Michael Kors was born in Long Island, New York in 1959. He is half Scandinavian, half Jewish. His mother is Joan Krystosek Kors, a former model.
He studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
He had two aims as a child, to be a movie star or a fashion designer. He describes himself not as an only child, but as a companion to his mother, a former Revlon model and shopaholic, who brought him up alone. At 4 years old, he modeled in cereal commercials and by the time he was a teenager, he was taking the train to Manhattan to study acting. His grandparents would show him beautiful fabrics and show him the difference between quality and not. As a child he studied the fashion sketches in the New York Times newspaper.
He learned his fashion trade by working at Lothar's boutique, on 57th Street, New York. Celebrities like Cher, Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand came there to buy casual clothes. This gave him an insight into customer preferences and before long he decided he could design better clothes than they had in stock.
1981, Kors launched the Michael Kors womenswear line at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. These sold on the spot. His clinging scaled-down jumpsuits called attention to the body which he then layered with jackets. Forking frequently with natural fabrics and neutral colours, Kors creates garments that are noted for the minimalist approach, yet the cut is curvaceous and designed to flatter.
His separates are often practical - the body-hugging dress is worn with a more tailored jacket, other jackets double as shirts. Many of his designs are inspired by the great American sportswear designer Claire McCardell. He is a deeply cool, directional designer who makes sexy, sleek, sharp modern clothes.
When Kors was discouraged that he could never find a well-cut pair of gray pants and a good cashmere sweater, he treaded into the menswear category.
He included his menswear line in 1990 but in 1993 faced severe financial problems. He managed to bounce back.
Later, in his 1998 fall collection, Kors dressed male models to interact with the female models. From there, Michael used his womenswear factories to create a trial menswear line and sold it at Bergdorf Goodman and his boutique. It was a hit. In 2002, the menswear line was officially launched. It is said that Michael takes inspiration from his line from the motion picture, Downhill Racer. The menswear line includes sweaters, tailored pants, and peacoats.
In 1997, Michael Kors was named the first ever women's ready-to-wear designer and creative director for the French fashion house Celine. In his tenure at Celine, Kors turned the fashion house around with blockbuster accessories and a critically acclaimed ready-to-wear line. Kors left in October of 2003 to concentrate on his own brand.
He has designed for several films, the most recent being for Rene Russo in the Thomas Crown Affair. He has also opened a boutique in the London store Harvey Nichols.
In 1999 LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), owner of the Celine label, purchased a third of Kors' D5 signature business. Kors hoped the acquisition would boost his presence internationally as well as allow him to expand his licensing and advertising activity, neither of which he had pursued aggressively in the past. Wholesale sales for the Kors D5 signature labels in 1999 were $30 million, according to the New York Times, with sales growing 60 to 70 percent annually for two years.
Kors sold an additional tenth of his business in 2000 to Onward Kashiyama USA, a licensee for the Kors by Michael Kors bridge line. The designer hoped the new relationship would support plans to expand further into Asia. Next came a Kors first—the introduction of a women's fragrance—launched in fall 2000 through licensee Parfums Givenchy. The debut was successful enough for Kors to expand into men's scents the following year. He had also begun showing men's clothing again, after a hiatus, as part of his women's runway show in spring 1998.
In 2001, Kors—who considers fragrances one of his most personal creations—and Parfums Givenchy developed three new scents called Notes from Michael which could be worn in any combination or alone. In addition to fragrance, Kors has focused on expanding the rest of his licensed products since the turn of the century, including handbags, footwear, and eyewear, which all debuted in spring 2001.
Recently, the Michael Kors brand has begun expanding. In addition to the Micheal Kors runway collection, the MICHAEL Michael Kors and KORS Michael Kors lines were launched in 2004. MICHAEL, though still considered upscale, is more reasonably priced and available to the public. The line is sold in department stores such as Nordstrom's, and Macy's. KORS is also sold in similar department stores and is considered the mid-tier line, between the runway and MICHAEL collections. The MICHAEL line includes women's handbags and shoes as well as women's ready-to-wear apparel. The KORS line contains footwear. In addition, Kors also created a fragrance for women in 2000 and a fragrance for men in 2001. The ad campaigns for Michael Kors often reflects the jet-set sportswear that Kors fans are fond of. Previous campaigns include the model Carmen Kass on the tarmac of an airport, on a safari in Africa, and relaxing on a yacht.
Michael Kors has five collection boutiques in New York, Beverly Hills, Americana Manhasset, South Coast Plaza, and Natick Collection.
Kors has been a minimalist working within a sportswear tradition. In this, he has perpetuated and advanced ideas of Halston, including strong sexuality. He particularly flattered the gym-toned body of the late 1980s and early 1990s in stretchy, simple dresses calling attention to the body within. Minimalists in art and architecture might seem to remove themselves from the figure and human proportion; the irony is that a fashion minimalist like Kors has drawn attention to the figure within. Although he has shown patterns, Kors prefers neutral color fields and emphasizes the apparel of the fabric with luxurious wools and cashmere for fall-winter and stretch and cotton for spring-summer. Leather in shirts, skirts, and jackets is essential for any Kors fall-winter collection; trousers are critical in all collections; and layering is important, even light layers in spring-summer collections. Kors' distinctive position as a leading minimalist in late 20th-century sportswear was achieved by the precise harmony of color and fabric in separates. There has been some affinity between Kors and Donna Karan, both creating innovative bodysuits, sensual stretch skirts and tops, and other sportswear elements, as well as borrowings from menswear. In fact, Karan and Kors are somewhat similar in their menswear collections as well. They shared the dubious distinction of both offering bodyshirts (underwear attached to shirts) in menswear collections for fall 1992. If anything, Kors' minimalism was a little more referential than Karan's—he deliberately evoked the glamor and sportiness of the 1930s, the "Belafonte" shirt of the 1950s, or vinyl clothing of the late 1960s. His sportswear-based pragmatism has been particularly effective as a monitor to the sexuality of his clothing. A bare Kors dress or jumpsuit may be audaciously sexy, but tone it down with a neutral jacket or other cover-up and it can become suitable for the office. Conversely, Kors can take a simple skirt and blouse from the office setting into hot evening life with the addition of a leather jacket or a satin swing jacket. Kors creates the pretty, the sexy, and the highly practical, pure mastery in American sportswear. Throughout Kors' decades as a designer, he has maintained the same casual-yet-luxurious sensibility he has been known for since launching his business. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, fashion trends caught up with his longtime focus on feminine, elegant simplicity, and he finally moved to the industry forefront. Whether taking inspiration from the equestrian world or from Native American culture, he has remained constant in his use of luxurious, often unique fabrics to create upscale yet wearable pieces. Some observers have criticized Kors for being bland and predictable and for never departing from his focus on casual luxury, either in his work for Celine or for his own labels. Yet many praise his confidence in sticking with what he believes his customers want and remaining unaffected by short-lived trends. He always creates pieces that can be mixed and matched in unexpected ways—day with night, summer with winter, big and bulky with silky and slim. Kors is proud his clothes are bought by a customer base that ranges from 20-somethings to much more mature women.
Celebrity clients like Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Cher, Sharon Stone and Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, Heidi Klum, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Joan Allen, Jennifer Garner, Sigourney Weaver, Liv Tyler, Rene Russo