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20 Things You Didn't Know About the Kenneth Cole Company

Almost everyone recognizes the name Kenneth Cole. You can't stroll through high end department stores such as Macy's and other retailers, both on premises and online without seeing the name broadly advertised as an easily identifiable popular fashion brand. It hasn't been around as long as some of the top fashion brands, but once the public got a sample of the high quality in build and classic yet contemporary styling, Kenneth Cole quickly became a favorite. Here are twenty things that we bet you didn't know about the Kenneth Cole company,

1. The company bears the name of its founder

Kenneth D. Cole is an American fashion clothing designer who was born on March 23, 1954. He turned 64 years old this March. Cole's fashion designs are known throughout the world. They are sold in high end department stores as well as in some bargain outlet centers and are also available online. He is the founder of the popular brand that bears his name.

2. It started with a line of footwear

When the Kenneth Cole brand of fashion footwear first began, it was a collection of footwear. It wasn't until a little later that the massive expansion into men and women's fashion clothing, shoes and accessories that we are all familiar with would come into existence. The founder's father was the owner of a shoe manufacturing business in New York called the El Greco Shoe Manufacturing Company.

3. The Kenneth Cole brand offers quality at reasonable prices

While some of the more high end fashion lines charge high prices for their products, the Kenneth Cole company has maintained a moderate price range so more people can afford the high quality shoes, clothing and accessories that are manufactured and distributed.

4. There are Kenneth Cole brand items to suit all budgets

The most expensive Kenneth Cole line is the Kenneth Cole Collection. This line was launched in 2012. The second most expensive is the Kenneth Cole New York line consisting of ladies and men's fashion and accessories including watches and fragrances with prices ranging between $100 and $795. Gentle Souls products are women's shoes in the $80 to $300 range, and the Kenneth Cole Reaction line is a casual line that became available in 1996.

Items in the Reaction collection are priced affordably between $35 to $250 including both men and women's fashion and accessories. The Unlisted collection is a reasonably priced line including handbags and men and women's clothing in the $25 to $100 price range. The Tribeca collection is yet the least expensive line with a price range between $50 and $70.

5. The company has labels that fall under a Canadian company

There are four Kenneth Cole lines of women and men's apparel that are made by the Haggar Canada, Company, which is a subsidiary branch of the Haggar Clothing Company. These include Kenneth Cole Black Label; Kenneth Cole New York; Reaction Kenneth Cole and Unlisted, a Kenneth Cole Production. Haggar also distributes and markets these products.

6. The company changed names once

Kenneth Cole founded Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. in 1982. Although the title may sound a little like a film production company, it's close. The company that he founded is the American fashion house that produces high quality clothing, and it was first named Kenneth Cole Inc., but later changed its name. Cole completed an application to produce a full length film, which he titled, "The Birth of a Shoe Company." This gives the world a glimpse into the passion that he had for the shoe making industry that his father, and later he, was a part of.

7. The business had humble beginnings

Shortly after the opening of the Kenneth Cole Inc., business, the owner was faced with the dilemma of advertising his new line of shoes. He was determined to show a preview of them at the New York Hilton's Market Week, but he couldn't afford to pay for the showroom or a hotel room at the Hilton to display his wares. He sought permission to set up a trailer, a few blocks from the hotel to display his shoes, but he was told that only film production trailers were allowed in the area. It was then that he changed the name of his business to sound like a film production company, and applied for the permit to shoot a full length feature film.

8. The company enjoyed a great marketing success early in the game

"The Birth of a Shoe Company" was perhaps the most brilliant marketing strategy that Cole could have imagined. He shot the film out of necessity, but immediately after its release, his products were in a frenzied demand. Amazingly, within two and a half days of showing the film about how his shoe company began, the company sold in excess of forty thousand pairs of the Kenneth Cole line of shoes.

9. It took 12 years to fully go public

Kenneth Cole was busy trying to make his new company a success. It took time and a lot of hard work. it wasn't until 1994 that he finally went public. He was quite the sensation and the fashion mogul has made it to the 200 Best Small Companies on the prestigious Forbes list a total of four times. He didn't jump to the top immediately, but his slow and steady progress has paid off in the long run.

10. The Kenneth Cole Company contributes back to the community

The owner of this business has not taken its amazing success lightly, nor is he ungrateful for the things that he has been able to accomplish. He established the Kenneth Cole Foundation and has joined forces with Emory University, the college that he attended before his success. The two entities established the Kenneth Cole Fellows in Community Building and Social Change Program. The program is operating within Emory University and seeks to effect positive change within the local and extended communities.

11. The company has a tremendous social conscience

Kenneth Cole has made certain that the advertising evidences a social conscience. Although the causes that the company has backed throughout have at times been controversial, this has seemingly been of no consequence to Cole, who has enjoyed tremendous success in his business. Kenneth Cole Productions had special T shirts designed for his World AIDS Day campaign in 2005.

In support of those with AIDS, they attempted to decrease the stigma that is associated with the disease by producing the Tees that read "I have AIDS," or "We All Have AIDS." It was a goal to be of help and to make people who do have the illness feel less isolated from the rest of the public. While some consumers thought it was a good idea, not everyone agreed with the sale of the line.

The founder comes from a long line of Jewish ancestors and he realizes how stigma can affect a person's life because of the struggles that Jewish people endured at the hands of the crazed dictator Adolf Hitler. Cole figured that if it was hard to distinguish who had AIDS from those who didn't, it may help things.

12. Kenneth Cole Productions tries to increase public awareness

Kenneth Cole Productions began a new campaign in the summer of 2007, called the "Awearness Campaign." The company produces Tee shirt lines that are sold with a percentage of the proceeds going towards the charities that they designate at the time. This is a huge promotion that includes a book titled "Awearness: Inspiring Stories About How to Make a Difference" to promote the need for everyone to become involved in funding worthwhile charities. Several different celebrities are highlighted in the book that gives us a look at how each of them are doing their part to assist in the causes that they believe in.

13. The company has tackled the issue of teachers vs student rights

Cole threw his hat into the ring and weighed in on the national debate that was taking place in April 2012 over education that was hotly discussed regarding Teachers vs student rights. He had a billboard placed at a busy area on the West Side Highway that entered New York City that simply stated, "Shouldn't Everyone Be Well Red?"

Not everyone agreed with the message nor its intent. David Sirota called Cole out on peddling propaganda about teachers who he believed were failing to perform. Sirota's attack wasn't that well received either, because whether it offended some educators or not, Cole's point was well-taken and there weren't many people in the New York area who felt that underperforming teachers deserved to be protected.

In the end, Cole ended up taking the billboard down and making a public apology, on behalf of himself and the company over Twitter because the issue was far too complicated to tackle with a single billboard comment and it actually did more harm than good.

14. This business stands in support of progressive social causes

The owner of this company has actively been involved in public support of the efforts to conduct AIDS research and raising of public awareness. He was one of the first well-known celebrities in the fashion industry to step up to the plate and make his voice heard on the issue. He skillfully used advertisement to raise public awareness about AIDS so people would begin to think about it.

This wasn't the only cause that Cole championed. He has also taken an interest in the issue of homelessness as well as educational issues. His campaigns have resulted in the generation of a lot of money that has helped a variety of causes. Cole chaired the AmFAR board as well as supporting Mentoring USA and Rock the Vote. Recently in November of 2017, a group of sixty activists demanded that Kenneth step down from the AmFar board because a federal investigation was launched regarding his involvement in money laundering and fraud with charity funds.

15. The owner gave the business some bad press

Kenneth Cole has never been afraid to use current affairs in the advertising of his product lines. He posted a Twitter comment that referred to the Egyptian protests taking place in February of 2011. He indicated that part of the reason for the uproar in the country was because the locals discovered that there was a new Kenneth Cole fashion line becoming available and it didn't go over as intended. There was a public outrage over the audacity of the Tweet and the result was a Facebook apology made personally by Cole and deletion of the entry.

16. Kenneth Cole Productions supports animals rights initiatives

The old days of gaining prestige by wearing animal fur accented clothing is going by the wayside. Kenneth Cole Productions made the announcement in August of 2006, that their company would no longer sell fur in any of their garment lines from the Fall of 2007 forward.

17. The business has had setbacks, then bounced back

Kenneth Cole Productions took what is called a sustained revenue slide which began in 2008. This led brokerage house analysts to cut the company's stock ratings. Although the business did come out of the red and back into a status of profitability, the estimates from analysts is still not strong for the upcoming year. The decision was made to close remaining outlet stores in favor of pursuing the e-commerce side of business in January of 2017.

18. The company has fallen under harsh criticism

Kenneth Cole Productions was having a hard time in the Spring of 2007. There were problems with keeping their bricks and mortar stores properly staffed. The management severely failed to rotate their staff members in accordance with labor laws for rest and meal breaks during working hours. Several store managers were forced to work up to nine hours without a single break. The Supreme Court of California required to company to compensate these employees in the form of back pay of an extra hour a day, which was minimal retribution for overworking its employees.

19. When Hurricane Katrina hit, Kenneth Cole Productions was there

When the chips were down, the Kenneth Cole Productions company was at the forefront, doing what they could to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Through one of their charity campaigns, the company supplied donations of shoes and clothing for people who were left homeless by the event. The retail store offered discounts to shoppers who were willing to make donations of shoes and clothing to help out in the situation. This was a nationwide effort, with proceeds going to help those who were in need.

20. Their advertisements are interesting

The Kenneth Cole Productions Company has some of the most interesting ads in the industry. While some of them contain political messages, not all of them do. Some are created to be intentionally humorous. The marketing strategists often use puns and plays on words in the ads that get people's attention and makes them smile. It's a great system because it makes the brand name more memorable. An example of one of their advertisements is, "Are you putting us on?"

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Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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