35th Anniversary Gallery
“I was aware of Kenneth Cole before I met him. It started with his ads. I saw the risks he took as a businessman; he was either a genius or a self-destructive lunatic. It turned out he was the former. His willingness (and even eagerness) to take a stand for his passions – finding a cure for HIV/AIDS, finding homes for the thousands of homeless families in this country, and supporting young independent filmmakers – sets him apart from many classically trained entrepreneurs.”
“I wish I knew more people like Kenneth Cole. Wherever I go in the world he seems to be there, supporting a cause like the cure for AIDS or using his voice to promote compassionate activism. He is a total inspiration to me: a successful man who has always seen his success as a means to help others; a great father, husband, boss and friend; a game changer who feels the change is more important than whoever changed it. He has been such a kind and supportive friend to me and when I wear his clothes I feel like I am enveloped in his warmth, style and empathy. Happy anniversary, dear Ken x.”
“Kenneth is a steadfast example of what I strive to be in my own life. I admire his integrity, his business perspective, and his tenacious drive to constantly be of service. He has consistently been there for me, has personally placed shoes on my 2-year-old twins, and danced with me at my wedding. I’m so grateful to call him a friend.”
PRESIDENT Bill Clinton
“Over the past three-and-a-half decades, Kenneth has become a household name, an innovative leader in the shoe industry, and a designer with an impressive fashion line. Along the way, he has embraced a vision of twenty-first-century citizenship that requires successful business-people to solve social problems, advance good causes, and empower people to make the most of their lives.”
DIANE VON FURSTENBERG
“Kenneth is a natural leader and he has always understood that generosity is the best investment. From his work with AIDS to children in need to women's rights and marriage equality, he is an inspiration in the industry and beyond. Kenneth received the very first Swarovski Award for Positive Change from the CFDA and I received it the following year, so we share that honor and responsibility!”
“From the conception to the culmination of the “WE ALL HAVE AIDS” campaign, I realized how powerful the message could be. Kenneth Cole has consistently been committed to raising awareness about AIDS, and his message “WE ALL HAVE AIDS” was the perfect frame for the image we created. I am honored to have been part of this journey.”
“Over decades of tireless, innovative leadership, my dear friend Kenneth Cole has shown a passion and determination that has transformed the way we treat and prevent HIV/AIDS, and has helped move us closer to finally achieving our shared dream of an AIDS-free generation.”
Che "Rhymefest" Smith
“Kenneth Cole has impressed upon me that the real models are role models. The work my wife and I do through Art of Culture, Inc. on the Southside of Chicago had never been profiled in fashion. In addition to being selected as one of the inaugural Courageous Class models, Kenneth Cole supported our organization's annual fashion show with an inspirational video for participants and Kenneth Cole "swag" items, which the emerging designers incorporated into their runway looks. Looking good and doing good are not mutually exclusive and I owe that lesson to my friend and colleague, Mr. Kenneth Cole.”
“I look up to Kenneth Cole as not only a fashion designer, not only as a businessman, but as a leader in social change. In 2017, I was honored to join alongside the Kenneth Cole brand as one of its Courageous Class members. As an ambassador for NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), they explained to me how impactful Kenneth Cole had been to furthering their cause. His dedication to mental health awareness has been an instrumental part of NAMI’s ability to reach more people and inform them about the dangers of stigma towards mental illness. As I launch my own business, I think of the values of Kenneth Cole. He has been able to successfully create a company that does more than just sell clothes. It empowers people.”
“I have known Kenneth and Maria for many years, both
in New York and on Martha’s Vineyard. I know summer has begun when Kenneth calls me up and says:
“I’ve just caught a 75-foot striped bass. I’m gonna come over. It will fit in your freezer, won’t it?”
This comes with emptying my freezer out of berries and steaks and just fitting all 2,000 pounds of the striped bass in it. Let’s just say, he’s a fisherman, a pretty darn good one and a generous one at that. A little side job he has, after all the fishing is done, is designing some of the most elegant and wearable shoes, accessories and other pieces that are on the market today.”
“I first met Kenneth when I worked at MTV as the
Executive Director of the Staying Alive Foundation,
an organization that supports youth groups involved
in HIV/AIDS prevention.
We connected again at CFDA when we worked together on 7th on Sale which mobilized the fashion industry to raise funds for HIV/AIDS services. His leadership has always inspired me and his sense of civic responsibility is why he was the inaugural recipient of the Swarovski Award for Positive Change at the CFDA Fashion Awards.”
