One On One with Michael Kors

MC Fashion Director Nina Garcia talks shop with legendary designer, fellow Project Runway judge, and good friend Michael Kors.

michael kors and nina garcia
(Image credit: Perry Hagopian)

NG: First of all, I hear you're the top seller at Saks. Congratulations! How do you do it?

MK: Thanks. It's interesting. Because of what's going on with the economy, I think women are realizing that maybe they don't need a closetful of clothes. They just need the right clothes. There's a whole generation of women who never really heard the word investment before, when it came to fashion. They've been buying things because they were cheap. But say you buy a $69 blouse and wear it on a date, then the next night you think the blouse is cheesy. Well, that was an expensive purchase, rather than buying something made beautifully that you'll wear 30, 40, 50 times. So don't downgrade the quality of what you buy — if anything, it has to be better. Fabric, how things are finished — it all counts.

NG: That's what I always tell people, but it feels like it's hard these days to justify a big purchase.

MK: When you try on something, you have to ask yourself, "How many ways could I wear this? Could I wear it to work? To dinner or drinks? Will it span the seasons?" If you have to think too hard about those questions, then skip it. Also — and this has always been my mantra, but now more than ever — something about everything you buy should be new and exciting, and something about it should be familiar. If it's totally familiar, then it's like, Bore! And if it's totally out there, then you'll never wear it.

NG: How do you feel about people brown-bagging their new purchases so they won't look like they're overspending in this economy?

MK: It's the silliest thing I've ever heard! Half the fun of shopping is the tissue paper, the box, and the shopping or garment bag. It's like telling people, "I don't eat, so I don't get why I gain weight" after eating a pint of Häagen-Dazs at night. It's ridiculous and such an American puritanical thing, like, "Oh, I'm not supposed to like myself or enjoy myself," when in fact, looking good is a pleasure that shouldn't go away.

NG: I agree. So now that we're coming up on the sixth season of Project Runway, are you still as excited as you were for the first one?

MK: I am. It's fashion! And Project Runway really exemplifies the best of fashion. I'm constantly blown away by how talented people are and what they can do on a dime in no time at all. Plus, we're really like a family now. Growing up, I was the boy who was always surrounded by a gaggle of pretty girls. I feel like I'm continuing that in my adult life every time I sit down next to you and Heidi.

NG: Would you have auditioned for the show had it existed when you started out?

MK: Oh God, no! I'm a terrible sewer. I can sketch up a storm, and I'm very involved in how clothes are constructed, but I have a short attention span. In school, we called it hack and sew: I would rip into fabric and safety-pin things together.

NG: And look at you now. Do more people recognize you because of the show?

MK: Yes, although twice now I've had people say, "Marc, excuse me, Marc!" I think since Marc Jacobs and I are both New York fashion designers and our names start with M, people get confused. Most of the time they are pretty respectful, but sometimes they run up to me and ask, "What's your name?"

NG: That is too funny. What do you say?

MK: I say, "My name is Marc."