NEW YORK, United States — Michael Kors has built one of the most successful luxury juggernauts in fashion history with a DNA that is rooted in a glamorous jet set lifestyle.
Founded in 1981, the brand grew swiftly following an investment from apparel moguls Silas Chou and Lawrence Stroll in 2004. The initial public offering of stock in Michael Kors, in December 2011, was one of the largest and most successful fashion IPOs ever, valuing the brand at $3.8 billion and raising about $1 billion to fund the company’s global expansion. After several years of blockbuster results, Michael Kors is looking for new drivers of growth with menswear set to play a critical part in the company’s continued expansion.
Lisa Pomerantz, senior vice president of global communications and marketing for Michael Kors, identifies the pillars that drive the company’s success.
BoF: Michael Kors has experienced a period of meteoric growth since its IPO in 2011. What attributes of the brand and business enabled this growth?
LP: First, we have a strong connection with our customer. Michael has only ever worked for himself, and has always developed that relationship through being in the dressing room with her, pinning her clothes. Still today, as big as the company is, he maintains that relationship which is incredibly informative, because he hears first hand what she wants.
Second, there’s a clearly defined brand identity. The brand has evolved from one collection to include the secondary line, Michael Michael Kors, and has built up an incredible accessory business, as well as fragrance, beauty and watch businesses.
Also, our marketing strategy combines the highest level of luxury with the Michael Kors Collection, which is sophisticated, glamorous and exclusive, with the more accessible and pragmatic DNA of Michael Kors — there’s a consistent global image of this jet set lifestyle — I think it resonates, and it's part of the culture here, too.
BoF: How has the company's internal culture supported such rapid growth?
LP: The culture here has always been fast-paced, hard-working and agile. The philosophy is pretty much, “never say no to an opportunity.” I think there's an American aspect to that, we look at every opportunity — even from a query that comes in from a customer through one of our social accounts or through the website.
Creativity and new ideas are encouraged, and really can come from anywhere in the company. Our chief executive [John Idol] and Michael are interested about opinions throughout the company, not just from the executives. John is a believer in walking through the halls, spotting an intern and saying, “What do you think about this new campaign?”
The philosophy is pretty much, ‘never say no to an opportunity.’
BoF: What are the greatest challenges in maintaining a strong company culture?
LP: We've had great opportunity for growth because of the success of the IPO, and because of how well the roadmap John and Michael created has worked.
We have to work hard to keep up with the different product categories, new store openings, new countries where we are engaging customers and fans, building offices and teams. We are expanding strategically in key markets.
We work within a framework as an organisation, but live in a sense of freedom within that. We try not to be too corporate with our hierarchy — and consider that there can be interesting ideas in the hallways and offices, not just in the top executive floors.
BoF: What big milestones is Michael Kors currently working towards?
LP: We recently relaunched the website, bringing it in-house, and we're working towards a complete omnichannel experience that provides online customers with the jet set shopping experience that we see in our retail stores — creating a connected customer path.
In terms of product, we're growing our existing accessories, shoes and ready-to-wear businesses. We are also growing our menswear business, with a new collection, new presence and new distribution rolled out over the next two years.
Social responsibility is the core of this company. Four years ago we chose a cause that Michael could help draw attention to — hunger. Two years ago we launched a campaign with the United Nations World Food Programme called "Watch Hunger Stop", selling specific watches unique to the initiative. For every watch that's sold, 100 meals are served to children in need — we're hoping to reach 10 million meals soon.
BoF: What kind of talent are you looking for to achieve these milestones?
LP: We're looking for big thinkers who see the whole picture now and down the road, people who know how to work collaboratively, because the more we grow, the more important teamwork becomes. We want self- starters, who have entrepreneurial spirits — because that’s the foundation of the company. They should relish a challenge, and turn it into an opportunity.
We have also hired people with experience from fields other than fashion too. People from the technology sector, from creative backgrounds, outside the core fashion business, bringing the lessons they have learned from other industries into Michael Kors.
This post is sponsored by Michael Kors. To explore career opportunities at this company, please visit the Michael Kors company page on BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent.