Michael Kors’ relationship with A-list celebrities and his business acumen and shrewd sense of timing has placed him at the top of the fashion game. The designer, who was in Singapore for the opening of his flagship boutique at the Mandarin Gallery on Orchard Road, found some time to schedule a highly entertaining chat session with former CNN correspondent Alina Cho at the Singapore School of the Arts. He candidly revealed his success secrets and also told us what he was doing in the changing room with former First Lady, Jackie Kennedy…
1. So what was Kors doing in that changing room with the late Jackie O?
“We had Jackie Kennedy come in to the store once (Kors was working in a famous boutique on 57th Street, Fifth Avenue at the time) and all of the sales girls were all so freaked out, they just ran…like cockroaches! And I was left…just standing there… 18 years old, face to face with Jackie Kennedy. And I said, ‘Hello Mrs Kennedy, can I help you?’ and she said, she was looking for some of these French tie-dyed jeans for herself and her daughter. When I knocked on the door (of the changing room) about two or three minutes later, I said, ‘How are you doing? Do you need anything?’ She said, ‘Come in’, and (when I entered the changing room) I saw that she couldn’t get her boots off. She said, ‘Could you help me with my boot?’, and I said, ‘Okay’. She put her boot up, I was like shaking. I was very nervous but I tried to play it cool, and off came Jackie Kennedy’s boot!”
2. Kors put model Iman in that?
“Iman is a legendary beauty, but she’s also very funny and she has a fabulous accent. And she said (Kors mimics her accent), ‘When I would go to shows, they would make me an exotic African princess, and Michael made me the girl next door. And I said, ‘I always thought, beauty is beauty and style is style, so why would I have to send her out in some insane African costume? I put her in a pair of riding pants, a flannel coat, a great sweater and a pair of boots because All-American is a melting pot, so why not see that sense of American style on people from around the world’.”
3. How to make it in fashion
“If you don’t have the passion, you can’t do this. This is…not a job. It’s a life. For people to succeed, not just designers but all the people who are part of the fashion equation, you have to have passion or it’s not going to work longterm. You have to always think that, ‘Here’s where I am now but I can always try something new, I can always try something different’, and keep going forward’.”
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4.What to do when times get tough…
“When times get tough, you’ve really got to hunker down. Don’t look over your shoulder, don’t look at the other guy. Just do what’s right for you and what’s right for your customers.”
5. And… the TRUTH about Kors’ success
I’ve had journalists ask, ‘When do you know you’ve made it?’ And I’m like, ‘The moment I think I’ve made it, I’m finished, so the simple truth is, you can never think about it that way.”
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