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August 7, 2008 4:07 PM

Fashion

Kors Time

Michael Kors Last February, at a Spice Girls concert I attended with some friends, the cheering wasn't just for Posh, Baby, Ginger, Scary and Sporty. When Michael Kors walked into the arena, the crowd went completely wild for the...


Michael Kors
Last February, at a Spice Girls concert I attended with some friends, the cheering wasn't just for Posh, Baby, Ginger, Scary and Sporty. When Michael Kors walked into the arena, the crowd went completely wild for the designer, asking him for his autograph and posing with him for photos.Thanks to his star turn as a judge on "Project Runway," Kors has become a media phenomenon, and I dare say he has become more popular in American mainstream culture than possibly any other American designer before him.

Kors grasped the impact of his fame a while back. A couple of years ago, he told WWD that his fan base has grown dramatically with "Project Runway." "I now have legions of fans in the single digits," he said then. "Eight-year-olds love me." (And that's not a bad thing -- they will be tomorrow's shoppers after all.)

Now it seems his time has come business-wise too. As reported in WWD on August 6, Kors is about to open stores for his Collection in Chicago, Palm Beach and Milan in the next year and a half, with plans to have 25 Collection stores in Europe in the next three years. He is also rapidly expanding his lifestyle retail stores, which sell a mix of his Collection, Michael Michael Kors and Kors lines. He is slated to open 14 such stores before the end of the year, bringing their number to 45, with 25 more planned for 2009.

The flurry of activity is noteworthy. In the 27 years that Kors has been in business, he, like so many other designers of his generation, faced more ups and downs than one cares to remember. But all that seems to be history now.

He is a great designer, but reporting the story, I couldn't help but wonder if and how much "Project Runway" has contributed to his recent successes. Casting the net a little wider, it also made me think about how crucial it's become for designers to also be media stars. Does a reclusive designer genius even have a chance still? I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.

For someone as telegenic as Kors, being on-screen seems to come as naturally as designing. He is personable, funny, full of anecdotes and always good for some delicious dish. In fact, when we talked about his business expansion, he was calling from the set of "Gossip Girl." Kors is set to guest star as himself on the much anticipated new season. One thing is for sure: the move is bound to make him even more popular.




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