designers.
You're launching wearable tech this year, which is very exciting! How have you managed to keep the Michael Kors stamp on something so 'tech-y'? Can you share any details about the launch?
I'm really excited about Michael Kors Access, our new wearable technology collection. Technology is a part of our customers' lives, so it felt like a natural next step for us to bring that technology into our watches and jewellery, which people love. We will be offering smartwatches and activity trackers designed for people who don't want to sacrifice style for technology. So it's the best of both worlds.
Blake Lively has worn Michael Kors quite a few times, as well as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Alessandra Ambrosio. Who has been your favourite celebrity to wear your designs and why?
I could never pick a favourite - they each bring something different to the clothes and to the experience. I'm incredibly fortunate to be dressing such talented, glamorous and interesting women.
Name one woman - dead or alive - who you'd love to see wearing Michael Kors.