- The Washington Times - Monday, June 22, 2009

Despite a crippling economy, fashion designer Michael Kors trumpeted “powerful, confident urban dressing for modern times” with his “tough luxe” fall collection fashion show at Nordstrom in Northern Virginia on Thursday night, his first major event in the Washington area in years.

“These are definitely not the most romantic of times between the economy and everything else that is going on in the world,” Mr. Kors, well known as the co-host of the hit show “Project Runway” on Bravo, told The Washington Times in an exclusive interview. “My clothes are very investment oriented. People are looking for a sure bet in uncertain times. Washington is very energized, and women here want to get dressed for work and look powerful.”

Mr. Kors scurried around the Nordstrom showroom before the fashion show at a shopping reception for his clients, often accompanying them into the fitting room, clearly reveling in his ability to work hands on. “After doing trunk shows and personal appearances, I am good at judging what will work for a woman,” he said.

He uses this acute judgment, he explained, when doing sketches for First Lady Michelle Obama, who has worn his designs at some of her most public outings, like the White House Correspondents Dinner and her recent tour through Europe this spring.

“We send things off, and most of the time we are spot on,” he said.

Mr. Kors said he has never met the president’s wife, who has gained international renown as a fashion plate, but intimated, “that may change.”

“She is great for American fashion,” he said. “She has proven that you can be busy, you can be smart, you can be successful, but you can be interested in fashion. It’s interesting to dress a woman who knows herself so well, and she really knows herself.”

Mr. Kors, a self-described “travel junkie,” is usually inspired by the exotic places he frequents, but this year, the harsh reality of city life, right around the corner, spoke to him.

“There is a return to tailoring,” he said. “Women want to look a little less romantic and a little more powerful, but people don’t want to give up something that feels good, something that is luxurious. So hey, it’s tough luxe.”

His fall line features the all-American sleek looks for which he is known, but pose hard architectural and sculptural details against chirpy colors like acid green and neon pink, hues one might see on an inner city wall of graffiti.

Models sashayed down the Nordstrom runway in soft beige and black cashmere ensembles with huge pewter accessories like chokers and belts, pronouncing the urban minimalist aesthetic of the show.

Noting that Mr. Kors is the top selling designer in the Washington market, Jennifer Wheeler, vice president of designer apparel for Nordstrom commented, “He does his own take on the female warrior look but with luxurious fabrics and optimistic splashes of color.”

Such longtime customers as Susan McCoy responded well. “I always have to figure out what I have to leave on the rack because there’s so much to choose from,” she said. “His things are so well-designed and classic.”

Amanda Polk, who selected a forest green python print sheath and matching cardigan, said that “the tough luxe” looks are “very timeless and pieces I will have forever, so for me, it’s a bargain.”

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