Cole Marks 25th With New Campaign

Kenneth Cole's spring campaign, shot by Terry Richardson and breaking in March magazines such as Vogue, Men's Health and Vanity Fair, is intended to...

NEW YORK — Kenneth Cole’s spring campaign, shot by Terry Richardson and breaking in March magazines such as Vogue, Men’s Health and Vanity Fair, is intended to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary and also mark the beginning of many changes ahead for the brand.

This story first appeared in the February 7, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The campaign features 11 “regular people” who live their lives in nonuniform ways — either by choice or circumstance. Aimee Mullins, for example, is a Paralympic athlete and actor and Channing Moss is a U.S. Army soldier injured in Afghanistan. “We are kind of relaunching the brand this year, so we wanted to do something surprising and different,” said Kyle Andrews, senior vice president of marketing. “But we are being true to our heritage of having a strong social message and voice. Going with models didn’t feel like the brand. A core element of Kenneth is doing things differently than anyone else would.”

There will also be a significant online effort, involving YouTube and viral videos. “We have kennethcole.com at the bottom of our ads now, instead of our logo.” She said online represents a much larger portion of the company’s marketing effort than ever before, but declined to discuss the money behind it.

Apart from the campaign, rebranding will involve putting more emphasis on the Kenneth Cole New York label. “Customers love it and partners [such as department stores] want it,” Andrews said. “It’s the brand that we will really showcase now, market, spend more on and talk about the most.”

For women, Kenneth Cole Reaction will turn into Kenneth Cole New York by fall and a new men’s underwear line will launch in April.

The brand has also asked an outside design firm to work on a redesign for all of its stores and shops-in-shop, such as those at Macy’s. Cole himself is working on another book, which will include “big names” and discuss ways to get involved and give back. The designer also is launching a blog in March that will be a forum to discuss the social issues and causes that are important to him.

“We want to get him out there more. He’s a great marketing asset,” said Andrews. “His guest appearance on ‘Ugly Betty’ was really successful and the more people see him out there, at events and appearances, the better it is for the brand in the long run.”