“I want to have my own business within five years”.
That was my mantra when I moved to New York City in 1984.
I had completed my studies in Art & Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design in the Spring of that year, and with the enthusiasm and naivete of youth I moved to the big city with big ambitions!
Boldly going forth without giving this saying a passing thought;
“Be careful what you wish for!”
In late Summer of 1987 a young fashion designer asked me to design the new offices and showroom for his growing company: His name was Michael Kors, and he was my first client…
Michael had had an auspicious beginning in 1978 with his very first account Bergdorf-Goodman.
While the garment business is not easy (or as glamorous as it looks from the outside) Michael was talented, tenacious and had a dream! He was immediately recognized as a talent to watch by fashion insiders.
It was a very big deal for this new hot young fashion designer to be moving to a large new base of operations, and it was Michael’s first opportunity to create a public expression of his design aesthetic in built form.
The space was off the beaten track of the Garment District, but it was a full floor and 10,000 square feet; the vision was ambitious, the budget modest.
The 1980’s were an optimistic period as evidenced by the lavish spending we witnessed in New York City; the business world was humming along at a very strong pace. It was the spirit of this optimism combined with the naivete of youth that I quit my job at Rafael Vinoly Architects, and with a $ 5,000 deposit from Michael Kors (and no savings) I jumped into starting a design business.
I was fortunate to find a design assistant fresh out of Parson’s named Cary Brown, signed a lease on a very small space in a run down building on lower Broadway – South of Canal, West of Chinatown, East of Tribeca and not close to much of anything.
I recently ran across some personal ‘historical documents’ from the days before starting my business – prepared on an old portable typewriter outlining my ‘start-up’ costs, as well as a document that outlined estimated project budgets (with no estimate about projected revenue). In hindsight, I had a lot to learn, and there were many harsh lessons ahead…
Start music from JAWS….
In late October, approximately three weeks after I ‘hung out my shingle’ there was a major event in the global financial markets know as Black Monday.
Stock markets around the world crashed – with many an eminent economists predicting that the next few years would be the most troubled since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
I moved forward.
We have worked on many projects since the early days of the 80’s – including my recent design of his New York City home – and today Michael Kors is a global brand that is taking the world by storm with no end in sight. I am grateful to say I have been a witness to his success, and wish him all the best in the future!