Michael Kors, a designer often cited as the beating heart of New York’s fashion scene, enticed guests out to Brooklyn on Wednesday morning for his spring/summer 2020 collection.
A choir of young New Yorkers chimed in with the opening bars of Don McLean’s American Pie as models including Adesuwa Aighewi, Mica Argañaraz, Kaia Gerber and the Hadids walked wearing an anthemic collection of navy knitwear and red sweetheart-necklined dresses embellished with golden stars, white double-breasted blazers with shiny gold buttons and boxy blue and white striped bags and shirts.
Guests, including the Roma star Yalitza Aparicio, the first indigenous person to appear on the cover of Vogue Mexico, filled the cavernous space, empty apart from benches and potted trees.
This latest collection started with Kors’s first trip to Ellis Island, he explained at a press preview the day before. His great-grandmother had though. She arrived there aged 14, with $10 and a spot in steerage, and started a new life, first on the Lower East Side, and then in Brooklyn – hence the show’s location. The clothes nodded to her journey via uncomplicated references to the nautical: sailors hats, anchors and deck shoes. In one particularly seaworthy ensemble, a jumper was emblazoned with the word Hate crossed out.
It was this discovery of his family heritage that catalysed thoughts of New York, its “newness, revival and optimism”, which manifested in the collection. Kors described it as probably the most patriotic he’s ever done. The show notes began with two words: American pie, an idea baked into the clothes via frocks decorated with crystals made to look like glistening cherries and lemons, served up alongside gingham bralets, blazers and wicker handbags that spoke of afternoon picnics in the Hamptons.
Patriotic is an interesting word in these charged times. Kors is known to be a Hillary Clinton supporter, and described dressing Michele Obama as one of the proudest moments of his life, but he is tight-lipped on the subject of Melania Trump wearing his clothes.
The show went hard on an undemanding, wholesome vision of America, with Kors unafraid to double down on a theme. The choir moved from McLean to Simon and Garfunkel’s America and Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land.
Preppyness, via blazers, regatta jackets and Argyle-knit jumpers, was married with punk, via leather, tartans and silver studs on handbags and creeper-style shoes. Kors described the clash as New England versus the Lower East side. Uptown/downtown America, he says, “is the two sides of the same coin, mixed”. There was a focus on sportswear, an area of fashion, Kors says, the US can claim as its own.
The designer sees the collection’s tailored jackets and trousers as being in line with the shift away from binaries in gender with its role in fashion becoming, in his eyes, obsolete. “Is it men’s, is it women’s? Truly,” he says, “it doesn’t matter”. He looks to “rule-breakers”, from Katherine Hepburn to David Bowie. “Is gender so specific? No – Katherine Hepburn knew that.”
Kors’ designs are known for being popular with shiny-haired Upper East Siders, but his is also an accessible aesthetic that, when translated into relatively affordable, but still luxury, handbags, has garnered him mass market appeal. The company currently has over 400 stores in 89 countries.