Michael Kors Celebrates His 40th Anniversary with a Look Back Through the Decades

The Iconic American Designer Celebrates His Legacy In New York And Around The Globe In Anticipation Of His 40Th-Anniversary Presentation

In anticipation of the upcoming premiere of his 40th-anniversary collection, Michael Kors looks back on his career as one of the most iconic and successful American designers of all time. Ahead of the collection’s presentation in New York City tomorrow, which The Impression is pleased to broadcast live, the brand released a video series that functions as a breakneck crash course of the designer’s historic career.

Kors began his career in New York City in the late ’70s, where the city’s bustling and cutthroat design scene was just beginning to bloom. After working at Lothar’s boutique and catching the eye of Bergdorf Goodman, he started his own business out of his cramped one-bedroom apartment. Editorials in New York magazine and Vogue followed soon after his debut collection in Fall of 1981, launching him to humble stardom. His designs became a crucial element of the power dressing movement, allowing him to play an important supporting role in the increased struggle for women’s empowerment. At the same time, the fashion industry was growing exponentially with the dawn of the supermodel age.

The ’90s saw Kors become a pioneer of that era’s less-is-more ethos of simple and sensual luxury. His influence in drawing more and more attention to the New York design scene galvanized the CFDA to create an official New York Fashion Week in the early ’90s. He caught the eye of LVMH, who invited him to leave New York for a brief stint in Paris at Celine. He wrapped up the decade with a big win of the CFDA’s womenswear designer of the year award. His brand also saw huge growth in these years, enabling Kors to move the production of his clothing to Italy and expand from one line to four through the beginning of the next decade.

In the 2010s Kors brought his dual status as a creative innovator and brilliant marketing strategist onto the global stage. He kicked off the decade by receiving the CFDA’s prestigious lifetime achievement award. He took the company public in 2011, trading on the New York Stock Exchange and quickly becoming one of the most successful U.S. fashion IPOs ever. As the brand continued to reach new audiences through social media, Kors traveled the world, attending store openings and events across a vast range of countries and markets. In keeping with the industry’s push during that decade to recognize the importance of giving back, he partnered with the UN’s world food program to fight hunger. Creatively, Kors remained a key player in shaping a more open idea of luxury based around personal style and expression. 

Recently, Kors acquired Jimmy Choo and Versace, exciting business moves that also further solidify his status as the vanguard of American style. New York is no easy market to manage, especially for 40 years. Practically all of Kors’ contemporaries to emerge at the same time have fallen by the wayside, and the fact that Kors not only survived but continues to thrive speaks volumes.

Now just over a year into a new decade, the New York air and global airwaves feel electrified with excitement for Kors’ 40th-anniversary presentation. With a charmingly brilliant understanding of fashion and the fashion industry, Kors has always eschewed trends, instead of conceiving his work and the way one dresses as a holistic extension of life and personality. In this way, his work and his approach always manage to feel timeless. While we can expect the designer will be looking back over his iconic legacy, we are confident it will also form a visionary introduction to another exciting decade of progress.

Photo | Danny Clinch for The Impression