Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

Portfolio in Motion chair and Marymount University fashion design graduate,Ginger Laytham and Michael Kors on getting started in fashion ... and Steve McQueen

GINGER LAYTHAM: What initially sparked your passion for fashion?
MICHAEL KORS: I’ve got a family of fashionobsessed people. My grandfather was in the textile business, and my grandmother was defi nitely the best-dressed high school principal ever, my mother modeled, my uncle was in the fashion industry – it was the conversation I hear d at the dinner table. Plus, shopping around with my mom as an only child was an advantage.

GL: What did you want to do when you were little?
MK: I always drew, I always sketched. I went through a period when I thought I wanted to be an architect, then realized you had to be profi cient in math, and that was not going to be good for me. I went through a period where I even thought I would design cars, but I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Then, I took acting classes when I was a teenager. I love the theater, but fashion won out.
GL: How did you get your start?
MK: I worked in a retail store called Lothar’s, selling clothes and working full time. I left school because Lothar’s offered me a job at 19 designing clothing. I did that until I was 21 and then I thought “Hey, I’ll give it a stab, and do my own thing, and at 21 I put together a little collection and took it to Berdorff ’s, and as they say, ‘the rest is history.’”

GL: What have been the most profound infl uences on your style?
MK: A combination of things. I’m very much infl uenced by pop culture in general; paparazzi pictures, movies, theater, music ... My style is kind of half way between my mother and my grandmother. And then designers I looked up to when I was growing up, people like Halston, who I think really had American fashion and American Style.
GL: Do you have a muse for your work?
MK: I have a few muses. There are always people who will turn me on from a style perspective. Jackie Kennedy will always be to me the pinnacle of American style. Allie McGraw, Lauren Hutton. Steve McQueen would be my guy of all times. And there’s always the new answer to them. Is today’s George Clooney the next Steve McQueen?

GL:What about the different approaches to fashion in Europe and United States?
MK: There is a different approach between the United States and Europe, but it’s slowly disappearing. The difference by nature is that American fashion is about the person. America invented the idea of comfort, the idea of mobility, easiness. You know, we invented jeans! We invented t-shirts! Europe is about fashion as art, as creation, which can sometimes be overwhelming in real life. Today the best fashion that comes out of Europe and the States is a combination of the two. There’s creativity and there’s practicality.

GL: What about the controversy over excessively thin models? MK: It’s ridiculous. A good amount of the models are very young. It’s about health, not thinness. I mean I was pretty skinny when I was 15 myself. If we see a model who’s unhealthy looking, I don’t care if she’s 16 or 26, I don’t want to see her on the runway. But clothes in general, as we all know when we’re trying out a new diet, seem to look better when we’re feeling a little thinner. It’s just a reality of life. It’s important to make sure that the models take care of themselves, that they’re healthy. And if they’re young, that someone there can help them through the whole quagmire of fashion.



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