Decades of style
VOGUE India|November 2021
For the past forty years, Michael Kors has been the arbiter of contemporary Americana. Closer home, Ruchika Sachdeva’s Bodice has spent the last ten years exploring modern Indian fashion. We take a look at these two labels and their milestone moments
Lynn Yaeger, Shalini Shah

MICHAEL KORS

His brand of laid-back American chic made Michael Kors a billionaire, but his story began in the city that never sleeps, says Lynn Yaeger

I thought New York was Oz,” Michael Kors says of the city where he made his reputation, the place that gave birth to his enormous success, the town that he loves fiercely. This is the 40th year that Kors has been at the helm of his eponymous business, an enterprise built on his light-hearted reverence for meticulous, classic American clothes, an empire that now comprises clothing for men and women, shoes, handbags, watches, jewellery, eyewear, perfume and more.

The designer is at this point a billionaire, the recipient of countless honours, known to millions for his role as a judge on Project Runway and his charitable work in the fight to end hunger. And though his is a quintessential American story—really, a New York story—the rest of the world has embraced his vision (he now boasts more than 800 shops internationally). As it turns out, the longing for the perfect turtleneck, a beautifully cut trouser, a classic coat with just a soupçon of transgressive wit, is universal.

Are you surprised at how huge it all became? I ask him. “I am,” he replies. “I came of age when there were such distinct borders for a designer. I thought, ‘You’re an American designer, you’re going to design for Americans.’ English designers dressed English women, the French dressed the French. I never thought that American fashion, other than Levi’s, could be something that would be embraced globally. I mean, did I ever think that I would walk down the street in Kuala Lumpur and see five Michael Kors watches and seven Michael Kors handbags? No, I did not.”

He found his people at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, though he didn’t last long. “I quit school while still a student [he got a job at the beyond-trendy boutique Lothar’s, on 57th Street, across from Bergdorf Goodman] and to this day, my favourite thing in the world is being on the sales floor,” says Kors. “Zoom has been a lifesaver during lockdown,” he confesses, “but I am such a people person that the flat monotony of Zoom is something that I never truly fell in love with.”

At Lothar’s he met the women he calls the ‘global rich’, people whose effortless elegance and nonchalant chic informed his own ideas about style. “I thought they were so intriguing—Marella Agnelli, women like that. But also celebrities, like Muhammad Ali and his wife Veronica, Goldie Hawn, Diana Ross... It was the ’70s, they were just walking around.”

But suddenly—how fickle is fashion!—Lothar’s tie-dye aesthetic cratered and the boutique’s owners asked Kors to design a few things. One day, when Kors was in the window, his mouth full of Tbar pins, he saw “this tall, elegant woman staring at me, and she comes in and said, ‘Who designed these clothes?’ I said I did. Then she said, ‘My name is Dawn Mello, and I am the fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman. If you ever do your own line, call me.’ I went home and sketched the entire collection that night.”

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