In the not-so-distant past, designer brands maintained their desirability by snootily protecting their exclusivity – unattainability was the basis of their appeal. Kors, however, has disrupted the old model, democratising fashion by selling what he calls ‘everyday luxury’ – a slice of something decadent for a price within reach of many more than a privileged few. A week on a yacht might not be an option, but a bag by Michael Michael Kors (as his accessories range is known) can be. And as a result they are now top sellers in that middle-class bastion of reliable retail John Lewis – which reported a growth of 70 per cent in sales of the range last year and sells an average of 80 bags a day – as well as designer fashion haunts such as Selfridges, which sells around 225 of the brand’s Selma bags alone every week, and Harvey Nichols, which has seen a 34 per cent increase in demand for Michael Michael Kors bags.
Miranda Kerr clutches hers tightly, as do her fellow lingerie models Heidi Klum and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, while actresses Zoe Saldana, Amy Adams and Jessica Chastain have all been spotted with one hanging off their arm. And no, we’re not talking about an A-list boyfriend, but something us non-celebrities can obtain quite easily too: the handbag de nos jours by Michael Kors. Look around any office, restaurant or train carriage, and chances are you’ll spot several – the unobtrusively elegant shoulder bags and totes in navy or camel. The odd one will be burgundy red or fuchsia, but all will feature the shiny golden coin-shaped MK logo.Kors, 55, has headed a fashion label for 34 years – the supermodel Iman opened his first catwalk show in 1984 – but in the past few years his brand has gone stratospheric, largely due to the success of his handbags which have sent company revenues sky high – up as much as 50 per cent year on year and reaching $3.3 billion (£2.2 billion) in 2014. The label is also the most searched-for online.
It is one of the first days of spring when I arrive at Kors’s offices in New York. It’s sunny but still brisk, and I’m suddenly concerned about what he’ll think of my 100-denier black opaque tights. This, after all, is the man credited with popularising the bare-legs-even-in-winter look – part of the luxury ‘I don’t take the tube’ lifestyle his brand is infused with. The lobby of his Manhattan HQ is deeply resonant of that ethos too, decked out with caramel leather sofas and black and white shots of his fashion favourites: Jackie Onassis, her sister Lee Radziwill, Robert Redford and Goldie Hawn (whose daughter Kate Hudson is one of Kors’s coterie of A-listers, a firm fixture on the front row at his shows). I fear I should have worn something more impractical, in camel or cream.