Zut Alors ! Michael Kors on Juggling His Own Label and Celine

What inner life?” exclaimed designer Michael Kors. “As if I wasn’t consumed enough by fashion, look what happened next.” Taking a break from the hectic pace one afternoon recently, Mr. Kors downed a glass of fizzy water at the Royalton hotel bar, and reviewed the year he’s had. In addition to introducing his own ready-to-wear collection and bridge line, late last summer Mr. Kors became head designer for Celine. In March, his first collection for the French luxury purveyor debuted in Paris and was met with unanimous critical acclaim.

“It’s off to Paris for Celine, Milan for manufacturing Michael Kors, back to our office in New York. Now add Japan to the triangle where we have 22 in-store boutiques opening,” he said. “A year ago, when Celine happened, it wasn’t because we’d planned it. Or looked for it. But it just happened, like falling in love.”

On July 14, the night before the department store’s new Celine boutique was scheduled to open, Mr. Kors’ debut collection for Celine was celebrated by Bergdorf Goodman with a Bastille Day theme dinner.

It was fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez who coined the expression “millennial gypsy” to describe the lives of fashion designers today. To support their own labels they have had to take jobs designing for the rich European houses: Mr. Rodriguez for Loewe, Mr. Kors for Celine, and Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton. Between trips to factories, meeting with bosses, checking out the stores and personal appearances, their feet rarely touch home turf.

“I pop melatonin like Tic-Tacs,” said Mr. Kors with a sigh. In the past few weeks, his travels had taken him to Japan, Paris, Milan, Dallas, Paris again … “The funniest thing is, my cholesterol has gone down since I’ve been commuting to Paris. I don’t know what it is about French cuisine, but you know how every American girl always says she eats salad for lunch and she’s still fat, but French girls eat cheese and foie gras and they have a gap between their thighs?”

Mr. Kors lit a cigarette.

“I switch between a baseball cap and a beret with great ease,” Mr. Kors enthused when asked what the difference is between his label and Celine. “Michael Kors is all about the neurotic New Yorker sensibility. The fever pitch. Getting dressed. Even for customers who don’t live in the city, it’s the same feeling, same fantasy of this nervy, edgy, spinning-out-of-control thing. ‘What bag do I carry?”‘ he asked, voicing the concern of his Kors customer. “‘Is this going to work? I’m at the office. Hurry. I’ve got to get to dinner and the theater.’ I love New York, but let’s be honest. You’ve got to search the beauty out.

“The Celine collection,” Mr. Kors continued, “is the opposite. It’s Paris, land of the three-hour lunch and women who eat foie gras and wear a size 4 dress. The indulgence and opulence of Paris is reflected in the clothes. Paris is softer; New York is sharper. Doing the two collections is good for me,” he said. “It allows me the two sides of my personality.”

Another cigarette, and Mr. Kors exhaled upon some of the latest topics in fashionland. Among them, the battle between Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren over a perfume bottle. On June 26, WWD reported that Calvin Klein Cosmetics Company is suing Cosmair Inc., Ralph Lauren Corporation and PRL USA Holdings because Calvin’s people feel Ralph’s people have copied the trademarked Eternity bottle for Mr. Lauren’s new scent, Romance, expected for sale in September.

The two designers have been in spiritual litigation for years, “and now it’s official,” Mr. Kors said. “Go to battle! But it gets very complicated,” Mr. Kors said, “where ideas come from. It’s a similar place. Like a tank top. Can you duke it out over the width of the strap?”

Then there’s the matter of the little revolution that designer Helmut Lang launched on or about July 9. He announced he would show his collection in New York in mid-September some six weeks ahead of schedule. Calvin Klein then announced he would show on Sept. 18, the day after Mr. Lang. Mr. Klein has for a long time been frustrated that the New York shows took place after the Milan, Paris and London presentations. Other designers, including John Bartlett, are expected to follow the lead of Mr. Lang and Mr. Klein, causing a schedule uproar in the fashion community of designers, retailers and press. Fern Mallis, the executive director of Seventh on Sixth, the organizers of New York’s centralized shows, reported recently that she may convene a general meeting of her concerned comrades to consider the matter.

“We’re not planning to change our schedule,” Mr. Kors said. “However, who knows what the future will bring? If anything, fashion is about change. Who would have thought that Giorgio Armani would ever be showing in New York,” as he did last season. “Or that Americans would be designing for Parisian fashion houses. Things are always evolving.” But Mr. Kors did add that he has a freak vision of fashion shows never ending. “I guess this means that we’re in a perpetual fashion show cycle all year except for August and Christmas vacation.”

Meanwhile, back at the Royalton, Mr. Kors mentioned that he will launch a men’s collection this year. “I’m not going to ask men to wear a three-sleeve sweater,” Mr. Kors laughed. “Nothing complicated. My women’s clothes have a certain men’s sensibility. We never do collections based on cha-cha dresses.” he said, describing his designs. “It’s not so complicated. We’re in the business of making people look better. Every woman wants to have a smaller ass and thighs. Every man wants bigger shoulders and a smaller waist. Who doesn’t? The trick, for me, is to do it without too much structure, which keeps it modern.

“Everyone wants to look taller, thinner. The only people who don’t feel that way only look best naked. And that is what they should wear,” Mr. Kors said. “They should wear nothing. And call it a day.”

Billy’s List: Quiz time!

1. Who turned up in a cashmere bikini bottom by Valentino at the recent men’s shows in Milan?

a. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

b. Fairchild Publications’ editorial director Patrick McCarthy.

c. Milan’s mayor.

2. What color is Puff Daddy’s new custom convertible Bentley Azure?

a. Lemon yellow.

b. Powder blue.

c. Baby pink.

3. Who, what is Sephora?

a. A grand, new beauty shop in SoHo.

b. Model Shalom Harlow’s kid sister, just signed for the Tommy Hilfiger campaign.

c. The name of the groovy boutique Joni Mitchell just opened in Santa Monica.

Answers: (1) c; (2) b; (3) a.

Zut Alors ! Michael Kors on Juggling His Own Label and Celine