Is Michael Kors a great designer?

The language of style.
Oct. 18 2006 5:32 PM

Michael Kors

He's a great Project Runway judge. But is he a great American designer?

(Continued from Page 1)

In the absence of much choice, Kors' many die-hard customers—well-heeled women who work and well-heeled women who don't, but want to convey the efficient independence of those who do—rely on his easy way with chic. But in order to expand the business, the company must attract a larger pool of clients. In 2003, industry veterans Silas Chou and Lawrence Stroll bought a controlling interest in the Michael Kors brand, and in August they announced plans to open 100 stores worldwide. The company is banking on a cross-merchandising strategy aimed at drawing big spenders and budget-conscious shoppers into the same stores. Each will sell clothes at several price points: The Collection—or runway—label will hang alongside two accessibly priced "diffusion" labels: Kors Michael Kors at the "bridge" price and Michael Michael Kors at the lower tier. The plan also calls for expansion of the men's offerings and the potentially lucrative accessory collections.

The partners clearly mean business: Company President John Idol spoke of the brand's $1 billion potential. But it's not clear that Kors' newfound TV stardom will make this effort more successful than earlier, failed strategies. The house filed for bankruptcy in 1991 after its initial push into diffusion lines, and all three of the current collections have suffered setbacks. Idol told WWD in August that performance on the runway collection has been "pretty good"—executive-speak for "weak." Here's where the situation gets sticky for Michael Kors: If megabrands like J. Crew, Banana Republic, and Zara sell what is essentially the same well-made, well-priced, cable-knit sweater that he sells, what makes his more enticing?


On Project Runway, Kors asks the questions that have consistently led American designers to create great clothes: What do real women wear? What makes simple clothes look new? The Michael Kors look feels nostalgic, not innovative; classy, but uninspired. It is possible that Kors' time has finally come. Consider once again those ads that show rich people doing what rich people do: These days, celebrity is the ultimate American dream. But does anyone other than Paris Hilton get all dolled up to board a private jet? Who's on the tarmac to see? If Claire McCardell were designing today, you can bet she'd have a newer idea about what looking American means right now.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

iOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 12:02 PM Here It Is: The Flimsiest Campaign Attack Ad of 2014, Which Won’t Stop Running
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 1:59 PM Ask a Homo: Secret Ally Codes 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.