When he finally was allowed to greet Midler, she had a ukulele in hand and launched into a rousing chorus of “Happy Anniversary.” “I grew up enraptured by her music, so that was a big moment for me,” Kors says. “You hear designers complain all the time about how hard our jobs are, and I always think, Why would anyone complain? You get to do what you love to do, and you get to experience things some people only dream about. And I think about that when I think about the day of this show, and how my day started with thinking, Why is Bette Midler carrying a ukulele?”

Fall Forecast
Michael Kors’ Fall 2011 collection is unquestionably a celebration of what he loves, and what women such as Russo and Midler love about him: “I didn’t want it to be a reminiscence of 30 years. I wanted it to say what I’m about as a designer,” he explains. That jumping-off point was thus translated into exquisitely tailored menswear-influenced suitings in smoke-toned flannels and ankle-length cashmere coats in Kors’ beloved camel (tinged ever so slightly with pink; he referred to the color as blush in his show notes), all juxtaposed with divinely draped dresses in silk charmeuse or jersey, as well as a splash of effortless one-shoulder gowns and some cunning jumpsuits, many envisioned through the filter of a glam ’70s Studio 54 moment. The overall effect was precisely that balance of yin and yang—hard versus soft, structured versus supple—at which Kors quite simply excels.

Those cashmere jumpsuits are also a nod to the notion that Kors came of age, as he puts it, “at the beginning of the paparazzi era, with all those great Ron Galella photos of people in real life, of seeing Jackie Kennedy in her T-shirt and pants, of Lauren Hutton and Ali MacGraw.” He’s likewise passionate about their purpose: “I love a long, lean line, and the challenge of how to give someone an extra six inches of leg,” Kors says. “That’s such a big part of who I am as a designer. And no matter what time I’m in, I’ve always known what I stood for: Every woman wants to look taller and leaner, everyone wants to look sexy but be comfortable. My customer insists on clothes that are versatile, indulgent and glamorous, with the kind of opposing idea that they’re also relaxed and easy. That’s ultimately Michael Kors.”

While the collection boasts a strong emphasis on great outerwear pieces— “I’m outerwear-obsessed,” Kors says—there’s also an undeniable accent on seasonless clothes, the idea that this luxury-based take on fall should work equally well on Collins Avenue as it might on Madison Avenue. “Part of the globalization of fashion is that something that’s fabulous and desirable has to work as much in New York or Miami as it does in Kuala Lumpur or Athens,” Kors points out. “In 30 years I’ve seen the customer become so much more knowledgeable; she travels more and she’s so much more plugged in to everything, and her clothes have to work for that lifestyle.”

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