Kenneth Cole Productions was founded in 1982 as a shoe company. To advertise their early work, Kenneth Cole made a movie titled The Birth of a Shoe Company. The movies allowed tens of thousands of shoe sales. Since then, it has expanded into accessories, clothes, luggage, watches, and fragrances. Kenneth Cole has released multiple product lines such as Kenneth Cole Reaction. Their income has allowed many charity sponsorships and donations. It has also let them purchase Le Tigre sportswear. Before closing their outlets, Kenneth Cole Productions had over sixty stores in the United States. Prior to the closing of the stores, the company caused some controversy involving the funds for an HIV/AIDS charity. The company's founder is related to Maria Cuomo and has won multiple awards for his entrepreneurship and charitable giving.
About the Founder
Kenneth Cole was born into a Jewish Family in March of 1954. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree from Emory University in 1982, he started Kenneth Cole Productions (“Jewish Biographies: Fashion Icons”, 2019). Five years later, he married Maria Cuomo. His marriage is one of the few parts of his life outside of his fashion brand.
Kenneth Cole was one of the first companies to publicly support individuals with HIV/AIDS, as seen in his position with amfAR. Not only has he accrued millions of dollars in sales, but in 1998 People magazine labeled Cole as the “year’s sexiest businessman.” The New York’s legal Aid Society awarded him in 2009 as well (“Kenneth Cole | Fashion Designer Biography”, 2019). His media appearances also take place outside the fashion industry, as seen in Cole's guest-starring on a 2007 episode of Ugly Betty, called “Betty’s Wait Problem” (“Ugly Betty | TV Guide”, 2019).
The Birth of a Shoe Company
Kenneth Cole founded his company, Kenneth Cole Inc. in 1982 as a women’s shoe brand. Not long after Kenneth Cole Productions was open for business, Cole wanted to advertise his shoes at the New York Hilton’s Market Week. His request to set up a display of his footwear was denied, for only filmmaking trailers were allowed near the hotel. He made a film titled The Birth of a Shoe Company, which led to Cole selling over forty thousand pairs within days of its debut (“20 Things You Didn't Know About the Kenneth Cole Company”, 2018).
In 1995, Kenneth Cole’s sales grew by thirty-five percent and opened seventeen stores in the United States alone. Cole also had one store in Amsterdam and another in Singapore. The number of stores increased sales by forty percent. In 1996, Kenneth Cole gave stockholders a “two-for-one” split. Their profits increased once they had licensing on products such as perfume, cologne, underwear, and outerwear. The licensing royalties came from in and outside the United States, which allowed the company to make more money and become more stable (“Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc.”, 2019).
Purchasing of Le Tigre
Kenneth Cole is the parent company of Le Tigre. Le Tigre is a sportswear brand that Kenneth Cole bought in 2007. When Kenneth Cole acquired the brand, the business deal came with Le Tigre’s licenses and tiger logo. Both Kenneth Cole and Le Tigre’s CEO, Ryan O’Sullivan looked content with the agreement, as Cole said, “we are pleased to add such a strong and internationally respected brand to our portfolio.” O’Sullivan called the proposal a “tremendous opportunity” that would “unlock the full potential of the Le Tigre brand” (“US: Kenneth Cole buys Le Tigre brand”, 2007).
Shutting Down of Outlets
In November of 2016, Kenneth Cole announced plans to close all outlet stores. Their reason for doing so was to “expand our online and full-price retail footprint across the globe” (“Kenneth Cole to close all outlet stores”, 2018). After the closing, Kenneth Cole Productions plans to keep only two full-price stores open, one in New York’s Bowery neighborhood, while the second one is in Arlington, Virginia (“Why is Kenneth Cole closing all of their stores?”, 2016).
About Haggar Clothing (Parent Company)
Joseph Marrion Haggar Sr., the company’s founder, was an immigrant from Lebanon. In 1926, he founded the Haggar Clothing company in a small Texan office. This small company would soon coin the term “slacks,” the word that is still used for leisure pants. Fourteen years after its founding, Haggar Clothing released the first pre-cuffed pants. Another first the company boasts is their 1950 television commercial, which was the first televised men’s clothing advertisement. They also made the first ever wrinkle-free khakis. Twenty years later, Haggar Clothing became the number one pant brand in America. After becoming more financially secure, Haggar made charity donations and gave sponsorships to professional sports.
Haggar Clothing supplied ten million uniforms to World War II soldiers. This is not the only charity work the company has done, as they have given pants to workers of the Hugs Cafe, a restaurant that gives jobs to individuals with special needs. They also sponsor the Basketball, Hockey, and Pro Football Hall of Fame. Haggar also made the first gold jacket for the Pro Football Hall of Fame (“About Haggar | America's #1 Pant Brand”, 2019).
