Women in his family, friends or strangers he meets on the street: for designer Michael Kors, these are the people who feed his creativity every day. Because curiosity is the best thing in life.
Michael Kors' dreams are no longer just realities. They are programs. They are to be lived with open eyes, never to be feared, and above all they are to be made together. In Capri, on a weekend at the end of July: with a hellish heat and a heavenly view of the Faraglioni, Michael Kors jokes: "I feel like I'm in the Hamptons, there are way too many Americans".
The star designer behind the luxury fashion group Michael Kors Holdings Limited, which became Capri Holdings Limited with the 2019 acquisition of Versace (the brand joining Jimmy Choo in the group), Kors has been a regular on the Italian island for more than four decades. "The first time I came, I was 25: it's a magical place. Of course, it's better out of season. But it's still wonderful."
What was Michael Kors like at 25?
Impatient. Terribly impatient.
And what was he like as a child?
Like an only child in a Pedro Almodovar movie. I grew up surrounded by women, many women, all with strong characters. My childhood was a mix between an Almodóvar and a Fellini film.
What were these women like?
Characters. They were all real characters. All of them with strong ideas and temperament. My mother. My grandmother. Even my aunts and cousins had strong opinions. They always treated me like a little adult. I was one of them, I was never considered a child.
A matriarchal upbringing in a patriarchal world…
Growing up with women who weren't afraid to say what they thought taught me everything. And, looking back, in the first part of my life, I lived with men who were not afraid of their feminine side and with women who showed a more traditional masculine side. I must say it was a nice balance.
Was this a source of inspiration?
Anyone who creates must learn to feed off others: family, friends, strangers. I like to look at people on the street. They are living ideas. In New York, in every city in the world, I look at people. And I feed on new ideas.
You live in New York. They say the city has changed since the pandemic…..
New York today is a boxer on the ground looking at the referee trying to figure out when and how to get up. Because New York is always being reborn. Do you remember after 9/11, when everyone said New York was over? Well, it wasn't, because it will never be over. What I see in the city today are the newcomers. Young people who are looking at the world with a new perspective and who will perhaps also give a new perspective to the city.
You have done a lot for New York: donations, events, fashion shows. Is it important for a rich man like you to donate, to volunteer, to give back?
For me that's not the main issue. The main issue is that we are all interconnected. If something happens somewhere, it happens everywhere. I'm not a scientist and I don't want to be a politician, but after the pandemic, it's even clearer that in order to make a difference, it takes everyone's commitment. And sometimes it doesn't take much. Lately, I have been interested in education, especially for girls. There are countries where girls don't go to school because they have to help at home. With the World Food Program, we have helped provide healthy and nutritious meals to these young women, these young hopefuls. Everyone must try to break the cycle of poverty. Especially when it comes to women.
Speaking of women: even in rich countries like the United States, they are threatened. What is happening with abortion rights is an example…
You are absolutely right! But you know how I see it? Life is like a series of long waves to surf. Once you're at the top, another wave comes along and like after the Supreme Court's decision on abortion rights, you can find yourself at the bottom. Unfortunately, we are going backwards. And to the new generations, I say: never take anything for granted, because nothing ever is, even when it comes to rights. So, with your head held high, let's get back on the board and ride that wave.
Sometimes I think of my grandmother in heaven wondering what's going on down there… Luckily, I have fashion that always forces you to move forward and ask yourself: what will be interesting tomorrow?
Fashion, like politics, depends a lot on social networks today. What do you think of this digital revolution?
I'm surprised that something so wonderful can be so dangerous. Social networks and the digital revolution are like the best food: it's precisely because it's so good that we risk gorging ourselves and getting sick. We need to find a balance between the wonderful possibilities of networks and the terrifying consequences of misinformation.
What is the value of fashion today?
Making people feel safe and confident. You see, twenty years ago, fashion had the opposite effect: if you weren't dressed a certain way, if you didn't have the look, then you were wrong. Today, when a person looks in the mirror with one of your creations, it should help them feel more authentic, more themselves.
