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

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

 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


“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

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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