“Don’t get me wrong, I am all for comfort, but I like a little polish too. These days I see women on the city streets wearing jogging bras,” lamented Michael Kors before his New York fashion week show. “I’m thinking of getting ‘chic is not a dirty word’ printed on a T-shirt.”
If he did, it would undoubtedly sell. Michael Kors is the man who brought the It bag to the masses, inventing a new category of “affordable luxury”, and his success has made billionaires of Kors and two of his early business partners. His commercial mindset was evident in the audience for his latest catwalk show – staged, appropriately, at the former American Stock Exchange headquarters in Manhattan’s financial district – where 10% of invitations were reserved for his biggest spending clients.
Next season, Kors wants to sell women a chic alternative to athleisure. “The best clothes make you feel like you are in a chic security blanket,” he said. “You should feel cosy, you should feel relaxed. And you know what always works, when you want to be chic but also be comfortable? Equestrian!”
Expensive-looking and erotic-adjacent, equestrian chic has long been a go-to for Michael Kors. This time around, he revisited looks from a 1999 collection. “That season, Naomi Campbell wore a stripe blanket cape on the runway, and the next day I got a phone call from Joan Didion, and Joan loved that cape, so of course we got her a cape. I’ve got a great photo of Joan in that cape.” A new version of the cape walked the catwalk on Wednesday morning, in camel with wide bands of clementine and chocolate brown at the hem, worn over a sweater dress with flat riding boots in rich suede. Other equestrian-tilted looks included a quilted grey cashmere half-zip hoodie, layered over a chunky polo neck and midi-length skirt. Like most outfits in the show, they were accessorised with a handbag. “Every bag in this collection can be carried hands-free”, Kors noted. “That’s just how we live now.”
As Kors approaches his 40th anniversary in business next year, he has been attempting to retroactively build up his archive. “When I started I didn’t keep archives. I was young, I didn’t think about it. So I often contact vintage stores and ask that if they get any of my clothes come in from the 1980s or early 1990s to let me know so that I can buy them. But they always tell me they don’t have anything – because women don’t get rid of my clothes. My clothes last, and women wear them for ever. Isn’t that great?” Now he is keen to teach “my new 22-year-old customers, who grew up with fast fashion, about the pride of owning something that lasts”.
Top of Kors’ personal best-dressed list right now is Billie Eilish, the 18-year-old singer currently disrupting the norms of red carpet fashion by wearing voluminous, baggy clothes rather than bare, form-fitting dresses. At the Oscars on Sunday, Eilish’s custom-made Chanel look was an oversized trousersuit with a high collar. “I love what Billie Eilish is doing,” said Kors. “She’s sending a fabulous message. She’s saying, ‘This is about my talent, not my body.’ I’ve always loved knitwear for night. You shouldn’t have to be naked and miserably uncomfortable in eveningwear.”
Next season’s comfortable evening dresses come, naturally, with a generous dash of glamour: an ebony gown was entirely covered in sequins, sustainably manufactured from recycled plastic bottles.
Lisane and Jeanine Basquiat, younger sisters of the late Jean-Michel Basquiat, were guests of honour at the Coach catwalk show, which featured the artist’s niece Jessica among the models. The collection was inspired by Basquiat, who “has always been a hero of mine, for his work and his style and as the ultimate icon of the unorthodox creativity of New York”, said Stuart Vevers, the British designer of Coach. Basquiat’s artwork appeared on several pieces in the collection.
The Coach show was a celebration of New York, in a fashion week which has been left threadbare by several marquee-name defections. Tom Ford staged his show in LA this season, Tommy Hilfiger will present his in London and Ralph Lauren is sitting out fashion week in favour of a stand-alone show in April.
As well as the Basquiat family, the show featured a live performance by New York icon Debbie Harry. “In the seven years I’ve been at Coach, I don’t think I’ve ever put together a mood board that didn’t have a photo of Debbie Harry on it,” said Vevers. “When I found this venue, which is such a classic New York industrial loft, and started visualising how it would all come together, I had the idea of having her sing so I thought – well, I might as well ask. And amazingly, she said yes.”
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