NEW YORK — Kenneth Cole New York’s catchy new spring campaign slogan — “The future is about to be redressed” — could just as well refer to the company itself.
A year after hiring Jill Granoff as chief executive officer of Kenneth Cole Productions Inc., Cole is ready to make his next big move in the ongoing strategy to position the $492 million firm for growth. Today, the company will name Ingo Wilts as creative director, a newly created role, effective Aug. 1. Wilts joins from Hugo Boss, where he designed women’s and men’s wear and accessories as senior vice president and creative director of Boss Black, Boss Selection and Boss Green. He will report to Cole.
Cole, who founded the footwear and apparel company in 1982, will continue to serve as chairman and chief creative officer, and is expected to become even more of a brand ambassador, setting the overall tone for the brand.
Wilts will be in charge of design and visual merchandising of all product classifications at Kenneth Cole New York and Kenneth Cole Reaction. His hire will allow Cole to focus on the bigger picture and devote more time to social initiatives such as the nonprofit Awearness Fund, which he created in 2007 to raise awareness of social issues such as AIDS and homelessness. Cole, well-known for his humanitarian efforts, is also chairman of amfAR, and a founding board member of HELP USA, among other initiatives.
Since joining the company last year from Liz Claiborne Inc., where she was executive vice president of direct brands, Granoff has worked closely with Cole to develop a strategic platform, and the appointment of a creative director is just one of several initiatives to prepare for a future expected to look significantly different once the recession ends.
“The industry is changing in some very profound ways,” Cole said. “I don’t think the customer is going to go back to shopping the way [he or she] has shopped before, so you have to be very clear. You will get a chance to tell your story and you have to tell it in a very concise and compelling way, and I think that there is an opportunity to evolve the business model today.
“We are very focused on executing better, testing better and reacting more efficiently,” he added. “It requires a quick point of view. It requires certain levels of distribution that you’re in, and a comprehensive sourcing structure.”
Since its founding, Kenneth Cole has grown into a diversified business, with labels such as Kenneth Cole New York, Reaction and Unlisted, across various price points and product categories in apparel, footwear, fragrance and accessories.
Under Granoff, the company reorganized its management teams. Key hires over the past 12 months included president of wholesale Chris Nakatani; senior vice president of human resources Danesha Dixon Smith; senior vice president and chief marketing officer Kristen Dykstra, and now Wilts.
Wilts joined Boss as a designer of men’s sportswear in 1997, but left in 1999 to design men’s sportswear at Joop in Hamburg. He returned to Boss in September 2000and rose to one of the top jobs in the Metzingen, Germany-based firm. That experience, Cole said, made him the perfect candidate for the position. The search for a creative director was conducted by Karen Harvey Associates.
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“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia