GRADUATE DEGREEKenneth Cole has teamed with the Council of Fashion Designers of America on a new initiative supporting burgeoning accessory design talent.

Called the Kenneth Cole Footwear + Accessory Innovation Award, the new laurel — launching this month — will honor and award top U.S. design school seniors with post-graduate work placement.

Men’s and women’s accessory design students at 14 domestic programs including those at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Rhode Island School of Design are invited to submit portfolios for a bag and/or shoe design brand concept to be reviewed by a panel of Kenneth Cole and CFDA professionals.

The submissions must include a collection concept, as well as a “fully envisioned brand story encompassing a social or community-based component,” according to an announcement for the competition.

Depending on the quality of submissions, either one or two students will receive the award — a 12-month post-graduate fellowship with Kenneth Cole Productions.

Kenneth Cole has pledged a five-year commitment to the award. Inaugural winners will be named in early May.

Cole, who is traveling, said of the new initiative in a statement: “I am excited to be partnering with the CFDA on a Footwear + Accessory Innovation Program. Innovation is what distinguishes each of us from each other, and determines our ongoing viability.  It is a powerful tool that I hope the students will embrace.”

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