Updated: Jun 29, 2021
Designer Michael Kors was raised in Merrick, Long Island, a suburban town 23 miles from New York City. His keen eye for fashion was evident at a young age: at five, he advised his mother, Joan, to cut the bows off her wedding dress for her second marriage. She removed the bows.
Kors graduated from high school in 1977 and attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. He also took a job at Lothar’s, a trendsetting boutique on West 57th Street, where his talents were noticed by Dawn Mello, then executive vice president of Bergdorf Goodman. Mello encouraged Kors to contact her if he ever designed a collection. Kors did just that, and in 1981 officially launched his own line. He held his first runway show in 1984, sending Iman down the runway in a turtleneck and gray flannels.
Kors was successful from the start, designing chic, luxurious sportswear that was both glamorous and effortless. He built a reputation as a designer who understands how women live and how they want feel in their clothes—confident, at ease, indulged and in control. By combining pragmatism with an unerring sense of chic, Kors’ unique take on “all-American sportswear” would eventually go global.
“People think of sportswear as uniquely American, but women around the world love playing with separates because they can put their own spin on them,” Kors has said. “The creative thinking behind sportswear is the same no matter where you are—it’s all about great pieces that women can wear every day.”
From 1997 to 2004, as he continued to build his own business, Michael Kors also served as creative director of Céline, the renowned French luxury brand. The appointment was notable—few American designers had headed up French brands—and his impact was significant. Kors is widely credited with restoring the brand’s luster, re-establishing it as a major European fashion house. During that same period, he launched Michael Kors Mens (2002) and MICHAEL Michael Kors (2004).
Despite the demands of running a global fashion house, Kors has always focused on giving back. For over 25 years he has been a passionate supporter of God’s Love We Deliver, a non-profit organization that cooks and delivers nutritious meals to people living with serious illnesses in and around New York City. In 2013 Michael Kors launched “Watch Hunger Stop,” partnering with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to help fight world hunger. To date, Michael Kors has helped WFP deliver over 17 million meals to hungry children. In 2015 the designer was named Global Ambassador Against Hunger for the United Nations World Food Programme.