Kenneth Cole is known for causing controversy almost as much as he is for his work as a designer. This is the guy, after all, who left the runway seven years ago because he was "struggling" with the internet, only to turn around and fully embrace it--managing to piss a lot of people off in the process (most recently by tweeting about Syria).
So it's no surprise that his new book, This Is a Kenneth Cole Production, highlights both sides of Cole. Published by Rizzoli, the book features letters from big names like President Bill Clinton, Robert Redford, and Diane von Furstenberg, alongside letters from customers and detractors alike. The book will set you back $75--but all Cole's profits will be donated to amfAR.
To support the book, Cole will embark on a campus tour--but before he heads out, we were able to ask him a few questions about the inspiration for the book and why he wants to reach out to college students in particular.
What inspired you to put this book together? We wanted to do a book that was a "biography of the brand" and to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We wanted to share our journey through art and let the images tell the story. It really hasn’t been told this way before.
Also, we wanted it told by an outsider. Having Lisa Birnbach work with me on telling the story gave it a fresh perspective. We have been telling our own story for years the same way, so she was interested in getting the untold pieces through our interviews. It helped lead me in a different direction at times and helped me remember things and reveal more information.
How did you choose the images that would appear in This Is a Kenneth Cole Production? It was hard to narrow it down. We just finished our ad archive [found at 30YearsBold.com] and the campaigns are extensive. Ultimately, we chose those images that told a story on their own and needed little explanation--and ones that most represented our "voice” over the years. These are the most impactful messages and sometimes the most controversial.
Why do a college tour to promote it? I have long been involved in various fellowship programs in “community engagement” at universities nationwide. I believe the greatest service we can provide for our communities is to assist in identifying, inspiring, and empowering our future leaders. These fellowship programs serve to inspire and empower the next generation of community leaders by introducing them to the challenges and opportunities for community building and social change.
So we thought the book tour helped expand this effort and reach even more students. And I personally enjoy talking with students, which I don’t get to do very often. They inspire me as a designer, a father, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist.
Check out our exclusive images from This is a Kenneth Cole Production: