Joan Kors, Michael Kors’s Mother, Dies at 84

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11:  Designer Michael Kors and Joan Kors backstage at the Michael Kors fash...
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Joan Kors, mother of American fashion designer Michael Kors, has passed at the age of 84 in Los Angeles, California. The news was confirmed by Michael, who shared a note on his Instagram page. “I am at a total loss over the sudden passing of my beloved mom, Joan Kors,” he wrote. “She was my undying supporter, full of strength, smarts and style. My mom was a true one of a kind.” According to a spokesperson for the Michael Kors company, Kors died “peacefully” of heart failure. She will be remembered for her style, her work as a humanitarian, as well as the influence she had on her son, and her hand in shaping his successful fashion career.

Kors was born Joan Hamburger in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island. She began modeling when she was 18 years old, working for companies like the House of Revlon, but eventually leaving to profession to focus on her family. She married Karl Anderson Sr. and they had a son, Karl Anderson Jr., who would later change his name to Michael Kors when Joan remarried Bill Kors and urged her son to change both his first and last name.

In the ‘70s, Kors returned to work as an executive assistant at a law firm before moving with her family to the West Coast to get involved in the home textiles industry alongside her father, Austin Hamburger. Her line, “At Home With Joan Kors,” was made up of items such as pillows, placemats, and napkins, and sold at a variety of stores, but by the early ‘90s, she exited the industry to become the West Coat brand ambassador of her son’s eponymous fashion company.

Kors was a strong supporter of her son’s career, and she even let him redesign her wedding dress to Bill Kors when he was just five years old. “She brought me to her first fitting for the dress. I was kind of her partner in crime for everything,” Michael said during a talk at the 92 Street Y in 2012. “I sat there and my mom tried the dress on and it was covered with a zillion bows...I kind of sat in a corner and was like, ‘It’s not so great.’ My mother said, ‘What’s wrong?’ and I said, ‘I think it’s really busy. It’s too much.’” When the tailor came back, Kors asked him to take off all the bows.

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As Michael’s success grew, Kors stayed by his side, attending various fashion shows and events for his brand, as well as Celine when he acted as creative director for the French house between 1997 to 2003. Kors was a staple at the front row of Michael’s show, and even joined him on the guests panel of Project Runway for a season three episode. His co-judge and Elle editor-in-chief Nina Garcia spoke about Kors to WWD. “She was stylish, chic, warm, caring, witty — and as sharp as could be,” Garcia said. “An engaging conversationalist who could speak about any subject, Joan was always curious and thoughtful...She was incredibly supportive of Michael’s career and was always a fixture at her son’s shows. I would look forward to catching up with her there, as well as on the set of Project Runway and at Michael’s events. I will always remember her big smile, her blonde hair, her signature glasses, and how proud she felt of her son.”

Michael also made a statement to the site calling his mother “An iconoclast in so many ways.” He continued, saying, “She was strong and independent and definitely forged her own path. She raised me as a single mom and her life ran the gamut from young fashion model to athlete to home furnishings designer...She was a great supporter and a constant source of inspiration.”