Michael Kors on how LA shaped its aesthetic and American fashion

“Oh my god, they transformed this place,” said Mindy Kaling, as he walked into Los Angeles icon Canter’s Deli, which Michael Kors took over Tuesday night for the ultimate high-low dinner, catered by Spago, of course.

“I don’t think I’ve been here in daylight,” she said of the spot, beloved for nearly a hundred years for its pastrami and since the 1960s for the after-hours Kibitz Room, where Joni Mitchell, Slash, the Wallflowers, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and many more performed — and where DJ Kitty Ca$h kicked off the afterparty on Tuesday.

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“This is my vibe,” said Olivia Wilde, who looked very Michael Kors in a white tank top, flowing skirt and double leather belt.

New and old friends from the designer’s 40-year love affair with LA, including Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union-Wade, Dwyane Wade, Marisa Tomei, Quinta Brunson and Shailene Woodley, came to dine on Wolfgang Puck smoked salmon pizza, Wagyu steak and MKC black and white cookies — and to celebrate Kors’ return to Rodeo Drive with a new store that opened last month.

“You bring what I do to life,” Kors said, as he toasted his guests and explained the one-night-only Canter’s/Spago mash-up. “This is LA, these are hot dogs in evening dresses.”

As always, the designer charmed everyone, including new generation Alexandra Shipp, Kaitlyn Dever, Zoey Deutch and writer/actress Rose Gilroy, whose mother played Rene Russo in the 1999 version of “The Thomas Crown Affair,” wearing clothes by Michael Kors for Celine.

Alexandra Shipp and Rose GilroyAlexandra Shipp and Rose Gilroy

Alexandra Shipp and Rose Gilroy

‘Your mother said to me: ‘I’m finally making a film where I can be really beautiful. I have always avoided making films where I would be seen as a model,” Kors told Gilroy, recounting that one of his VIP clients was so taken with Russo in the role that she ordered everything she wore on screen and dyed her hair to look like this. like them.

Although Kors is synonymous with New York City, both his parents and grandparents lived in LA for many years. He also credits L.A. with helping develop his aesthetic as a designer, he said Tuesday morning over iced tea at the Polo Lounge, where he wore jeans and a “Summerland” T-shirt from the suburb of Montecito, California, where he often spends time in August.

The high-low LA look

“I think back to the ’80s, before I had my own stores, and I was doing a trunk show here, probably at Neiman Marcus, and every woman who came in was looking at a great jacket or a great coat or a great shirt and said, ‘I love it, but if it doesn’t work with jeans, I won’t do it,'” he said.

“Everyone is so fixated on New York in an American way, but the reality is that California is where the rules have been broken. Here people wear sneakers with dresses. This is the global epicenter of high low.…So when we went to do this dinner, I said, ‘What are the typical experiences in Los Angeles?’

Kors is an enthusiastic advocate of signature experiences in every city, whether it’s Broadway, Sardi’s, Tavern on the Green and EAT in New York, where he found inspiration and organized shows and events, or Lucy’s El Adobe, Pink’s and Canter’s in LA , where he often took his late mother, Joan Kors, with him.

“I was trying to explain to my team how the Kibitz Room was this weird punk rock post-club place, and the next day you’d see people on walkers going to get a cookie,” Kors said of the spot on Fairfax Avenue in a neighborhood that Known locally as LA’s bagel belt. “And then Spago, when you think of the Vanity Fair Oscars parties, Wolfgang Puck and Swifty Lazar… if we can put those two together, I thought this is the ultimate high-low LA”

Over the years, the Hollywood jet set, Cher, Lauren Bacall and Tony Duquette’s “Dawnridge” have been among the LA inspirations for Kors collections. And still with a fever, he steps straight off the plane Monday night to dinner at the revived Art Deco gem The Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica. (The John Waters exhibition at the Academy Museum is also on his to-do list, along with furniture shopping.)

