“I miss those city lights, those sparkling city lights, those twinkling city lights blurring my eyes,” Rufus Wainwright crooned on stage at the Shubert Theatre in the heart of the Broadway district. This glittering rendition was an homage to Liza Minnelli’s 1977 show tune “City Lights”—and befittingly, the opening performance to befittingly, the opening performance to Michael Kors’s 40th anniversary collection. 

Celebrating four decades in fashion, the Long Island-born designer’s fall/winter 2021 show is a love letter to New York City’s theatre community. This unwavering affection for New York has defined Kors’s career since the very beginning, from his debut in Bergdorf Goodman in 1981 to the more recent Studio 54-inspired capsule collection of 2019, and comes full circle with this collection, which features a curated capsule of 15 pieces from the Michael Kors Collection archive. 

Michael Kors Fall/Winter 2021
Photo: Stefan Khoo

True to the Michael Kors lexicon of luxury, the rest of the collection falls seamlessly in step with the ones of seasons past. The sequinned ensembles hark back to the Studio 54 years but also the devil-may-care dressing that defined early 1990s Michael Kors. Meanwhile, double-breasted skirt suits with slits that skim the thigh come in timeless prints of houndstooth and all-over zebra. 

There are hints to Kors’s jet-setting legacy that redefined the domains of luxury too. The outerwear, arguably the collection’s unsung heroes, are the biggest nods to this. From heavy furs to puffer jackets, there is a clear pining for the joy of getting dressed with somewhere to go. But perhaps the most nostalgic of pre-pandemic times are the cinched trench coats that evoke a time of heading out in the cold with a slinky slip dress underneath, with nothing but a nightcap and adrenaline to keep you warm. 

Michael Kors Fall/Winter 2021
Photo: Stefan Khoo

“I selected a lot of really iconic pieces, all of which are over 20 years old,” says Kors. “Everything from the Swarovski diamond-encrusted slip dress [that Madonna wore on the cover of Glamour as one of its 10 Women of the Year] to the fabulous cherry patent leather coat that Cindy Crawford debuted in our spring/ summer 1991 runway show.” 

Each of the past-season pieces is embedded with a unique QR code that redirects customers to archival photographs and Kors’s personal anecdotes. “The MK40 Reissue Capsule combines timeless fashion, modern technology and a little bit of storytelling all at the same time,” Kors shares. “When you scan the QR code, you’ll be able to connect with the garment’s history and have a piece of that story right in your closet.” Part of commemorating a legacy is retelling your story—and for Kors, his story has long been enamoured with New York. 

Michael Kors Fall/Winter 2021
Photo: Stefan Khoo

“I grew up in the suburbs and when we would drive into Manhattan, the minute I saw the skyline, it was like The Wizard of Oz,” says Kors of his childhood. “To me, New York was a place where anything was possible. You could reinvent yourself. You could follow your dreams. You could meet people from around the world. And I still think that’s what New York brings you.” 

For the first time since Covid-19 struck, the lights and marquees of the theatre district lit up for Kors’s milestone show. The majority of us spectated through our screens and watching Kors’s cast of runway legends (Shalom! Naomi! Helena!) walk down 45th Street felt almost restorative—and vicariously hopeful for a once-vibrant scene now rendered dormant by closures and restrictions. 

And as a lifelong theatre buff, Kors wanted to dedicate the 40th anniversary of his brand to the very community that showed him the fantasy of theatre. “I’m here today to give back to a group of people who have given me so much and have been really struggling since Covid-19 began,” Kors said in his virtual introduction before the show. 

Michael Kors Fall/Winter 2021
Photo: Stefan Khoo

In addition to his sartorial celebration of the theatre, the Kors company donated to The Actors Fund, a charitable organisation that supports more than 40,000 onstage and backstage entertainment and performing arts professionals. Joining in his cause were megawatt stalwarts of the scene—the likes of Kristin Chenoweth, Bernadette Peters, Bette Midler and Billy Porter were in attendance on the virtual walls of Sardi’s, a regular haunt of thespians and theatregoers alike. Zoom humour came in the form of Midler herself as she joined on mute—reminding us again that there’s nothing quite like the real thing. 

As borders reopen and cities reawaken, the vestiges of pre-pandemic times feel almost within reach. New York City may be affectionately known as the City that Never Sleeps, but the livelihoods of the performing arts community were effectively put on hold in the wake of the pandemic. For Kors, this collection captures 40 dazzling years indeed. But this tribute to Broadway in the dawn of global stasis is also putting the age-old theatre adage to work: The show must go on. 

All clothes worn throughout the shoot are by Michael Kors Collection

Photographed by Stefan Khoo
Styled by Jeffrey Yan
Model: Zeline/Basic Models
Makeup and hair: Marc Teng
Photographer’s assistant: Alif
Stylist’s assistant: Nadia Lim

Brought to you by Michael Kors