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February 16, 2014 2:40 pm

Fashion Designer Michael Kors Talks Jewish Mothers, His Bar Mitzvah

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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Billionaire Jewish fashion designer Michael Kors. Photo: Ed Kavishe / Fashion Wire Press / WikiCommons.

Billionaire Jewish fashion designer Michael Kors. Photo: Ed Kavishe / Fashion Wire Press / WikiCommons.

Billionaire fashion designer and television personality Michael Kors paid tribute to the fashion world’s “Jewish mothers,” and his own.

In an interview last week on Style.com timed for New York City’s Fashion Week, Kors, who mentors aspiring designers on television’s Project Runway, was asked who, in his opinion was the fashion world’s Jewish mother?

The designer responded: “For me, I’ve got a few. I guess Suzy [Menkes] to a certain degree. Ellin Saltzman has been a fashion Jewish mom to me for a long time; I’ve known her my whole life. I guess one is my British fashion mother, one is my New York mother, and of course, I have my own Jewish fashion mother. I have the trifecta. I’ve known Ellin since I started, so she really got to watch me grow up. Fashion is a family.”

The interviewer, then asked, “And I take it the show is like your Bar Mitzvah?”

Kors said, “The show is definitely my Bar Mitzvah. I throw two Bar Mitzvahs a year—I always say that! Except my bar mitzvah was in the seventies and it was full of really ugly colors.”

In February, it was reported that the prolific designer achieved billionaire status as shares of his namesake fashion company rose, after it hit profit estimates. Bloomberg News said the 54-year-old owns about 2 percent of the company, a stake valued at about $390 million. He has also earned some $700 million from selling stock since its initial public offering in 2011, the report said.

Kors, born Karl Anderson, Jr., in Long Island, New York, is the son of Karl Anderson and Joan Kors (née Hamburger), a Jewish model, whose work exposed him to fashion at a young age. His mother later remarried Bill Kors and the five-year-old’s surname was changed to Kors. At the time, his mother also told him that he could choose a new first name, changing his name formally to Michael David Kors.

He grew up in Merrick, NY, graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore, NY, and attended Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology, before dropping out after nine months to create his own company, which quickly won distribution at luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman.

Notabale wearers of his designs include actresses Joan Allen and Jennifer Garner at the Academy Awards and U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama who wore a black sleeveless dress for her first term official portrait. Alicia Keys also wore a Kors design when she performed at U.S. President Barack Obama’s second inaugural ball.

In 2013, Kors was selected for TIME magazine’s TIME 100 list which ranks the 100 most influential people in the world, and the New York Observer’s list of the 100 Most Influential New Yorkers, under the fashion category. In June 2010, Kors received the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, of which he was the youngest-ever recipient.

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