An intimate Q&A with the designer
On May 9th, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia celebrated its 51st annual Daisy Day — now one of the largest volunteer-run fund-raisers in the city. And this year, there in the Grand Ballroom at the Bellevue in Center City, sat Michael Kors, drinking his iced tea, eating his salmon, showing his latest styles on the runway and encouraging everyone to give what they could to benefit CHOP.
On May 9th, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia celebrated its 51st annual Daisy Day — now one of the largest volunteer-run fund-raisers in the city. And this year, there in the Grand Ballroom at the Bellevue in Center City, sat Michael Kors, drinking his iced tea, eating his salmon, showing his latest styles on the runway and encouraging everyone to give what they could to benefit CHOP. After a morning spent sweating (due to pre-interview excitement) and drooling (due to his Fall 2007 Collection), I sat down with the affable, blue-eyed designer to talk about Philly's style, the influence of the red carpet, and, of course, cheesesteaks.
So how did you become involved in CHOP's Daisy Day?
Well, before Tom Moratto [the late VP of couture at Saks Fifth Avenue] — who truly, I would trust with anything — passed away, he called me and he said we have this incredible charity in Philadelphia. He explained what it was all about, and I said, I'm there. Just tell me when I need to be there, and I'd love to help.
You've been coming to Philly since the Nan Duskin days of the early '80s, with your ripped jeans and your shoulder-length hair. After all that time, how do you define Philly's style?
I think Philadelphia has a foot in both camps — people here certainly are interested in what's new and what's stylish and they want to be current, and are involved and aware of what's next — but at the same time I think people here have a respect for tradition. I think people here believe in investment: This is not a town where you wear something once and then toss it. Which has always been, for me, one of the things I like about Philadelphia style. I also think people here travel: They have a beach life, a country life, an urban life, a suburban life — all of those things. And that's what makes the city interesting — as a designer, it's always fun to design for people who have a varied life.
So, we're very excited about you opening up in A.C. What did you see going on there that made you think that's where you should open a store?
Well, first off — I'm a beach bum at heart. I grew up on Long Island, so we weren't at the shore, but boardwalks and taffy were a part of my childhood. Also, I think that A.C. has so changed. When the Pier was going up, I thought, there's no reason why this place shouldn't be more than just about gambling and entertainment. And I think the caliber of restaurants in the city has changed. There's a different, younger group of people going to A.C., and I just thought it was interesting, the whole mix that they were talking about when they were changing things and putting the Pier up. I really think Atlantic City is primed to be the destination for the whole [eastern] corridor. So when you have the right mix of beautiful setting, cool hotels, great entertainment, great shopping and great food — well, how could it fail?
We're often plagued with shopping rumors here in Philadelphia. Please, please, please tell us there's some truth to you opening a store here some time in our near future!
Well, we have two different retail concepts — we have Michael Kors Collection stores and we have three of those in the States. Then we have our new lifestyle stores, and they're really fun because they're such a mix of different prices and products. I mean, you can buy a pair of flip-flops or you can buy a crocodile handbag! And in those stores, we have customers who are 12 and we have customers who are in their 60’s. And, definitely, the Philadelphia area is important for us. So I can't give you a date, but you'll definitely see us in Philadelphia. It will happen.
Is there any shopping or dining destination in Philly that you need to go to when you visit?
I can't come to Philadelphia without having a cheesesteak — it's against the law. I love the cliché! I'm not going to go to Dallas and not have BBQ. Would you go to New York and not have a bagel? It's just part of the city.
So tell me: What three things should every stylish Philadelphia woman buy for this spring/summer season?
You gotta get yourself a great silver handbag. Or a fabulous pair of silver shoes. It's easier to wear than gold because you can wear it a bit more casually. It's not quite as over the top and it automatically changes everything you wear. I would also definitely think about a romantic white blouse, something that has a fuller sleeve. It could be really fine cotton or silk chiffon. And then we did a lot of great-looking cashmere sweaters this season that were inspired by dancers. And I think particularly in Philadelphia, if you're down at the shore you want to be able to put on a great cardigan or a cashmere sweater at night when it gets cool.
It seems today that designers are so influenced by Hollywood. How much do you think of that when you're designing — do you cut a dress, and think, this will look fabulous on Jessica Simpson?
Well, when we work with a lot of actresses, we make things especially for them. It really is a one-off. And those are collaborations. As far as runway is concerned, we'll certainly look at something and say, that dress is red-carpet worthy. And, once in a while, I will look at something, after the fact, and say, I can picture so and so in this. We had a dress once, and as soon as I fit it, I said, that's really a Jennifer Lopez kind of dress, and she ended up wearing it to the Golden Globes.
Just one last selfish question. This morning I had my bag all packed to go —the same one I've been carrying for two weeks — and then I realized, it's yours.
That's a good thing.
Well, but then I switched it.
[Look of concern on Mr. Kors' face.]
I was afraid I'd be the nerd who wears the band's T-shirt to the band's concert, and it's just that I've been legitimately using it and I didn't want to give the impression that I was only carrying it around because I was coming to interview you and wanting to shove it in your face.
Oh noo, oh no, we LOOOOOVE — no, no, nooo — it's the opposite. I'm thrilled to see people wearing the clothes, carrying our handbags, wearing the shoes. It's the ultimate compliment.