Generation X-ers: Want to feel old? Kenneth Cole, 59, is celebrating 30 years in the fashion business. The NYC-based shoe designer-turned-lifestyle brand is marking the milestone with a sleek Rizzoli coffee table book, This Is A Kenneth Cole Production. The literary time capsule illustrates Cole’s climb to the top, starting with clippings about the young footwear designer who was intent on being a lawyer until he spent a summer working at his father’s Brooklyn shoe factory.
Flip through for more retro images of Cole’s first freestanding store on Columbus Avenue, various runway models in his sophisticated yet wearable creations and envelope-pushing ads campaigns featuring faces from all walks of media, from Hasidic rapper Matisyahu and Tammy Faye Bakker to Gen. Manuel Noriega and Newt Gingrich.
We talked to Cole, who has been doing the local rounds. On Thursday, the married father of three (his wife is producer Maria Cuomo, daughter of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo) talked to a crowd at UM’s Storer Auditorium. On Saturday, the avid AIDS activist will make an appearance from 2-4 p.m. at Aventura Bloomingdale’s, second floor.
What inspired you to put out this book?
We wanted to share our journey through art and let the images tell the story. Also, we wanted it told by an outsider. Having Lisa Birnbach [ The Official Preppy Handbook] work with me gave it a fresh perspective. The book itself is laid out in five chapters about how we found our distinctive voice and married it with the fashion.
How much has the fashion world changed in 30 years?
Social media has had a profound impact on the industry. Everyone can consume fashion on their own terms; customers are their own brands and curate their own content. Social media has created a dialogue where the customer is able to tell us what they want and then we can act on that.
Can you recall the biggest fashion disaster in the last 30 years? Scrunchies?
A fashion disaster always makes a comeback, that’s what makes fashion so great, what’s ‘out’ is not really ‘out’ forever!
Who is one of the best-dressed celebrities these days, in your opinion?
James Franco. He is the modern day James Dean: confident, cool and effortless.
What is a piece that will never go out of style?
In fashion, you have to reinvent yourself every day. It’s all about creating product that will transcend one given cycle to the next so that you can wear the product for multiple seasons. A good leather motorcycle jacket and a pair of dark denim jeans are my picks for both sexes.
What is something you personally would never throw out of your closet?
A leather jacket. It’s timeless, gets better with age, and is a great transitional piece from season to season.
Have any style tips that you can impart to season-deficient South Floridians?
Less is more.
What are some trends you are seeing lately?
Camouflage is huge right now. The deconstructed interpretation of the print has transferred itself from the runways directly to city streets in everything from clothing to accessories.
Who or what gets your creative juices flowing?
New York has always been an inspiration to me. It’s a global melting pot of different cultures and encourages people to celebrate their differences while also developing a sense of community and coexistence.
What is a typical day for you?
I start off with an early morning workout; answer emails, attend design and marketing meetings, and do product reviews. Though no day is ever the same. I wrap up over dinner at home with my family. I try to be asleep by midnight; after all, I’ve got to wake up in five hours and start all over again.
All profits from the $75 book go to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. RSVP: 305-792-1223.