“I thought it was quirky; I thought it was funny,” Kenneth Cole admits over lunch yesterday at NYC’s The Little Owl. Sure, this take on his February Tweet-astrophe departs from the public apology he issued on its heels, when he deemed said tweet “absolutely inappropriate”. (Again, for reference, the tweet: “Millions in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC.”)
But Cole is one of the only fashion industry vets who might’ve earned the right to shrug off such a blunder. His career’s marked by a constant effort to raise both money and awareness for pressing issues, by starting foundations of his own (Awearness), and creating products that both give back (tees to benefit the gulf oil spill clean up) and spread messages (his “We All Have AIDS” shirts). February’s Tweet may have been a PR debacle, but those 140 characters didn’t come from a character that’s apathetic to current affairs. One of the first questions Cole asked us over grilled char and mashed potatoes was “If you could ask Barack Obama one question, what would it be?” (The designer may have been sourcing material, as he attended Anna Wintour’s fundraiser for the President just last night.)
So it’s easy to believe that Cole’s new Where Do You Stand campaign is much more than just a mollifying PR maneuver. The campaign, headquartered on wheredoyoustand.com, centers on four major social issues: marriage equality, gun control, reproductive rights, and war. As a catalyst for conversation, Cole enlisted a handful of sites like Pink Is the New, The Gloss, and xojane to create provocative videos exploring their side of a particular issue. Emily of xojane, for example, expounds on her pro-choice stance while taking a pregnancy test*. On camera. In her office bathroom stall.
Like Cole’s 2008 “We all walk in different shoes” ad campaign (which featured transgenders, same sex couples, and amputees as models), the new campaign’s a creative way not only to sell clothes but also to spark engaging, socially-conscious dialogue. You know, about something a little more important than PR gaffes (for that, we can now turn to the firm repping the INC Editor at Large campaign, and their horrid press release this week).
As he discussed Where Do You Stand, Cole’s eyes sparkled, saying “in my heart, I don’t believe that what we [the fashion industry] do is the most important part of anyone’s life”. Of course, if you disagree, you can always hop on over to his website and weigh in yourself. And maybe buy some shoes.