The Michael Kors Interview
I grew up a Pedro Almodovar child – in a house full of women. My mother has always had a super-streamlined sporty sense of style. She’s very pared down with her fashion. My grandmother on the other hand was all about glamour. When we went on vacation, she’d change her bathing suit three times a day. But she didn’t just change her bathing suit. She’d come out with the coordinating bag, wrap, earrings and sandals. It got to the point where you’d just wait for the next outfit. She didn’t ever want to walk into a room unnoticed. My mother would pack one bag for vacation and my grandmother seven.
I also had two mad-cap great aunts with a crazy sense of style. One once wore a bikini top and hip huggers to a bar mitzvah.
There is a contradiction to everything I do. I mix glamour with something very simple. It’s this counterbalance that is at the core of every design and product. I’ll dress Jennifer Lopez in a beaded gown, but it will be cut like a t-shirt.
When I begin designing a fashion collection, I always think about the three things a woman needs in her wardrobe: something sexy, something sporty and something glam. I believe every woman has these three moods. And they can have all three in the same day.
I sat next to Andy Warhol at a dinner in the 80s. And I was so nervous. He was a man of very few words. His favourite word was “gee”. And he was one of those people who you wondered if they really were a real person. I just sat there and listened to him talk about things like vitamins and Diana Ross. It was very random. But when they are people you’ve always admired and you actually get to sit down with them you realize something. Everyone is just a person. But he was pretty intriguing.
I try to make everything simple, easy and quick.
I think whether you travel by private jet or not, everyone’s life is fast today. The simple fact is we do not live a slow, relaxed existence anywhere in the world. I think even if you live in a small town now, because of the internet, you’re plugged. We’re wired for sound and wired for speed. When I think about my life, my life is that fast. I am traveling that often.
Theatre is my journey without a plane. We (my husband and I) see everything. I would say my all-time favourite is Gypsy. I think it is an amazing story and incredible music. It has an astounding character that is even more astounding when you learn it is based on a real person. I’ve seen it with so many different people and it is always fresh.
My favourite beach is in Phuket, Thailand. The water there is jade green. And you’ve got these incredible islands where they filmed those James Bond movies. There is white sand, divine food, and lovely people. What could be a better combo?
I like the idea that something is realistic and aspirational at the same time. Life is fast and I’m here to hopefully find ways to give you solutions both in fashion and beauty, to make it easy for you to look great without spending a lot of time. And if you ratchet it all the way up, yes you would be arriving for work in a helicopter. But even so, if you’re just taking the subway or taking the bus, you still want it to be expedient and quick. So it’s based on reality, but heightened reality.
The Thomas Crown Affair is one of my favourite movies. Back in the late 90s, Rene Russo had been a customer and friend of mine for a long time. She called me one day and said she was working on a new movie and needed to talk to me about the clothes. I asked her what film it was and she said “The Thomas Crown Affair.” Well, when I was a kid, the original was one of my very favourite old movies. And I loved the idea of being able to work with a character who could be sexy and feminine and still be powerful. She could be glamorous and didn’t have to be 15 years old. She could be an adult and still be glamorous. I think that the world appreciated that this was a woman on the go and it was the beginning of life getting faster due to the internet. And that really has changed fashion so much. So I think it is still relevant today. I hear women all the time say, “Why don’t you make those clothes again?” When you think of the idea of women being sporty, sexy and glam – she was all three of those.
Oh God, I do love the movie Sabrina because you saw the transformation of the main character. That was so incredible. I think when I was growing up and I was small and seeing this movie, it was the first time I saw what fashion can do. She went to Paris and suddenly she was a new woman.
I’m biography obsessed. When a book is well-written and someone writes it themselves, a biography is really my favourite. The range is so wide for me. I love Patti Smith’s book about her life with Mapplethorpe. I love Keith Richards’ book. I loved all the books Lauren Bacall wrote over the years. I think when you read a biography, it gives you real insight into people. And maybe you might learn something at the same time. So although I’ll never be a rock star like Keith Richards, it’s interesting to experience it through his eyes.
I do love white tulips – with the leaves cut off.
The highlight of my career so far was walking down the runway in Paris at the end of my first Céline show. Even though I always wanted to be a fashion designer, I didn’t think an American designer would ever walk down a runway in Paris. I also think being the youngest person to ever win the Lifetime Achievement Award from the CFDA was very special. I didn’t actually believe them when they said I was winning. I kept saying, “But I’m too young.” They said, it’s 29 years. That’s a lifetime. I think the fact that the award came from my fellow designers made it more special. Quite frankly, it is a competitive world and to be recognized by them was special.
I like to laugh. Kristin Wiig makes me pee my pants. I actually saw her the other night at a film screening and she’s funny at the word “hello”. I love people whose humour comes from things other people don’t see. And I think she is one of them.
I like an escape. If you can’t take a trip because you’re sitting in an office, or you’re sitting in school or you’re picking your kids up from school, the simple truth is that fashion and beauty can take you away. Whether it is a spritz of new scent such as some jasmine, suddenly you think to yourself, “I’ve never been to Bali but I feel this is what it might be like.”
I’m all over the map when it comes to music. I’m a little cuckoo. I can go from Rufus Wainwright to Rita Ora. My iPod is a permanent shuffle. I’m into Frank Ocean right now. I think he’s great. It’s nice when someone has their own spin on things and has something original.
I love the look of lifeguards in the 1980s. I call it the Bondi Beach look. The lifeguards always had a little frost of their lips where the zinc wore off. There was just a tiny amount of shimmer on the lip. I grew up on Long Island so the closed we got to Bondi Beach was Jones Beach.