Kenneth Cole has supported many charities such as AIDS Life, American Foundation for AIDS Research, Candie's Foundation, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Human Rights Campaign, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the Sundance Institute. These charities help HIV/AIDS research, the LGBT community, underprivileged children, the arts, and overall public health (“Kenneth Cole: Charity Work & Causes”, 2018).
The Kenneth Cole Foundation
Kenneth Cole and Maria Cuomo Cole started the Kenneth Cole Foundation in 1994. The charity is located in New York and works toward causes such as homelessness, HIV/AIDS, and education. The company brings awareness and donations to these causes through advertising and company sales (“Kenneth Cole Foundation”, 2019). The company slogan is “Look good, for good.”
The Voice Shop
The Voice Shop is a section on Kenneth Cole’s company website. The Voice Shop’s products have sayings printed on them that refer to social issues such as public health and gender equality. Phrases printed on the merchandise include “women carry us all” and “we are all immigrants.” All sales from the Voice Shop go to the Kenneth Cole foundation.
Sundance Film Festival
To honor volunteers for the Sundance Film Festival, Kenneth Cole gave over two thousand jackets over the course of sixteen years. Kenneth Cole gives the jackets as a token of gratitude to the volunteers, or as his website calls them “the real stars of Sundance.” These jackets were reversible; one side was a hot pink while the other was ivory (“Outfitting and Appreciating the Real Stars of Sundance”, 2019).
Macy’s Christmas Tree Auction
In 2011, Kenneth Cole participated in Macy’s Christmas tree auction. The event encourages celebrities to provide trees inspired by their image. Kenneth Cole gave the event a tree with metal, rusty branches. These branches were decorated with shoes and shoehorns and were lit with factory bulbs (“Macy's Celebrity Tree Auction Wishes You Merry Bidding on Star-Inspired Christmas Trees”, 2011).
Marriage Equali-Tee (Human Rights Campaign)
Kenneth Cole openly supports LGBT rights, which is why he made T-Shirts specifically for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). These T-shirts had the phrase “take your lover up the aisle” written on their front. They came in gender-neutral sizing and could also be bought as tank tops. Kenneth Cole Productions made only five hundred which were available in HRC stores at thirty-five dollars each. The LGBT charity received one hundred percent of the funds from the sales (“HRC Collaboration with Kenneth Cole”, 2019).
Controversy with Harvey Weinstein and amfAR
Kenneth Cole has given many charitable donations throughout his career, which was the subject of a professional scandal. Kenneth Cole worked for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) for thirty years, fourteen of which were a chairman term. In 2015, amfAR ran a gala that raised over one and a half million dollars. He and Harvey Weinstein allegedly took six hundred thousand dollars to pay for Weinstein’s musical, Finding Neverland. Cole later resigned from his position as chairman, saying: “It has been a true privilege to have worked alongside so many talented and dedicated and committed individuals. Through my ongoing work as a UNAIDS Ambassador and with the End AIDS Coalition, I remain personally committed to aligning resources and galvanizing global action and working with amfAR to make AIDS history.” Four of his colleagues also resigned from their amfAR positions (“Kenneth Cole Resigns as amfAR Chairman Amid Controversy Over Harvey Weinstein Deal”, 2018).
Over years of being on the fashion market, Kenneth Cole has manufactured an array of products. Their first products were shoes, but as the company grew, Kenneth Cole has released many men’s and women’s accessories, clothing, and fragrances. Kenneth Cole has multiple clothing lines, some of which are known as Reaction, New York, and Unlisted. Each line offers different styles of clothing, shoes, accessories, perfumes, colognes, and suitcases.
Kenneth Cole’s Reaction line was launched in 1995. Its style is described as “cool, casual, and modern for fast paced men and women committed to living for the moment. It’s urban style at play with a downtown New York City sensibility for the creative class who are experimental, fun, and socially connected” (“Kenneth Cole Reaction”, 2019). New York, as the name implies has an urbane, modern, and sometimes bohemian look. On top of fitting all sorts of styles, Kenneth Cole Productions also accommodates most budgets. Their products have prices ranging from almost three hundred dollars to under twenty. However, pricing is dependent on whether or not the retailer is having a sale and the production cost of the item in question.
