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Kenneth Cole (born March 23, 1954) is an American clothing designer. Born in Brooklynmarker, New Yorkmarker, his father Charlie Cole, owned the El Greco shoe manufacturing company. Before learning the family business and starting his own company in 1982, Cole studied law at Emory Universitymarker.


Birth of a shoe company

Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. is a mid-grade American fashion house founded in 1982 by Kenneth Cole. Wanting to preview his line of shoes at Market Week at New York's Hilton Hotel, but unable to afford the purchase of a hotel room or showroom to display his items, Kenneth Cole inquired about parking a trailer two blocks from the Hilton Hotel. When discovering that permits for trailers were only granted to utility and production companies, innovative Cole changed the name of his company from Kenneth Cole Incorporated to Kenneth Cole Productions, and applied for a permit to film the full-length film, "The Birth of a Shoe Company". In two and a half days, Kenneth Cole Productions sold forty thousand pairs of shoes, while chronicling the beginning of the company on film.

In 1994, Kenneth Cole went public, and has been included on Forbes annual list of 200 Best Small Companies approximately four times. Cole". Accessed online 16 March 2008

Currently, Kenneth Cole designs men's and women's footwear, men's and women's clothing, and also accessories under the Kenneth Cole Reaction Line. Overall, Kenneth Cole Productions sells clothing and accessories under the following lines: Kenneth Cole New York, Kenneth Cole Reaction, Unlisted, Tribeca, and the licensed name Bongo. The company now operates over 90 retail and outlet stores worldwide, and sells in catalogs and websites. Kenneth Cole controls almost all of the voting rights and 45% of the company.

Other accomplishments and activities

Since 1985, Kenneth Cole has been openly involved in publicly supporting AIDS awareness and research. He is considered the first in the fashion industry to do so.

He uses fashion as a medium to promote socially conscious ads to help fight various causes from AIDS to homelessness. He has donated proceeds to such organizations as Mentoring USA, amfAR and Rock the Vote.

Kenneth Cole's socially conscious advertising for the causes that he champions can be somewhat controversial but are always meant to stir positive change. One such example was his campaign for World AIDS Day in 2005. He designed T-Shirts for the campaign which were sold at such stores as Barneys New York, Scoop, and Louis Boston. The messages on the shirts stated either, "We All Have AIDS" or "I Have AIDS." Cole created the shirts in hopes that those with or without AIDS would wear the shirts, to help diminish the stigma attached to the disease. Cole stated, "There is a legend of the Danish king, Christian X, who, during World War II, when Hitler insisted all Jews publicly wear a yellow Star of David, would wear the star himself, hence making it difficult to differentiate who was Jewish. This is kind of like that, hopefully."

In August 2006, it was announced that Kenneth Cole Productions would stop selling fur in all of their garments for the Fall 2007 Fashion Season.

In 1998, People Magazine voted Cole as "Sexiest Businessman of the Year."

In October 2007, Cole guest-starred in the Ugly Betty episode Betty's Wait Problem.

In the summer of 2007, Kenneth Cole also began their "Awearness" Campaign, which will produce a line of T-Shirts to benefit the charities that the company supports, and proceeds will go to the Awearness Fund. The campaign is further promoted by a book "Awearness: Inspiring Stories About How to Make a Difference" featuring celebrities assisting various causes.

In 2008 the company celebrated its 25th year, with events to commemorate it.

Kenneth Cole delivered Northeastern Universitymarker's keynote address at the Commencement ceremony May 1 2009.

On May 14, 2009, The Legal Aid Society of New York City honored Kenneth Cole with its inaugural Theodore Roosevelt Corporate Award at the Waldorf Astoria during its Servant of Justice Award Dinner. Proceeds will go to benefit struggling New Yorkers who live in poverty. [83684]

Personal life

In 1986, Cole met Maria Cuomo, and they married a year later. Maria Cuomo Cole is the daughter of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and sister of current New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and ABC News journalist Chris Cuomo. One of his daughters, Amanda, hosted the Mets Kids Clubhouse for Sportsnet New York.

Kenneth Cole and wife Maria Cuomo Cole purchased a $14.5 million co-op in 2008 on Sutton Place in New York Citymarker. At one time fashion designer Bill Blass lived in this same building.


  1. Cole" 2006. Accessed online 10 March 2008
  2. Kenneth Cole - Company Description - Hoover's
  3. Wilson, Eric (2005) New York Times-From Kenneth Cole, A New Solidarity"1 December 2005. Accessed online 16 March 2008
  4. (2006) Cole Gives the Boot to Cruelty, Pledges to Go Fur-Free"18 August 2006. Accessed online 26 March 2008
  5. Cole to Guest Star on "Ugly Betty""7 August 2007. Accessed online 16 March 2008
  6. Espinosa, Renata (2008) Awareness of the Issues through Kenneth Cole's "Awearness"""19 March 2008. Accessed online 28 March 2008
  7. "Fashion designer to speak at graduation" The Huntington News. 9 April 2009.
  8. "New York Post-THE RUMBLE AN OFF-THE-BALL LOOK AT YOUR FAVORITE SPORTS CELEBRITIES" 6 January 2008 Accessed online 16 March 2008
  9. Ohrstrom, Lysandra (2008) "The New York Observer-Kenneth Cole, Maria Cuomo Buy $14.5 M. Sutton Place Co-Op"5 March 2008 Accessed online 11 March 2008

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