Michael Kors, one of the few big names not to have abandoned New York for a European fashion week, can always be relied on for glossy, leisure-class womenswear straight from the pages of Condé Nast Traveller. Or as Kors puts it: “Clothes for women who like to be noticed”.
On Wednesday morning, in a glass warehouse in downtown Manhattan filled with palm fronds, he put his money where his mouth is. His spring show opened with a white Halston-style silk skirt suit that heavily referenced the one worn by Scarface star Michelle Pfeiffer as character Elvira Hancock – complete with plunging neckline and nattily placed tit-tape. As proven by the suit’s legacy in film costume lore, it wasn’t just noticeable but impossible to ignore.
If Kors is selling an impossible (and outdated) fantasy of what women want to wear, the starry front row – which included Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, flanked by tennis champion Serena Williams and Academy Award-winning actor Anne Hathaway all dressed in Kors past and present – suggests it’s a fantasy some women are still pursuing.
Being a spring collection, the idea was to bring “the resort to the city and the city to the resort”, Kors explained. “London is full of people wearing flip-flops to work instead of the beach. What we wear on vacation is what we wear in the city.” In Kors’ world, that means women wearing billowing flower-print kaftans to the office, spindly heels on both their private jet and the school run and their phones and keys in teeny tiny boxy handbags.
In reality, the collection was probably more suited to an idealised body shape – and the beach rather than a conference call. Mini sarongs were tied up to become miniskirts, wide-legged trousers in red, black and pink belted to the hilt and plush silky blouses unbuttoned to the navel. Sequin skirts were paired with tight sequin tops (in gold of course) and bra-tops were worn as, well, tops, flashing a bit of ab here and clavicle there.
Still, there was nuance among the peekaboo tops and the fringing, with Kors relaunching his famous cashmere shmoo, which looks like a jumper but is in fact a scarf or a belt. Designed to be draped over the shoulders, it was used tackle the issue of sexist air-con in offices, which Kors said “are always too cold”. This shmoo came in red.
There was an attempt to tackle meatier topics than what to pack for your holiday. The Michael Kors answer to austerity? “Buy one thing that lasts for 20 years,” he said. “The best way to be sustainable is to not buy things that you only wear once. I’m not trying to be mean to H&M, but that’s the problem.”
And what about the thick socks and sweatpants we’ve all got used to wearing at home? “Fine!” he said. ‘”America invented comfort! But do I mean a tracksuit? No, of course not.”
New York fashion week has been big on high-octane glamour, and understandably so – the much-discussed return to normality is not where it is in the UK, and mandatory mask-wearing was only dropped on subways the week before. After two years of ceding glamour to the pandemic, Kors thinks it’s time we moved on: “People need to enjoy today.”