Thursday, September 05, 2013

Couture Council Luncheon Honors Michael Kors

Of "Kors"...

Michael Kors & Hilary Swank
(Photos courtesy of Museum at FIT)
Yesterday afternoon, Michael Kors became the 8th recipient of the Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion. The wildly popular, sold out benefit luncheon which officially kicks off Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, was held, as in the past few years, at the David H. Koch Theatre. Luncheon chairs were Kamie Lightburn and Jieun Wax. The Honorary Luncheon Chairs were: Lauren dePont, Linda Fargo, Vanessa Getty, Patti Hansen, Iman, Karolína Kurková, Aerin Lauder, Sandra Lee, Crystal Lourd, Alexandra Richards, Theodora Richards, Renee Rockefeller, Jamie Tisch, Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis, Elettra Wiedemann and Anna Wintour.
Guests arriving at the event

Past recipients have been: Oscar de la Renta (2012), Valentino (2011), Karl Lagerfeld (2010), Dries Van Noten (2009), Isabel Toledo (2008), Alber Elbaz (2007), and Ralph Rucci (2006).  In 2008, Giorgio Armani received a special award for Global Fashion Leadership. Of the 8, dare I say, Michael is perhaps the least 'intellectual', esoteric; and the most accessible (he's the only one whose wares are available on LOL), and commercial, (and let's not forget that commercial is not a dirty word).  Let's face it, even if you can't afford a Michael Kors collection ensemble, you might be able to swing for a pair of his cool signature aviator sunglasses, one of his handsome and distinctive chronograph watches, or any number of the label's small leather goods and handbags, which can range in price from $300 for a plain leather tote to $1,600 for a more substantial design. As he put it, "They have no size, no age. You could feel you are having a fat day, and you can still wear accessories". Certainly, it's almost impossible to walk down the streets of New York, or take the subways, without spotting a gal (of any age) carrying a tote, satchel, top handle, or shoulder bag that is adorned with the familiar and almost ubiquitous MK logo in gold or silver metal. (It's something that I especially make note of, as Michael and I share the same initials!)
Undeniably, Michael's designs are not as rarified as Ralph Rucci's; as inherently beautiful, creative, and ingenious as Alber Elbaz's; as intrinsically artistic as Isabel Toledo's; as naturally Avant Garde as Dries Van Noten's; as elitely couture as Valentino's and Oscar de la Renta's; or as...well there is only ONE Karl Lagerfeld and what can you say about him? (Michael knows this better than anyone and he even alluded to it in his speech, but more on that later). That said, nobody does luxurious American sportswear like Michael; it is his strength, his signature, and he's raised it to an art form.

Iman, Michael Kors & Patti Hansen

 In fact, as the 4th American to be so honored by the Couture Council, he is the only one whose finely honed vision and aesthetic are consistently and unapologetically all American. Time and again, he has drawn inspiration from iconic American travel destinations such as Aspen, Palm Springs, Palm Beach, Malibu, and New York City; and has channeled famed American fashion icons (Jackie Kennedy, Lee Radziwill, Ali MacGraw, etc.) in his designs. He is not only well- respected, but undeniably popular and beloved, and if there was an Award for " Best on the Trunk Show Circuit", he would definitely qualify because his ability to connect with his customers has been part of his huge success. But that is not what got him this prize. According to the Museum at FIT's director, Valerie Steele, "Michael Kors has been nominated repeatedly by members of the Couture Council Advisory Committee,” (referring to committee members comprised of  journalists, retailers, and curators). “The committee’s mandate is to not only look at the previous year’s accomplishments, but at a lifetime of contributions to fashion.” And what a "lifetime" it has been.

Linda Fargo & Stephano Tonchi
I have known Michael for 4 decades having first met him when I was at Harper's Bazaar and he first opened his business (in 1981). It was impossible to not be instantly wooed by his minimalistic, clean lines and all American sportswear chic. His models have always looked enviably gorgeous, healthy, glowing, chic, and happy, sauntering down the runway, and when Michael himself takes his bow, he is always smiling as well. And why shouldn't he be? Michael is assuredly doing something right; hey, he didn't become the "Billion Dollar Man" for nothing (it was reported that the revenue for the most recent quarter of his publicly traded company rose to $640.9 million, an increase of over 54% from last year).

