Michael Kors is a top designer, of course, but he’s also a confirmed theater geek. He celebrated his love for the performing arts as he marked his 40th anniversary as a designer this week, with a digital show that showcased the razzle-dazzle of Broadway.
“Honestly even just talking about it makes me feel joy,” he said in live comments from Times Square on Tuesday, about the experience of sitting in a Broadway theater. Then, in a show taped several nights earlier, his models sashayed down a runway that was actually West 45th Street, in the heart of Manhattan’s still-shuttered theater district.
After the show, they gathered in the Shubert Theater itself, where they sat -- distanced -- to hear Rufus Wainwright sing a medley of uplifting hits, including “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
The runway featured a mix of supermodels from over the decades and none other than Naomi Campbell closed the show, in a sequined black gown with a black overcoat.
Kors also presented an amusing prelude, “Michael Kors Lights Up Broadway,” in which portraits of Broadway actors on the walls of famed theater hangout Sardi’s came to life, with actors emerging to wish him well and share a few jokes (the bit also recalled the ubiquity of Zoom meetings.)
Among those turning out for Kors: Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, Chita Rivera, Cynthia Nixon, Sutton Foster, Ashley Park, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Ariana DeBose, Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, singer Sara Bareilles, and the current star of red-carpet fashion flamboyance, Billy Porter. When Midler’s audio seemed to be muted, Jane Krakowski quipped: “OK, we’re a year into this — how are you still muted, Bette?”
Viewers were asked to support The Actors Fund, and Kors said both he and his company were making a donation to the organization, which aims to provide a safety net for performing arts and entertainment professionals.
Kors sat down with The Associated Press over Zoom this week to discuss his collection, his love for Broadway, and 40 years in fashion.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
AP: Tell me about the new collection and how the pandemic has affected it.
KORS: I wanted to dig deep into really what was the root of Michael Kors for 40 years. ... And then I thought also I’ve always kind of balanced this yin and yang, opulence with simplicity. So definitely those were starting points. But then designing a collection over this last year, I think the concept of what is a “special occasion” changed for all of us. Being able to eat outside, even if it was bitter, freezing cold … . even if I ran into the hardware store, that was a special occasion (laughs). I really wanted this to be focused on the idea of stepping out again … When you are able to go back into the office, you’re going to want to look great. It won’t be fuzzy slippers and yoga pants, that’s for sure.
AP: You’re looking back at 40 years now. How does that feel?
KORS: Honestly, when I started, I was so impatient … I thought, boom, boom, boom, let’s get this done. And now, of course, I realize that slow and steady wins the race … You keep going. But I never imagined when I started in 1981 that we would see the borders between fashion in different parts of the world totally crumble. When I started, American fashion was for America. We didn’t think about designing something that was going to work in Indonesia and in Australia and in Paris and in L.A. and Chicago and all of it. So that’s made it very exciting.
AP: You’re known for fabulous in-person shows. What do you think the future of these shows is going to be?
KORS: Live performance and live theater is such a big part of my life and a big inspiration for me … We miss that sense of community. So when we see a great piece of theater streamed in our homes, well, I’m happy to see it, but it’s not the same as seeing it live. And I think fashion shows is the same thing. Do we lose the sense of community of experiencing something with other people? Yes, that’s tremendous. At the same time, I think perhaps we’re going to see things become a little bit more intimate when they do return to a live scenario.
AP: What do you think when you look back to the ‘80s and ’90s?
KORS: When I look at myself in the early ’80s, I kind of am amazed that adults actually listened to me because I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, I’m a boy.” I’m literally a boy. I don’t even know if I was shaving when I started my business. So it’s amazing to me that adult customers and stores and members of the press were actually willing to give me space and time and listen to me. I think the ‘90s were the decade of cool. And I think that fashion started to get so international. So I started traveling more. I think I spread my wings in the ’90s and I really grew up.
AP: What do you want your mark to be on fashion?
KORS: What’s interesting for me, after 40 years, (is) the fashion show is certainly exciting, but it’s the street which really invigorates me, and seeing people wear my designs of all ages. We have customers who are 15 and customers who are 85. And in every part of the world. What I want everyone to get from Michael Kors is that somehow we were a confidence builder, that when you wore something from Michael Kors you kind of felt your best self, and somehow there was always this sort of yin and yang that what I do is useful, comfortable, versatile, long-lasting, but at the same time makes you feel special.
Associated Press writer Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.