With an introduction from Alexandra Shulman deeming him the “funniest man in fashion”, American design legend Michael Kors certainly lived up to the hype and closed the first day of the second annual Vogue Festival to roars of laughter and applause, charming all with his perfect combination of good humour and East Coast cool.
A light-hearted nostalgia filled the Queen Elizabath hall that evening – joined by ex-supermodel and long time friend Yasmin le Bon, the talk touched upon the eccentricties of the 80s, both referring to the decade as a “special time”, and feeding into the shared fascination we all have with the decadent glamour of the supermodel era. A large screen showing the likes of Linda, Christie and of course Yasmin strutting the Kors runways of the 80s, clashed with hectic anecdotes detailing collapsed runways, design mishaps, and how a 16 year old Naomi Campbell saved a show after Paulina Porizkova couldn’t make it. The pair seemed to share a child-like mischief, Yasmin explaining that they “could get away with murder back then” – fittings were unheard of and adjustments right up until the minute that first heel clacked onto the runway were the norm.
Touching and unexpected throwbacks to his youth stripped the talk of it’s presumed formality as we sat enthralled by his earliest memory of the designer at work – his mother’s wedding dress, plastered in bows sparked honesty from the child who would go on to epitomise Sportswear design, and he insisted that they were removed. He explained that from a young age “women had faith in [him]”. His key phrase? Framing the woman. A picture of Lil’ Kim and Sigourney Weaver flashes up on the screen, both dressed in identical Kors dresses, interpreted at drastically opposing ends of the style spectrum. This, he considers success. He explains that stripped bare of the theatricality of the shows, the clothes must be able to be worn by “real women or the design dies”. He rejects the idea of a specific ‘Kors woman’, and opts rather for “any woman, any age”, a refreshing departure from the rigid stock figures we associate with so many fashion houses today, especially the more established designers like Michael Kors himself.
Reflecting on his growth, he embraces his mistakes, a cliché perhaps but there was something sincere in his voice (“Without them, how do you keep progressing?”), and he interestingly observes somewhat with regret, that design today is far too quick-paced with no room for error. His humility is evident through the advice he gives the budding fashionistas in the audience: “Keep your eyes and ears open. Always.” That’s the secret to keeping designs fresh and new.
Michael was certainly a charmer, and no doubt everyone left having fallen a little bit in love with his honesty and ability to poke fun at himself. Being a long time loyal fan of the designer, my first experience of Vogue Fest was certainly a highlight, made a little extra special when I realised Anna Dello Russo was two seats away, looking equally as captivated as the rest of us. The day ended on an uplifting note, inevitable given the bubbling positivity he exuded. The experience was an excellent foundation to contextualise future collections and discover the humble comedian and self-proclaimed ‘renegade’ behind the legendary Sportswear designer.