Catering to the Luxury Customer, Michael Kors Has Created a Juggernaut Brand Since 1981: A Company History and Timeline

Catering to the glamorous jet set lifestyle, Michael Kors has grown into a successful luxury brand, while also maintaining an accessible secondary nameplate, Michael Michael Kors.

The company produces a broad range of products under the Michael Kors and Michael Michael Kors labels, ranging from accessories, footwear, watches and jewelry to women’s and men’s ready-to-wear and fragrances. For the fiscal year ended April 1, 2023, Michael Kors achieved total revenue of $3.88 billion.

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Kors has followed in the footsteps of brands such as Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani, who built their businesses with a two-pronged wholesale and retail approach with flagships in such cities as New York, London, Paris, Milan, Tokyo and Shanghai. Over the years Kors has also taken an accessories-heavy approach to his business. A Broadway fanatic and dedicated AIDS and hunger activist, Kors established a reputation for designing clothes that women actually want to wear.

“Well, I think that realistically to sustain a long-lasting career as a designer, you have to have curiosity and you have to have energy,” said Kors in 2013, when he was awarded the Couture Council Award for Artistry in Fashion from the Museum at F.I.T. “I sometimes joke that 20 years ago, I used to say, ‘Oh I’m so busy’ and now I realize I actually had a lot of free time on my hands.…Fashion is a reflection of the world that we live in. Life is faster than it has ever been before and, therefore, fashion is faster than it has ever been before. And you can either get left in the dust in life, which therefore would leave you in the dust in fashion, or you can learn to speed up and move with the times.”

Kors was born in 1959 and grew up in Merrick, N.Y. He was actually born Karl Anderson Jr., but changed his name in 1964 when his mother, a former Revlon model, remarried. Throughout his childhood, he was surrounded by fashion and glamour. His grandmother was obsessed with Bill Blass, and his aunts idolized Cher.

Kors started his career at Lothar’s, a trendsetting clothing boutique on West 57th Street in New York, where he designed a collection for the boutique and was discovered while merchandising its windows by Dawn Mello, then fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman. Mello encouraged the Fashion Institute of Technology student (he left after nine months) to put together his own collection, which was subsequently picked up by Bergdorf’s and ultimately provided the starting point for his career.

“Ultimately, clean lines have greater longevity, which women appreciate, and to which they can add their own personality. And if you’re busy, it kind of cleans the palate and lets you get on with your life,” he told WWD in 1996.

Kors officially launched his label in 1981 at the age of 21, introducing an 18-piece collection of white crepe de chine dresses and streamlined leather separates for the resort season. It debuted at Bergdorf’s. Over the years he cultivated a group of celebrity fans ranging from Aretha Franklin, Courtney Love and Sharon Stone to Catherine, Princess of Wales, Nicole Kidman, Uma Thurman, Oprah Winfrey and former first ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The designer staged his first runway show in 1984, and while his fashion star rose rapidly, there was no shortage of ups and downs. Throughout the first two decades, Kors struggled to build his business into significant volume and several licenses that would support his growth failed to take off at the time.

Kors ended up filing for bankruptcy protection in 1993, when an Italian company (Compagnia Internazionale Abbigliamento USA, a subsidiary of the Italian Gruppo Legler Polli) which had been doing $25 million in volume in 1992, declined to produce his lower-priced licensed line, Kors Michael Kors, which he had launched in 1990. The bankruptcy was due to the loss of licensing income as a lot of the smaller boutiques had gone out of business.

In a WWD interview in 2013, Kors recalled, “When we were in Chapter 11 in the early ’90s, I had been at it for over a decade, which I thought was a really long time. Now I’m like, ‘I was a neophyte.’ But at the time, I kept thinking, ‘If something really does happen, will I cease being me? Oh my God, I’ve worked so hard, and I’ve killed myself, and if this doesn’t work out and we can’t manage to get ourselves out of this situation, will I have any identity as a person? Is all my identity tied up in being Michael Kors?’ I finally realized that if I had to go back to square one, that if I was just honest and authentic , it would work. It’s what works. You have to know yourself.”

Michael Kors Inc. signed a new license with Onward Kashiyama to relaunch the designer’s bridge sportswear label, Kors by Michael Kors in December 1995. Kors restructured in 1997 when LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton invested in his company and he launched a lower-priced line, Michael Michael Kors. That same year, Kors was hired as the designer of LVMH-owned Celine, and became the brand’s creative director the following year. At Celine, Kors successfully turned the brand around with well-received ready-to-wear and accessories collections. He remained until 2004, when he decided to focus on his own brand.

A big celebrity moment came in 1998 when Kors created the wardrobe for Rene Russo’s starring role in the remake of the classic film, “The Thomas Crown Affair,” released in 1999.