“I could work on mood boards from the Beverly Hills Hotel alone, the same goes for Venice and the Sunset Strip,” he said. “My first account in Los Angeles was a store on Rodeo Drive called Lina Lee and it was Judith Krantz ‘Scruples’ with ceiling fans and peacock chairs. And then we sold Maxfield early on too.…I love Hollywood glamour. I love beach culture. I like the high, low… I also like the whole idea of ​​how the rules about age are being broken. You know, it used to be like, no, you can’t wear that when you’re that age… Never in LA. You have a twenty-year-old dressed like a doyenne and a sixty-year-old dressed like a teenager.”

The scene at Canter's Deli.The scene at Canter's Deli.

The scene at Canter’s Deli.

Hollywood Chases

Nestled in a booth under a heat lamp on the Pink Palace’s leafy patio, Kors recalled one of his first celebrity sightings at the Beverly Hills Hotel while having lunch poolside with his grandparents. “I see this incredibly elegant woman, dressed to the nines, full of jewelry, hair done up, and she’s with this man who is so old Hollywood with the pocket square and ascot. Everyone else is wearing a swimsuit,” he said. “It was Cyd Charisse and her husband Tony Martin. They were playing cards.”

He also likes Barney’s Beanery, recently discovered by Gen Z and the last place Janis Joplin visited before she died. “It’s like a time capsule.”

Venice? “I remember when it first became an artist spot… Everyone associates with it [Jean-Michel] Basquiat with New York, but you gotta remember that Larry [Gagosian] this is where everything started,” he said of the artist who produced much of his early work in LA, and the fast-growing art dealer who opened his first gallery – a poster shop – in Westwood. “There are so many layers here that I don’t know if everyone sees them. You get the dirt and the glitter, and the cool thing is that LA has always had both.

Kors opened its first store on Rodeo Drive in 2004; it closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and the new spot is smaller and closer to Wilshire. “The street feels alive again,” he said of Rodeo, noting that the store caters to tourists, locals and celebrity clothing.

The celebrity factor

“They bring it to life in a way that people who aren’t in the public eye can look at a specific celebrity and say, ‘Oh, I relate to her a little bit.’ I have to deal with him. If they could carry it, maybe I could too,” Kors said. ‘Olivia Wilde, for example. I am of course a big fan of her incredible talent. But she will try different things. We made short shorts, we opened the runway show with them, and a lot of people over 30 would say I can’t wear that. But when you see Olivia in it, an adult wearing it, it comes to life.”

Olivia WildeOlivia Wilde

Olivia Wilde

Kors is, of course, a celebrity himself, after ten seasons of “Project Runway,” which was shot primarily in New York, with one season in L.A.

Everyone immediately assumed that he would write his own script, do a story about his life. But no – at least not yet. First, the company is in a sensitive position as the Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit over its acquisition by Tapestry Inc. of Capri Holdings, the parent company of Kors, worth $8.5 billion. fashion delay.

It’s a far cry from his days packing and shipping boxes, or drawing MK logos in his school notebook. “Of course, hopefully business is moving forward and evolving and changing. And this is all part of the process…Did I ever honestly think that I would be walking down the street in Paris, walking down the street in Tokyo, and we would be there? No. But you’re in fashion, so you better be prepared for what’s going to change.”

What is selling well now? “The dichotomy is what happens in the spring. An explosion of femininity with all that lace or sharply tailored. Nobody is interested in the middle.”

Welcome to the world.

“What’s happening now is that as a designer you have to be more thoughtful than ever. The consumer looks at it and says, ‘I don’t want to wear it just once.’ I want it to have versatility. The weather will make it better to transcend any season.” What works and resonates are things that check all these boxes. And of course, if it’s too pragmatic, everyone says, I want joy. And if it’s too cheerful, it’s a one-off. “I know that after 43 years, when things are shaky in the world as a whole, you have to stay the course,” he said. “It’s up to me and designers in general to do what makes you feel great when you wear something, but doesn’t make you feel stupid when you spend the money.”

Launch Gallery: Olivia Wilde, Kerry Washington and Gabrielle Union Dine with Michael Kors in Los Angeles

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