Courtesy of Michael Kors, Photograph by Victor Demarchelier
Wellness

Michael Kors Explains His Philosophy on Fashion Uniforms

Feb. 3, 2016

Michael Kors, who was named to the TIME 100 in 2013, is an American fashion designer

I don’t care what you do for a living; I don’t care how old you are. What everyone is lacking in the world is time. So if you can find a uniform that makes you feel confident and comfortable in your own skin and you’re able to get dressed in less time, that’s a game changer.

Life is busy, and for me, as a designer, I spend all my time thinking about what everyone else is wearing. So the last thing I want to do is spend too much time thinking about what I put on. And though it might look like I’m wearing the same thing every day—aviators, a black T-shirt, jeans and sneakers—I’m actually not. I have 68 pairs of shoes. The 68 pairs are divided into three categories: Sneakers, driving loafers and slide sandals. They may seem the same, but one’s black suede, one’s crocodile, one’s black leather. Same thing with sunglasses. I have over a hundred pairs, and they’re all aviators, but they are in every shade and metal finish known to man. And they’re big, small, medium. Also, I love a pea coat. So I have short pea coats, I have mid-thigh pea coats and I have knee-length pea coats. And they are all either navy or black. See? Totally different.

When some people hear the word “uniform,” they get scared and think, “Oh, does that mean I won’t have any fun?” The answer is no, you can have all the fun you want. You just have to figure out consistency on the one hand and variety on the other to make your style both easy and relevant.

People go through different cycles of personal style. When you’re young and you’re finding your way in the world, professionally and personally, you should try everything. When I was 18 or 19 years old, whatever came my way, I went there. I wore leg warmers, army hats, triple-wrap belts, shoulder pads, no shoulder pads, zoot suit pants, skin-tight pants. At that time in your life, you’re figuring out what you want to tell the world about who you are. And you have to try different things to discover not only the persona that you want to present, but the kind of life you want to live.

The simple truth is that, for most people, unless you are really an iconoclastic dresser, unless you’re Iris Apfel or David Hockney, the best thing you can do is have people notice you. If people are the picture, then the best clothes are the frame. And I’m the framer.

Jackie Kennedy understood the concept of having a uniform better than anyone else. She was always evolving her look—it really wasn’t the same, but it was. Whether she was a young reporter in the 1950s, First Lady and a mom in the ’60s, a jetsetter in the early ’70s, a working woman in the later ’70s and then the family matriarch in the ’80s, she was consistent. She knew clean lines worked for her, and she never wore fussy patterns. But if you look closely, the length changed and the shoulder line changed. Those are the things that kept it relevant.

While I love uniforms, I don’t believe in sticking with strict fashion rules. My only two age rules are: Experiment like mad when you’re young, and do the same thing when you’re older. Because really, at a certain age, the gloves are off. So have fun with it—wear red tights, wear a crazy hat. You’ve lived long enough—do whatever you want. Those are my two age rules: Have fun early, and have fun late.

Michael Kors, who was named to the TIME 100 in 2013, is an American fashion designer.