In 1999, LVMH acquired one-third of Michael Kors LLC and that same year, Kors received the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year award.

Meantime, the brand was aggressively launching products and opening stores.

In 2000, the first Michael Kors store opened on Madison Avenue in New York City. A signature Michael Kors women’s fragrance was also launched in collaboration with LVMH. The following year, signature Michael Kors men’s fragrance launches took place in collaboration with LVMH, and Michael Kors Collection accessories debuted. Michael Kors menswear collection had its debut in 2002, and the following year, Kors won the CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year Award.

A major development occurred in 2003 when Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou (famous for building Tommy Hilfiger into a megabrand) bought the Michael Kors company for $100 million, along with John Idol, who was installed as chief executive officer and helped grow the business, paving the way to an IPO in 2011, as Stroll and Chou did for Hilfiger previously that earned the two men — as well as Hilfiger — a fortune. Hilfiger’s brand is now owned by PVH Corp. That same year, Kors inked a new licensing agreement with Estée Lauder for fragrance. In 2004, Michael Michael Kors launched accessories and apparel. That same year, Michael Kors introduced watches in collaboration with Fossil.

A big boost to raising Kors’ profile came in 2004, when he joined “Project Runway,” the Emmy Award-winning TV show, as a judge. Thanks to his witty one-liners, Kors gained wide international fame during his eight-year-run as a judge until 2012.

Other new businesses included the introduction of Michael Michael Kors shoes in 2005, and Michael Kors eyewear, which was launched in collaboration with Marchon Eyewear. In 2006, the first Michael Kors Lifestyle store opened. In addition, Michael Kors’ e-commerce site,, launched that year. Kors was awarded Accessory Council’s ACE Award for Designer of the Year in 2006. In 2008, Kors signed a licensing agreement to product Collection shoes.

In 2009, Kors was granted the Star Honoree award at Fashion Group International’s Night of Stars. That same year he dressed First Lady Michelle Obama for her official White House portrait. In 2010, Michael Kors Japan KK was established, and Kors won the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award. He also won the Hall of Fame Award from the Fragrance Foundation. In 2011, Kors celebrated the brand’s 30th anniversary by opening a Paris boutique on Rue St. Honore and debuted a new Collection flagship on Madison Avenue in New York. That same year, he launched jewelry in collaboration with Fossil and won the amfAR Award of Courage.

With an accessories-heavy business model ripe for retail expansion, designer credibility and some big-time name recognition from “Project Runway,” shares of Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. caught fire when they made their Wall Street debut in 2011. The stock more than doubled in the first year to $51.60, placing the value of the company north of $10 billion. Idol was named chairman of Michael Kors Holdings in 2011.

On Aug. 16, 2011, Kors married his partner, Lance Le Pere, who is also a fashion designer, in Southampton, N.Y.

Philanthropy has always been a major part of the Kors’ brand.

In July 2012, God’s Love We Deliver declared it “Michael Kors Month,” in honor of the designer’s long-standing support. Kors also received the Golden Heart Lifetime Achievement Award from God’s Love We Deliver. Kors established a lifetime endowment scholarship at the Fashion Institute of Technology. In 2013, Kors launched “Watch Hunger Stop” campaign, partnering with the United Nations Word Food Programme (WFP) to help fight world hunger. Halle Berry joined Watch Hunger Stop to raise awareness of the issue. That year, he was also honored by The Couture Council of The Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology with the Couture Council award for Artistry of Fashion. He was also named one of the most influential people in the world on the 2013 Time 100 list.

By 2014, Kors became a billionaire after shares of the company went up by 18 percent. Forbes reported Kors had a $360 million stake of the company, plus more money from the value of the stock he sold over the previous few years. Chou and Stroll became billionaires before he did thanks to the company’s success.

In 2014, Kors signed a licensing agreement with Luxottica to produce eyewear (which he renewed in 2024 effective Jan. 1, 2025) and he opened his first flagship store in Shanghai. The company also completed a secondary public offering. The company relaunched its e-commerce site and he renewed his licensing agreement with Fossil to produce watches and jewelry. In 2015, his company raked in more than $4.5 billion in net sales. Even still, the company said in 2017 they would close up to 125 stores because of low sales.

In 2015, God’s Love We Deliver dedicated The Michael Kors Building in honor of the designer’s ongoing efforts in support of the nonprofit organization. Kors was named a Global Ambassador Against Hunger for the United Nations World Food Programme, and Kate Hudson joined the Watch Hunger Stop campaign to help Kors raise awareness and funds for WFP. In addition, Kors opened his first flagship in Japan’s Ginza district that carried all categories.

