Michael Kors Talks Changing His Name, Getting Married, and Going Public at 92Y

Michael Kors Fern Mallis

Photo courtesy of Joyce Culver for 92Y

Michael Kors talking to Fern Mallis.

“If Michael wasn’t a designer, he could probably have his own stand-up routine.” It’s an apt introduction to Michael Kors, as described by Fern Mallis, who sat down with the designer at 92Y Wednesday night as part of her Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis series.

Sure enough, Kors brought no shortage of laugh-inducing one-liners, starting from the very beginning with a story about his name. Kors was born on Long Island as Karl Anderson, Jr.—“the least likely name for a nice Jewish boy,” he said. When his mother remarried a few years later and he was adopted by Bill Kors, he changed his last name, and picked out Michael on his own.

“We all know in fashion there’s only one Karl,” he said.

Obsessed with fashion from a very young age, he even helped his mother design her wedding dress for her second marriage. The marriage didn’t last, but the dress did. “My mom ended up getting divorced from Bill Kors,” he said, “but I have to say the dress was pretty timeless!”

Kors described himself as a teenager as an “insane fashion freak,” spending his senior prom night at Studio 54 in an ensemble he created himself that included “a piece of raw silk jersey wrapped into a diaper pant.” Another gaffe that Kors recognizes today? “I made bodysuits for men,” he laughed. “Snaps and the male anatomy are not a good thing!”

In the years since, Kors has picked a uniform—his trusty black tees and a blazer—and stuck to it, even dressing for his beach wedding last August in a tee and shorts.

“My mother and every woman I know was infuriated,” he said of his private, low-key ceremony with longtime partner (and former intern!) Lance LePere. “I said, we’re not having a wedding…[later that night] we went for pizza at Sam’s [in East Hampton] and went to go see The Help!”

His marriage isn’t the only life-changing event in the last year: his company’s initial public offering busted records as the biggest-ever public offering in U.S. fashion.

“It beat my Bar Mitzvah!” joked Kors of his chance to ring the famous stock market opening bell. “Although as I was about to ring the bell, I looked down at my mom, and she said to me, ‘straighten your tie!’”

Mallis pointed out that the IPO has made Kors a very, very wealthy man, but the designer still seemed humbled by his success.

“I never planned on ringing that bell, “ he said. “You keep your eye on the ball, you do what you do, and you do it well.”