While Kors’ reputation as a designer and his creative talents are undeniable, his success in business has not been so clearly defined since he and Orchulli opened the signature collection in 1981. He has enjoyed the support of editors and retailers throughout his career, partly because of his ability to deliver collections comprised of pure vision of luxury American sportswear elements while at the same time renovating the once dusty Celine label in Paris, and partly because of his ability to entertain them with a lively sense of humor.
There have at times also been complaints of a sense of sameness in his collections and occasional reports of difficult sales at retail, a not-so-surprising reaction to a designer who deals in a vocabulary of modern and ever-more-luxurious takes on the classics: camel cashmere coats, navy blazers and herringbone slacks. The situation has largely improved in recent years, with his expansion into licensed signature and Kors fragrances; the relaunch of a luxury men’s wear collection, and the opening of his collection store on Madison Avenue in 2000 and a Kors store in SoHo.
"He is of major importance to our business," said Sue Patneaude, vice president of designer apparel for Nordstrom. "His collection is one of the best-performing we carry. We believe that Michael has the ability to sustain the business and that he has the talent and determination to succeed on his own merit. He has proven that over time and we could not be more supportive."
Similarly, Ed Burstell, vice president and general manager at Henri Bendel, said both the Michael Kors and the Kors bridge collections "have always performed very well here," and Jeffrey Kalinsky, owner of the Jeffrey stores in New York and Atlanta, said the signature label and Celine have both had strong sales.
The designer has also managed to create an image that appeals to a wide range of society customers, re-creating a front-row each season that draws both the old-school clients of Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta and the newer guard more typically catered to by Tuleh.