Net Worth: $1 billion
Being one of the greatest names in the fashion industry, Michael Kors has become a true icon who has made a massive wave in the fashion world. The American designer, based in New York City, is the chairperson and chief creative officer for his company Michael Kors Holdings Ltd., selling men's and women's clothes, ready-to-wear accessories, jewelry, watches, footwear and fragrances. From 1997 to 2003, Michael became the first designer for the French house 'Celine' to design a women’s ready-to-wear collection.
Michael Kors was born on Long Island in New York, being named Karl Anderson Jr. at birth by his parents Joan Hamburg, a former Revlon model, and Karl Anderson Sr. During his early years, he soon discovered he had a passion for clothes and fashion. During the weekdays, he would visit his uncle’s workplace, who was a boss at a fashion company, as well as accompanying his mother with her clothes shopping. Later in his life, he admitted that his mother was a great inspiration for him with her ‘unmovable taste’ and said the way mothers dress has an impact on every male fashion designer out there.
As a child, Michael was already a young model and fashion designer, making appearances on adverts and shows – a particularly memorable one being an advertisement for Lucky Charms cereal. At the age of five-years old, his parents divorced and his mother then re-married to businessman Bill Kors. It is then that they decided to change his name from Karl Anderson Jr. He was asked to choose his first two names, with him deciding on Michael David Kors. At 19 years of age, he had a dream of being a fashion designer and wished to go into the creative industries. He was admitted to the New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology where he worked at an upscale boutique in merchandising and designing collections. He then decided to start up on his own company due to the success he saw during his first job. In 1981, he began the Michael Kors label being steered with a great vision of a prestigious line of chic sportswear. His first collection was then debuted.
His love and affection for fashion began when he was very young. His mother thought it was great how passionate her son was about fashion, with the influence being seen from her modeling career. It is said that he re-designed his mother’s wedding dress for her second marriage when he was just five-years old. He began selling clothes that he had designed at his makeshift store ‘Iron Butterfly’, a name he gave to his parents’ basement.
At fourteen years, he started to focus on being a fashion designer. Michael traveled almost the whole of the US for small fashion shows at private homes. In 1977, he joined the Fashion Institute of Technology located in New York but he had to quit the school within nine months. He got employed at a boutique on 57th street across from Bergdorf Goodman. After some time, his employee gave him a small place to create and sell some of the designs he made himself. The Bergdorf fashion director, Dawn Mello, was impressed by Kors and shown his collection to the buyers of Bergdorf Goodman. Remarkably, the collections have been there ever since.
In 1981, he launched a womenswear line that was accepted at Saks Fifth Avenue, The Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s and the Lord and Taylor. His company launched the Kors line in 1990 but were forced to shut down in 1993 because of bankruptcy. However, in 1997 he rose again and regained strength with his brand. His launching of the first women’s ready-to-wear at the French house ‘Celine’ proved he was back in the game. During the time he was at Celine, things improved and his brand were renowned for the best accessories and ready-to-wear collections. In 2002, he launched the Kors menswear that was equally adored by many. Due to the need to concentrate on his own fashion brand, he stepped out of Celine in October 2003.
The original Michael Kors collection was expanded in 2004 with the KORS line and the MICHAEL line. His MICHAEL line included women’s ready-to-wear apparel, shoes and handbags. Michael now owns high-end boutiques in major cities and towns including New York City, Chicago, Beverly Hills and Palm Beach. Globally, he has become a well-known designer who has over 760 lifestyle stores. The fashion line’s thirtieth anniversary was marked in 2011.
His designs have caught the eyes of many celebrities, including the former US First Lady, Michelle Obama. She has been seen wearing Kors’ designer dresses at several events, but the most remembered and renowned design of his was the one she wore for her first term official portrait as the First Lady. Michelle was also spotted with the Kors design at the State of the Union Address in 2015. Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, Angeline Jolie, Kate Hudson, Olivia Wilde, Rachel McAdams and Catherine Zeta-Jones are among the other stars who have been seen wearing something from Kors’ collections and designs. Actress Joan Allen wore a Kors gown when she was nominated for ‘Best Actress’ at the Oscars for her role in The Contender in 2000. In 2006, Jennifer Garner presented the Academy Awards in a custom design dress by Kors. With Michael being the creative director for Celine for some time, many of his designs have also been worn on the big screen by the likes of Rene Russo in The Thomas Crown Affair and Gwyneth Paltrow in Possession. Pop star Alicia Keys even wore one of his designs at Barack Obama’s inaugural ball on January 21, 2013. Michael Kors’ ad campaigns, shot by Mario Testino, showcase his jet-set sportswear which is one of the things his fans love the most. His clothing is simple and elegantly designed, with models such as Karmen Pedaru being featured in his campaigns and showing off the jet set lifestyle he wants his brand to portray. Michael also extended his collections to exquisite jewelry, watches and fragrances to become what it is today.
In 2004, Kor was asked to be a judge on television show Project Runway. Initially he was going to decline the offer but he decided to take it up; the program was aired on Bravo TV for five seasons and Lifetime for the remaining seasons. After a great run on the show, Kors was replaced by Zac Posen when he officially left Project Runway in December 2012. One of the greatest awards he has ever won is Menswear Designer of the Year Award. This is the most prestigious award in the American fashion industry and he was chosen by the council of fashion designers.
Michael has an elegant approach towards fashion that has earned him a well-deserved spot in the industry. Yet aside from his fashion career, Kors also has a great heart and is a great giver when it comes to charity. He has supported many charities and foundations including ‘The Golden Heart Foundation’, ‘American Foundation for AIDS Research’ and ‘God’s Love We Deliver’. His support to the organizations has made him form a great reputation for his company. His employees once volunteered for one full month of July to help at ‘God’s Love We Deliver’ to prepare meals for sick people. They also later prepared over 4000 nutritious meals that were shared over the entirety of New York to the homeless and less privileged. The UN named him a Global Ambassador against Hunger in 2015 for the UN World Food Programme, recognizing his efforts towards supporting the sick and spearheading the value of nutrition in New York City and wider USA. This humanitarian award proved his constant fight against hunger.
On August 16 2011, Kor married his partner Lance Le Pere Southampton, New York. This was a few weeks after gay marriage was legalized in the US, with the two actually meeting in 1990. La Pere was an intern in his company and by the time they married he was the Vice President of the women’s Michael Kors collection.
Kors was sued for ‘infringement of the trademark’ in 2009 by Tony Duquette, an artist-designer, because his name and images were used in promoting the resort wear collection. In December 2014, a former employee of Michael Kors sued his company claiming that they were not awarding proper meal breaks for their staff and that overtime wasn’t calculated correctly.
In July 2013, Michael sued Costco, accusing them of falsely claiming in their advertisements that they sold his products, the second luxury brand to do so after Tiffany & Co.