Kenneth Cole manufactures shoes for both men and women, and they come in many styles, like sneakers, flats, high heels, and boots. The best-selling shoes on their website are the men’s chukka and oxford boots. Among the women’s best sellers was the company’s bootie style shoes with kitten heels. Kenneth Cole has also released a line of women’s comfort shoes called Gentle Souls. Gentle Souls products contain “NASA-developed performance foam,” “wheat-derived cushioning,” along with “arch support that contours on contact” (“About Gentle Souls”, 2019). Kenneth Cole sells shoes for children as well on Kidsshoes.com. Many of the girls’ shoes have elevated heels, giving them a look more mature than the average children’s retailer.
The first fragrances by Kenneth Cole came out in 2002. They were titled Kenneth Cole New York for Men and Kenneth Cole New York for Women. Since then, Kenneth Cole has created over twenty more fragrances like the Black, Mankind, and Reaction line (Kenneth Cole Perfumes And Colognes”, 2019). Their fragrances come in body wash and shampoo as well, which is commonly found in the gift sets.
Clothing and Swimwear
Kenneth Cole sells a wide variety of clothing for men and women. However, the only children’s items they sell are shoes. The products cater to all weather conditions, as evidenced in their selling of everything from puffer jackets to cargo shorts and swimwear. Their clothing also caters for all occasions as well, for Kenneth Cole sells garments that range from suits to loungewear. There are also plenty of choice in terms of modesty as well, as the dress lengths range from mid-thigh to mid-calf and the sleeve size goes from sleeveless to wrist-length. The diversity extends to swimwear too.
Kenneth Cole offers plenty of coverage options in terms of swimsuits, as the women’s section has both skirt and brief swim bottoms. There are also one and two-piece suits. However, the men’s section of the website has no swim section.
Kenneth Cole sells accessories for male and female buyers such as gloves, sunglasses, hats, bags, jewelry, and scarves. There are bags for both men and women, but the men’s bag options are more limited. The jewelry section of their website is quite limited, for it only features two necklaces as of March 2019. A look at the men’s and women’s sunglasses sections during the same timeframe shows that the female section is six times larger than the men’s. On the other hand, there are dozens of watches to purchase. The watches feature leather and have both digital and analog options.
Luggage options include carry on size, twenty-four inch, and twenty-eight inches. Many of the bags have wheels and customers have the option of choosing between two or four wheels. Most of the suitcases have a hard-external coating and wheels.
Despite having its brick and mortar stores shut down, the company still offers plenty of in-person availability. Retailers that sell Kenneth Cole items include Nordstrom, Macy’s, Walmart, and Men’s Warehouse. These stores sell Kenneth Cole products online as well, and so does Amazon. Kenneth Cole may have less in-person availability, given that there are only two physical stores, but buyers can still order their merchandise through their company website.
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- Chi, P. (2018, February 09). Kenneth Cole Resigns as amfAR Chairman Amid Controversy Over Harvey Weinstein Deal. Retrieved March 18, 2019, from https://variety.com/2018/scene/vpage/kenneth-cole-resigns-amfar-harvey-weinstein-1202691878/
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- Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). HRC Collaboration with Kenneth Cole. Retrieved March 22, 2019, from https://www.hrc.org/resources/human-rights-campaign-collaboration-with-kenneth-cole
- Jewish Biographies: Fashion Icons. (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2019, from https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/fashion-icons
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- Just-Style.com. (2007, September 19). US: Kenneth Cole buys Le Tigre brand. Retrieved March 22, 2019, from https://www.just-style.com/news/kenneth-cole-buys-le-tigre-brand_id98564.aspx
- Kenneth Cole | Fashion Designer Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2019, from https://www.famousfashiondesigners.org/kenneth-cole
- “Kenneth Cole: Charity Work & Causes.” (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2019, from https://www.looktothestars.org/celebrity/kenneth-cole
- “Kenneth Cole Foundation.” (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2019, from https://fconline.foundationcenter.org/fdo-grantmaker-profile/?key=COLE072
- Kenneth Cole Perfumes And Colognes. (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2019, from https://www.fragrantica.com/designers/Kenneth-Cole.html
- Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2019, from https://www.referenceforbusiness.com/history2/2/Kenneth-Cole-Productions-Inc.html
- Macy's Celebrity Tree Auction Wishes You Merry Bidding on Star-Inspired Christmas Trees. (2011, November 10). Retrieved March 22, 2019, from https://www.macysinc.com/news-media/press-releases/detail/922/macys-celebrity-tree-auction-wishes-you-merry-bidding-on
- Outfitting and Appreciating The Real Stars of Sundance. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.kennethcole.com/blog-outfitting-and-appreciating-the-real-stars-of-sundance.html
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