“I’ve been at the forefront of raising funds and attention to the devastating AIDS crisis in the early 80s as a founding board member of DIFFA and it’s been an
important part of my life and work. So, clearly I’ve
been a huge fan of Kenneth’s – both personally
and professionally. He is a straight man who took on
the mantle of being Chairman of amfAR – this in
addition to running his impressive business.
He worked tirelessly to raise funds and awareness. He used his most unique marketing platform of clever puns and sayings to make a difference and just maybe sell shoes or clothes. Each billboard, ad or campaign made us always stop and smile, think and hopefully act.
I enjoyed my conversation with him on the stage at the 92Y for my Fashion Icons series and we also used that platform to show his documentary about Dr. Mathilde Krim and then discuss this important history with Alan Cumming and Simon Doonan. I have the utmost respect and admiration for Kenneth Cole as the stand he takes in his shoes is like no other.”
Levi Jackman Foster
“Kenneth Cole’s long standing, outspoken support for the LGBTQ+ community has helped shape generations of socially conscious customers and empower activists around the world, myself included. His bravery as a man and brand is contagious. Thank you Kenneth!”
“Working with Kenneth Cole has been a way for me to use my platform. He is an amazing advocate for social change around the world and he is one of my favorite people to work with because he uses himself and his company to be the change he wants to see by working with role models. That’s how we address issues around the world.”
“Throughout our 40 years of friendship, Kenneth’s philanthropic footsteps have been the toughest ones to follow. Prolific in his ability to give back, his authentic dedication to the causes he cares about sets him apart from the crowd. Kenneth is a true example of how to make a difference and to do so with genuineness and humility.”
When I lived in New York in the 1990s, it was the billboards that impressed me, always. Not just that Kenneth Cole had figured out a way to marry social activism with commerce. Not just his intuition that wearing his brand could make you feel good, and part of something bigger than you. Not just that he put himself way out there politically – fearlessly and authentically. Not just that.
It was that he did it with style and humor.
Kenneth challenges the idea that to communicate effectively you have to be strident or bullying. He communicates with wit, a side glance and a slow smile. He doesn’t have to show off how knowledgeable and passionate he is. He just is, and you find yourself leaning in to know more.
I spend much of my activist time in the reproductive rights space. There are those with whom I work who are strident and bullying, and I don’t judge them for that, not one bit. But I find myself drawn more to people like Sarah Silverman and Nancy Northup – people who embody style, wit and quiet confidence. Just like Kenneth Cole.
I met Kenneth in Martha’s Vineyard on the wrong day of a party. My friend and I walked up to a house for a 4th of July bash (“It seems quiet,” we said, “Is this the right time?”) The door was open. We walked in, shouting a hello. And there was Kenneth Cole, his beautiful wife Maria and probably a beautiful child or two, sitting in shorts and reading the paper, none of them at all hostile to the idea of two strangers walking through their unlocked door. Quite the opposite. It’s like Kenneth expected us to wander into his house; he greeted us with grace and humor, (“Oh my god!” my friend and I said, “The party is tomorrow!”) Kenneth has created a life where new folks, new ideas, new style, new causes are always, without question, welcome to walk unannounced through his unlocked front door.
But it’s not just that. It’s that he does it with style and humor.
How lucky am I to be on the planet at the same time with the likes of you, Kenneth Cole. xoxox”
Jon Bon Jovi
“I’ve known Kenneth for many, many years and if there is one thing I can attest to, it’s his unwavering commitment and passion for making this world a better place (and thanks to his friendship, he’s made my world a better place too).”
“I met Kenneth 25 years ago in a way that shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows him, which is through charity. We worked together on HELP USA and I always remember his love and passion for helping others. Watching him has inspired me in more ways than one and his charitable initiatives have always made others think a lot deeper about the issues affecting our society. He gives his energy, money, and the most important thing...time. There is no one better as a mentor in giving and he has inspired me to continue to give back in my own way. Kenneth, I love you and congratulations on an amazing 35 years and counting. In life, you get what you give and you are definitely getting the love you deserve because you’ve given so much love to the world.”
“Kenneth Cole has been raising AIDS awareness through his advocacy and provocative ad campaigns for over 30 years. He joined the board of amfAR in 1987 and his unwavering dedication and non-stop drive to find a cure for HIV/AIDS has not wavered since. He is one of the most generous people I know and a cherished friend.”
“Kenneth Cole is an accomplished professional and a dedicated leader. He has utilized his resources to become a philanthropic leader and a meaningful force in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Homelessness and a voice for those without one. A remarkable man I am proud to call my friend.”
“Kenneth Cole is a man, a husband, a father, a philanthropist, a friend and a creative force. A huge congratulations for all the work and passion he puts into everything that he does from philanthropy to design. He creates, connects and communicates the change that is so needed in our community today. DK xx”