Of the many style mentors I’ve had, few have taught me as much about both glamour and practicality as Michael Kors. The red-hot design force is adamant that these two notions can indeed jive together in ways that are both exciting and terribly modern. All you have to do is use your imagination, and sometimes, throw caution to the wind. Kors, who was in Toronto recently to be feted by die-hard fans at both his swish Bloor St. West emporium and Holt Renfrew, is riding high on the crest of his unprecedented success. Not only has he been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, but women can’t seem to get enough of the fabulous products he puts out there. I had the luxury of talking fashion with Kors, and, as usual, felt inspired—and learned a thing or two:
J: You’ve always told me you’ve got to dress for your spirit, and your body. It’s not about being “age appropriate”…
M: I hate the terminology of what to wear at 20, what to wear at 50, what to wear at 40. I think the simple truth is you could be 16 years-old and if you hate your knees, I don’t care if every runway in the world is showing micro mini dresses and shorts, don’t wear a short skirt! Vice versa, you could be 70 and if you have an incredible pair of legs, and everyone’s screaming for long, show your legs! People say to me, “You have girls at 14 wearing Michael Kors, you have women who are 75 wearing Michael Kors. You have every age group! What do they all have in common?” And I consistently think that those who wear anything I design are women and girls who know themselves. There’s a certain confidence level with my customer. She says, “I know what like. I know what works for me. And I’m going to go with it!” She’s interested in fashion. She wants to know what’s going on. But first and foremost, she knows her own self. And that’s the whole age thing: Know yourself! But it shouldn’t necessarily be about trying to be another age. I mean we just saw Helen Mirren in London in The Audience. The show is amazing, but you look at her and you see this incredibly powerful, great-looking woman in her sixties who looks like she’s in her sixties. And that’s okay. She looks her age, but she looks amazing. And I think that maybe is the next trend. To realize there is no dressing for your age, but just looking good for your age, and not trying to be another age. It goes reverse too. I see young girls now who are 15 or 16 dressing like they’re 30 year-old women. I’m like–You’re fifteen years old! Have fun! That’s the whole point of being 15. Go crazy!
J: You’ve obviously helped liberate us with that kind of philosophy, and also the whole idea of accessible glamour, and what’s glamourous now.
The old-fashioned idea of glamour was that it was on this kind of pedestal. That to me seems so old fashioned. If you’re only pragmatic and practical, you miss the fun of getting dressed. I love the idea of using things that I think are special, instead of, “Oh I’ll save that for a special occasion.” I hate that. I think it’s the silliest thing in the world. When people ask. “Should I wear an amazing bracelet to the gym?” I’m like, “Yeah! Absolutely rock the bracelet at the gym. Just make sure the catch is strong so you don’t lose it.” To me, it’s a weird convergence of American practicality and European indulgence. I remember when I first went to Céline though, I was blown away watching women in Paris not really give a fig if something was that practical. It’s like “Fine! I’m going to buy a white winter coat. I don’t care if someone splashes it, I’ll deal with it.” New Yorkers are so, “Oh, I can’t wear the white coat. It’ll get dirty.” I think throwaway luxury is a little bit more European and I think the pragmatic kind of practicality is more North American. And maybe the convergence is what’s happening in the world
J: What do you hate about fashion these days—about the system and about the way it’s put out there?
M: I think sameness is a fashion style killer… that feeling of “Ugh! If you don’t wear this you’re out of the loop!”’ I also see a lot of young designers who don’t really have their own fingerprint, their own vocabulary. They’re just going with the zeitgeist of what’s going on. I don’t know that they are going to last. Each designer has to represent something. And it has to evolve, it has to change. It’s fashion. You want to see what’s next, and what’s new. I hate uniformity in fashion. It’s old fashioned. Are you going to go back to Funny Face and Think Pink? I hate that. I think if you love bright colour, wear bright colour. If you don’t, then don’t. I think individuality is important. And individuality doesn’t mean that you have to wear a birdcage as a hat! It just means know yourself. I like stores that have their own personality. I like publications that have their own personality. And designers who have their own personality, because ultimately, I like seeing men and women with their own sense of style.