He is half Scandinavian, half Jewish. His mother is Joan Krystosek Kors, a former model.
Designer, Born August 9, 1959, Karl Anderson, Jr. was raised on New York’s Long Island. As a toddler, Kors worked as a model, appearing in national campaigns for products such as toilet paper and Lucky Charms cereal. Kors’ biological parents split when he was quite young, and he got his new name at age 5 when his mother married businessman Bill Kors. My mother said, “You’re getting a new last name, so why don’t you pick a new first name?” Kors said. He chose Michael as his first name and his second-favorite, David, as his middle name. His mother also allowed him to design her wedding dress. Kors, already a fashion addict, was thrilled with the prospect.
He had two aims as a child, to be a movie star or a fashion designer. He describes himself not only as a 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.
From their suburban home in Merrick, New York, Kors scavenged every bit of fashion intelligence he could gather. “I practically hyperventilated every month when Vogue arrived, and I loved shopping,” he said. Kors moved to New York City in the 1970s to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. He loved the city more than the school, however, and dropped out after two semesters. In 1978, Kors went to work at the French boutique Lothar’s, which allowed him to design and merchandise his first fashion collection. The well-received collection generated enough interest that Kors was able to start his own fashion line. Michael Kors Women’s Collection launched in May 1981, and was sold in the high-end department stores Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Kors’ simple, elegantly tailored clothing and his charmingly persuasive sales techniques proved to be a winning combination. Kors traveled across the United States for small fashion shows at private homes, known as “trunk shows.” When he was 23, he convinced the formidable fashion editor Anna Wintour - then of New York magazine, now the editor of Vogue– to view his collection. The glitzy Madison Avenue showrooms he would later have were still a long way off. Kors displayed the collection laid out on his bed in his apartment. From these humble beginnings, he soon picked up celebrity fans like Barbara Walters and earned awards for his designs.
In 1990, however, Kors’ company was forced to reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy with debts reportedly totaling $1.4 million. After getting back on his feet, Kors launched KORS Michael Kors, a lower-priced line. The designer emerged out of bankruptcy shortly after and in 1997 was recruited by French luxury-goods giant LVMH Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton to design the Celine brand a French fashion house. In the six years he held that position, he continued to expand his own brand, launching menswear, accessory and perfume lines. In 2003, Sportswear Holdings, run by private investors Silas Chou and Lawrence Stroll, who had propelled Tommy Hilfiger’s expansion and eventual initial public offering, acquiring a majority stake in Michael Kors’s company. They hired John Idol, a former chief executive at Anne Klein, and embarked on a plan to...