How Michael Kors Went From Design School Dropout To Billionaire Fashion Tycoon

Fashion designer Michael Kors became a billionaire Tuesday as shares of his namesake company surged 18% after reporting that its third quarter profit jumped 77%.

The 54-year-old CEO founded the luxury goods company in 1981 after dropping out of fashion school.

For years, he struggled to make the brand successful and even filed for bankruptcy along the way.

Now he joins the billionaire’s club just three years after taking the company public.

How did it all go down?

Kors was born on Long Island and started designing at age 19, as a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

He dropped out of school and launched his first womenswear collection at 1981. It debuted in high-end department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Saks.

Kors developed a celebrity fan base early on--Barbara Walters, Demi Moore and Julia Roberts wore his designs. But he was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1993 after his Italian backers went bust.

Sources: The Observer, People

Kors bounced back, launching a lower-priced line and signing on as fashion director for French fashion house CĂ©line.

(video provider='youtube' id='fOXstwT7V-c' size='xlarge' align='center')

Kors' exclusive, high-priced line and lower-priced, sportier lines both sold well at department stores through the 1990s.

Kors pursued a strategy of selling at department stores until 2003, when Sportswear Holdings Ltd. spent $US100 million on an 85% stake in the company, buying out shares held by LVMH and other investors.

Source: Vogue

The new stakeholders instigated some bold moves. In 2004 Kors launched another line at a lower price point (dresses were $US99 to $US300), which did well when the recession hit.

Source: Fortune

Kors also expanded into higher-margin accessories like perfume and handbags. And in 2006 the company made an aggressive push to open its own 'lifestyle' retail stores.

Source: Fortune

In a 20/20 interview, Kors said the key to his success was expanding his line to appeal to women at every size and every price point.

Today, Michael Kors has 533 stores worldwide. The company, now based in Hong Kong, reported net income of $US398 million on revenue of $US2.2 billion in fiscal 2013.

Models walk the runway at the Michael Kors S/S 2012 collection presentation during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on September 14, 2011 in New York.

Source: Reuters

In fiscal 2011, the company's total revenue was $US803 million. Now, the company is expecting to bring in that much revenue just in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014.

But Kors has not only grown geographically and financially. He became a household name in 2004 as a sassy judge on Bravo's hit series 'Project Runway.'

He has also dressed the top of the A-list: Michelle Obama has been photographed wearing dozens of Michael Kors dresses and she even wore one in her first official portrait.

Source: Biography

And in 2010, at age 50, he became the youngest person ever to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

The company has since made Michael Kors a very rich man. He has collected more than $US700 million selling stock since its 2011 initial public offering.

Kors now owns about 2% of the luxury goods company, which is valued at about $US390 million.

Thanks to Tuesday's 18% surge in the company's share price, Kors is now a billionaire.

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