In 2016, Kors revealed his new wearable technology line, Michael Kors Access, at Baselworld 2016. He received the McGovern-Dole Leadership award by World Food Program USA, presented by then-Vice President Joe Biden. The company also opened its largest flagship store in Europe on London’s Regent Street and opened a flagship store in Singapore’s Mandarin Gallery, its largest store in Southeast Asia.

That same year, Kors acquired Michael Kors (HK) Ltd., the exclusive licensee of the company in China and certain other jurisdictions in. Asia. That year he reached a philanthropic milestone, delivering 1.5 million meals to WFP through his Watch Hunger Stop initiative. The company also opened a flagship store in Cheongdam, Seoul.

By 2017, the makeup of Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. started changing. That year, Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. acquired Jimmy Choo in a deal worth $1.2 billion. Kors also established a new fur-free policy in 2017, applying to all of the holding company’s brands. In 2018, Kors launched a fine jewelry collection in collaboration with Fossil.

In 2018, Michael Kors Holdings Inc. completed the acquisition of Versace and Michael Kors Holdings and officially changed its name to Capri Holdings. Starting on Jan. 2, 2018, the company started to trade under the new stock market ticker CPRI. The fashion group revealed it was buying Versace for $2.1 billion, or 1.8 billion euros, in September 2017. Capri said at the time it had big plans for Versace such as doubling the brand’s sales, boosting e-commerce, opening new stores, expanding to markets in Asia and selling more shoes and accessories.

In 2019, Bella Hadid became the face of Michael Michael Kors in its spring ad campaign. The Michael Kors Collection town house opened on Old Bond Street in London, and Kors introduced its first Pride campaign with proceeds benefiting God’s Love We Deliver. Lupita Nyong’o joined the Watch Hunger Stop campaign to help Michael Kors raise awareness.

In 2020, Kors the brand, along with the designer, revealed a combined $2 million donation to COVID-19 relief efforts, benefiting NYU Langone Health, New York-Presbyterian, God’s Love We Deliver and A Common Thread, CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund for COVID-19 Relief. That same year, Kors with Capri Holdings set its Global Corporate Social Responsibility Goals, committing to net zero emissions and 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. Kors and Capri Holdings gave a donation to NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, America’s premiere legal organization fighting for racial justice. The company also provided a $35 million product donation to the New York-based nonprofit organization Delivering Good, benefiting individuals impacted by poverty and disasters.

Kors launched Michael Kors Gorgeous, a new fragrance, in 2021. He celebrated his 40th anniversary with a special runway show shot on the streets of the theater district in New York. Rufus Wainwright performed as models from Naomi Campbell and Helena Christensen to Bella Hadid walked the New York City streets as a runway. The designer also reissued pieces from his archives for the first time.

In 2022, in a surprising move, Capri Holdings said Idol would remain chairman and CEO, while Joshua Schulman, who was set to get the top job that September, would be leaving the company. Schulman was tapped to be CEO of Capri’s Michael Kors brand in August 2021, when a clear line of C-suite success was established.

In 2022, Kors introduced Michael Kors Kids, the brand’s first children’s line, in partnership with French luxury group Children Worldwide Fashion. Kors, through the Kors Le Pere Foundation, became a founding supporter of the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center in New York. In April 2023, Cedric Wilmotte was named CEO of Michael Kors.

And perhaps the biggest milestone came in August 2023, when Tapestry Inc. reached a deal to buy Michael Kors owner Capri Holdings in a deal valued at $8.5 billion, creating a fashion powerhouse with more than $12 billion in sales, combining Tapestry labels Coach, Kate Spade, Stuart Weitzman with Capri’s Michael Kors, Versace and Jimmy Choo.

Meantime, Kors continues to head the list of brands creating media impact value during New York Fashion Week, and in February 2024, scored $4.9 million in media engagement, according to ListenFirst, a social media analytics platform. The brand had a standout social moment with a gallery post highlighting their global brand ambassador Dahyun, a member of the South Korean global musical group Twice, who was named Kors’ global brand ambassador in July 2023. Kors’ fall 2024 fashion show, held at the former Barneys New York downtown, attracted such celebrities as Blake Lively, Rachel Brosnahan, Brie Larson, Katie Holmes, Gabrielle Union, Nicky Hilton-Rothschild, Nina Dobrev, Noah Beck and Sistine Stallone.

Michael Kors’ Fashion Moments Through the Years

Michael Kors Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear Preview
Michael Kors Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear Preview
Michael Kors Spring 2017 Ready-to-Wear Collection
Michael Kors Spring 2017 Ready-to-Wear Collection
Michael Kors Fall 1985 Sportswear Collection Advance
Michael Kors Fall 1985 Sportswear Collection Advance

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Launch Gallery: Michael Kors' Fashion Moments Through the Years

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