Credit: Michael Kors
Michael Kors wants hunger to go out of style
Designer Michael Kors seems to have found the perfect balance between style and philanthropy -- all to fight hunger.
Millions of people around the world wear his shoes, carry his purses and love his clothes. So about three years ago, Kors decided to take that brand loyalty and turn it into a way to raise money for the United Nations World Food Programme. And now that money has provided 10 million meals for schoolchildren in Uganda, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Cambodia.
And instead of the next fashion trend, Kors is thinking about how he can do more.
"We never thought we'd reach this number this quickly, so all it's telling me is to keep raising the bar. Now we can sit back and say is a 100 million meals a possibility? Yes it is ... and we can get there sooner rather than later," Kors says.
The original four-year goal of the Michael Kors #WatchHungerStop campaign was to raise enough money to provide 1 million meals. But through the sales of a special edition watch and customer donations in stores around the world, Kors has brought the issue of hunger into fashion's mainstream and malls everywhere.
According to Kye Young of the World Food Programme, the unique partnership with Kors has exceeded all expectations. "It's given a chance for his loyal customers to take action. Not only to buy a cool watch but also to know it's helping one of the largest humanitarian aid organizations fight hunger."
The new ambassador and the actress
In recognition of his efforts with the #WatchHungerStop campaign, Kors has also been named a United Nations World Food Programme Global Ambassador Against Hunger.
"The last thing I thought of was that someday I'd have the title ambassador. I've committed to helping the World Food Programme and I know that my responsibility is to do as much as I can to get to their goal of building a world that has zero hunger," Kors says.
Actress Kate Hudson is also now joining Michael Kors and the #WatchHungerStop campaign.
"She has the personality to connect with people all around the world. She's got fame, she's got talent, she's got notoriety but she's also got a really big heart. I think between the two of us we can reach out to a lot of people," say Kors.
Breaking the cycle of poverty
Kors says he wanted to contribute specifically to the World Food Programme's school meals because of what it can do for developing societies, solving the issue of hunger and education.
"The impact of getting those kids into school is huge. It's not just nutrition, it's their future," Kors says.
In 2014, WFP provided school meals and take-home rations to 17 million children. According to WFP, a daily school meal provides a strong incentive to send children to school and keep them there. It allows children to focus on their studies rather than their stomachs.
The WFP is working in more than 80 countries around the world and Kors has been instrumental in spreading the word during times of need.
"He is quite amazing in that even as enormous as his company has become, he still is giving his time and his personal touch to his campaign, Young says.
Style of philanthropy
If philanthropy had a style, Kors says it would be a crisp, white cotton shirt. A shirt ready to have its sleeves rolled up and get to work.
Kors seems to have taken that to heart. For years he worked in New York with the nonprofit "God's Love We Deliver," which provides food to the needy. But he was inspired to do more.
"When I started my career in 1981 as an American designer, we dealt with an American public. There really wasn't any such thing as international fashion. There were borders. Now as I travel the world, I see what's a problem here in my backyard in New York is also a global issue. We are all affected by what happens in other countries and other cities," Kors says.
The next step, Kors says, is to go see what his work has been doing around the world and continue to raise money for meals.
"Although hunger is a huge problem, it's a solvable one. If we can make some noise, rattle the pots and pans so to speak ... we can make people know that they can make a difference," Kors says.