As would be expected, Wednesday's award luncheon was quite the fashion spectacle with women obviously using this as a perfect opportunity to be transformed from their informal beach - appropriate summer outfits, and get DRESSSED. And unsurprisingly, many of the women who attended, paid homage to MK by wearing something by MK, not the least of whom was Iman, who wore Michael's crisp, snazzy leopard printed coat from resort 2014 (it's not even in the stores yet). Leopard prints are perennial favorites of course, but another early hit seem to be the pairing of black and gold, especially when the gold metal is sculptural and bold.
Hilary Swank & Anna Wintour

Guests included Noreen Buckfire, Sharon Bush, Maud Cabot, Suzi Cordish, Christina Davis, Dennis Basso, Nina Rennert Davidson, Susan Magrino Dunning, Fe Fendi, Laura Lofaro Freeman, Joele Frank, Ann Goldrach, Carole Guest, Carole Divet Harting, Celia Hegyi, Yaz Hernandez, Chiu-Ti Jansen, Mariana Kaufman, Eleanora Kennedy, Michéle Gerber Klein, Alexandra Lebenthal, Claudia Lebenthal, Petra Levin, Kamie Lightburn, Jaqui Lividini, Sharon Handler Loeb, Stephanie Loeffler, Cassandra Seidenfeld Lyster, Carol Mack, Julie Macklowe, Barbara Malone, Gillian Miniter, Elizabeth Musmanno, Liz Peek, Emma Pennington, Nancy Shaw Raquet, Barbara Regna, Darcy Rigas, Judith Ripka, Hilary Geary Ross, Valerie Salembier, Peter G. Scotese, Jean Shafiroff, Patricia Shiah, Cameron Silver, Michelle Smith, Diana Taylor, Zang Toi, Jamie Alexander Tisch, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, Barbara Tober, Barbara Vogelstein, Jieun Wax, Jacqueline Weld, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Sarah G.Wolfe and Valerie Zilkha.

Simon Doonan & Dr. Valerie Steele

 After cocktails on the terrace overlooking Lincoln Center (what a glorious day), guests were seated for a lovely, light, three course lunch. Valerie Steele was one of the key women to take the podium and make their remarks. She observed. "Michael's success had a lot to do with the love and empathy for the women he dresses". "Thank you Michael for making such a beautiful world for all the women who love your clothes." Dr. Joyce Brown followed and noted "Michael has always been true to his vision of luxurious minimalism. It was at FIT that he got his start. He has established a rare scholarship, through a million dollar endowment, affording an incomparable opportunity." Then Liz Peek got up and asked "How lucky are we? We're back in New York at a beautiful event. Even if we're in uncomfortable shoes, it's all great!" She then introduced the two time Academy Award winning Hilary Swank, who would present the award to Michael. She described her as "so believable, real, simple, classical. She is in perfect harmony with the Michael Kors fashion image."

Among the comments Hilary made, clad in a Michael Kors leopard printed sleeveless dress...:
"It's his genuineness, his curiosity for life, that are his most appealing traits".
"He has been a great mentor to young talents like Derek Lam and Peter Som".

"To know Michael is to love him. He is the King of American Sportswear."

"I am a huge fan, along with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie. He understands and appreciates women. He is a unique person and a unique artist."

 When Michael walked to the podium, he was dressed in his all black uniform accessorized with his signature aviator shades. He was instantly self depreciating, humble and honest. "I don't call myself a couturier. What I do has to do with the concept of American Luxury Sportswear. It's a global style that everyone now embraces, and was once called "American Sportswear". My getting this award proves just how far the concept of sportswear has come."
Additional Comments:

"When I was a student at FIT, I didn't understand the concept of zippers, linings, or shoulder pads. I thought clothes should come in only two sizes: small and petite".

"So much of what I learned about fashion history, I learned at FIT".

"In the final analysis, what I learned is that the best clothes can make people better versions of themselves".

"I was not the typical fashion student. I'm a nightmare at the sewing machine."

"I'm rooted in reality and not in pure fantasy. My fashion philosophy has always been: curiosity and change, which are two of the most constant elements in fashion."

"When you start thinking you've made it, you're done! And guess what? I'm not done!"

- Marilyn Kirschner

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