Kenneth Cole returns to the runway tonight after a seven year hiatus. But don’t expect a traditional runway show.
After all, this is the guy who, 30 years ago, first showed his line of shoes in a movie trailer on a city street during the FFANY (Fashion Footwear Association of New York) shoe show instead of going the conventional (and more expensive) route and renting a showroom space. (He had to register his company as Kenneth Cole Productions to get the permit).
For tonight’s show expect a social media onslaught. The runway will be livestreamed, pinned, Instagrammed, tweeted, Facebooked and Tumbled--with a good cause in mind, too: For every @Kennethcole follower who tweets using the hashtag #KCRUNWAY, Kenneth Cole Productions will donate $1 to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research (Cole was an honoree at the amfAR gala last night).
“We're hopefully going to give people a fashion show experience they've never experienced before,” Cole told us over the phone. “It's all about using a mix of social platforms.” Cole’s personal Instagram and Twitter are, as we speak, capturing him preparing for the show.
It’s an ironic tactic considering Cole made a notorious social media blunder when, during the Egypt uprising, he (or someone from his camp) tweeted “Millions are in uproar over #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online.” But that was two years ago. And even though Cole considers himself a “frustrated social networker” he understands the value of social media--even when it backfires.
“If I'm not receptive to what people have to say then we're going to have a hard time deserving that relationship,” Cole said. “We're out there online exposed. But that's the cost of entry today. That's the way business is done. If you're not open to that then I'm not sure this is the business you want to be in.”
Cole says he left the runway seven years ago partly because he was “struggling” with the effects of the internet. “Everyone was having access to this new element of content and at the same time the product isn't available to them because it was off season.”
For his return to the runway, Cole seems to have a firm grasp on how to operate online to best engage a global audience. “Today everybody is an editor - some are thoughtful and some are less so,” he said. “But everybody has a platform that can be validated on their terms. It's very different but also makes it so exciting. Just when you think you've figured it out you realize that you better not lie down.”
And Cole’s still standing.