Are you talking about body positivity?
No, I'm talking about the revolution of the very concept of beauty. For ten years, we have been casting people of different ages, shapes and backgrounds. We used to think in terms of a couture model. But a model has no humanity. Humanity is an attitude, a way of looking at things. Humanity is saying, "You too are invited to the party!"
This is very true and it is very beautiful, but then what makes a person elegant today?
No doubt, it's self-knowledge. If you don't know who you are, if you're not authentic, then you can't be stylish. You know what appeals to me about stylish people? How they choose. Not only how they choose freely what they want to wear. But also how they choose it without thinking about who they might wear it for. They don't do it for their spouse. Not for their co-workers or according to social context. They choose it for themselves. That's the secret. Knowing yourself and making choices for yourself.
How do you do that?
You have to have a little healthy narcissism. Loving yourself, in short. What makes Jackie Kennedy and Rihanna beautiful? Not style. Not the era in which they lived or are living. It's their attitude that makes them shine.
Do you feel beautiful?
But I'm a beach boy. Let me explain: I certainly can't do an ad campaign for a swimsuit. But give me a beach, the sea, a sunset, my husband and I will shine like a supermodel.
Who helped you the most to become Michael Kors?
My clients, my great source of inspiration. I take in all their suggestions. And I also listen to people I don't know or who don't know who I am. Again, I feed off of what I see on the streets. In Milan, for example. I saw a woman riding her bike to work and I thought about what she was wearing, how it fit her, what was comfortable for her, chic but also easy to put on. The more you travel, the more you discover. The more you discover, the more you know.
Who has hindered you in your career?
Don't think I'm arrogant, but I've always gotten what I wanted. A lot of that is due to my family, who made me feel like I was part of a community, part of a project. And then I like the challenge. Fashion is not easy, you know? It's a job for athletes. Or fighters. You take hits and you're always preparing for competitions.
Your recurring mistake?
Being impatient. Especially when I was young. I started at 21 and thought success would come overnight. I've been chomping at the bit, and I regret it a bit, because maybe I could have enjoyed life and success more. Let's just say that I'm not really zen.
But with time, I have learned to consider my impatience as part of the game.
What were your disappointments? And your conquests?
I am never disappointed because from a very young age I was taught that there is always someone more beautiful, better, richer than you. And I never feel like I'm at the top, that I've arrived, because I'm more interested in the ascent, the moment when you climb. And who would have thought that one day I would see my creations worn by people in Bergamo and the next day in Kuala Lumpur?
How does it feel to see people dressed in your designs?
It's the most beautiful thing. Seeing people wearing our collections in Capri was a dream come true.
A person you admire a lot today?
Amanda Gorman: She is a light, a guide, an inspiration. I love her perception of the world. And I'm fascinated by her modern grace. On the one hand, it makes me feel a little old. On the other hand, it stimulates me enormously, because I see hope in her.
What scares her the most?
Misinformation. It makes people regress, it takes them back to the past. Misinformation traps people in cages of loneliness and ignorance.
What makes you happy?
Extreme emotions. Laughing out loud until your stomach hurts. Or crying at the movies.
What makes you fall in love?
A mixture of charm, beauty, humor and passion.
What made you fall in love with your husband?
All of these things combined. Plus the fact that he can understand my sense of humor.
What makes a couple last?
The feeling of belonging to a relationship, to an association. Life is like a game of tennis: serve, return and exchange. Sometimes the game is good, sometimes you have to get up after a fall. The point is to keep in mind that nothing is ever perfect, but that there is a common project, and the game can always start again. The game never ends.
Last question. Close your eyes. One suggestion for Michael Kors when he was very young. And one for Michael in ten years.
To the young me, I would say, relax, everything will be fine. To the me in ten years, I would say, worry about one thing: in the morning, when you wake up, make sure you're always curious. Knowing that we still have things to learn is the most powerful, beautiful thing in life.