August 22 2014

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it’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world



The second season of “Mad Men” won’t be making its official debut until Sunday night, but yesterday evening, Michael Kors lifted the veil for a lucky few when he hosted a private screening of the first new episode of the Emmy-nominated period drama. Invitees not only got the scoop on the show’s slow-burn cliffhanger, but they had the chance to down cocktails with cast members, too. Kors’ reasons for throwing the shindig were simple enough: He’s a huge fan, and he wanted a sneak preview. “Well, you know fashion people; we always want to see things first,” he wisecracks. “But seriously, I just want to celebrate the show. It’s so rare to see television that’s both seriously smart and seriously stylish. I was hooked from the get-go.” So hooked, in fact, that “Mad Men” was a key influence on Kors’ Fall 2008 collection—which, in a lucky trick of timing, should be arriving in stores any minute now. In the meantime, Kors talks to about his guilty viewing pleasures, why specs are sexy, and the many reasons everyone’s mad about “Mad Men.”

A show about advertising executives set at the dawn of the sixties hardly seems the likeliest candidate for ruler-of-the-zeitgeist status. Why do you think “Mad Men” has struck such a nerve?

Well, I know why it’s struck a nerve with me. I mean, I love television, but most of the shows I get into register at the level of guilty pleasure. “Ugly Betty,” “American Idol,” stuff like that is fun, but it’s airy, there’s nothing to it. And real style on TV, that’s almost impossible to find, and in general, wherever you do find it, the content itself just isn’t that smart. “Mad Men” is undeniably stylish—those super graphic titles, the Bernard Herrmann-esque score, the lighting…and then, obviously, I mean, the clothes. The show is like your terribly chic friend who was valedictorian. It gets you on every level.

I’m with you on all that, but it’s like—there are shows everyone watches, and then there are shows that resonate with the culture in a very profound way. Right now, “Mad Men” is that show. Do you think there’s something about that era of America that speaks to our present moment?

Absolutely. Look at what’s happening in politics. Everyone’s heard the Obama/JFK comparisons, but they’re out there for a reason. And it’s not just because Barack Obama is a fit young guy with a gorgeous, accomplished wife. In 1960, America was coming out of a deeply conservative period, at a time when it felt threatened, and that’s the case again now. Our culture is schizophrenic in a way that wasn’t true back then, but there are lots of echoes. We need a new Camelot. We need our optimism back.

On the other hand, if there’s one thing “Mad Men” makes very clear, it’s how different a world this was before feminism. I watch that show and thank God for Betty Friedan and Bella Abzug.

And Hillary Clinton came this close to being president, and on the other side of the coin, we’ve got the Pussycat Dolls. We live in strange times. But look at how much hasn’t changed—everyone talks about the retro-ness of the show, because people smoked all day and drank three scotches at lunch, but you go to any country club in the United States, and believe me, the wives of the CEOs, they still look super-polished, super-put-together. That’s the job. Only now, they have to keep that up at 50. Botox, yoga. Those women aren’t allowed to age into graceful matrons anymore.

Speaking of age: One of the fascinating things about the fashion on “Mad Men” is how adult everyone looks. The youngest characters all dress to seem older; no one wants to be the kid.

Aren’t we ready for that again? For some maturity? I have to tell you, I am sick and tired of hair down to there and crotch-high hemlines. It’s so obvious. For Fall I was really trying to bring back buttoned-up sexy—think Grace Kelly. So cool, so poised. She never reveals a thing and you can’t take your eyes off of her. I mean, watch “Rear Window.” That’s smart sexy; it’s interesting sexy. And it’s grown-up sexy. You want a tip on looking hot? Wear reading glasses and a fitted dress. Simple.

Do you think that tailored dressing will ever really work for a generation of women used to throwing on their clothes?

I do, because I’ve seen with my own eyes the transformation that happens when you take a girl out of her baby doll and her flip-flops and dress her in a beautifully tailored suit. It’s revolutionary. It’s like, suddenly she gets it—clothes are supposed to FIT. And the bonus is, if you start dressing that way when you’re young, in 20 years, everyone will say you haven’t aged a day.

Photo: Courtesy of AMC