Kenneth Cole, who has used his stature as a fashion industry leader to make an impact on causes such as community service and helping the homeless, will speak at SMU April 6 as part of the 2009-10 Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series. The evening event begins at 8 p.m. in McFarlin Auditorium.
After helping his father’s shoe manufacturing company launch the world-renowned Candies brand in the early 1970s, Cole founded Kenneth Cole Productions with the debut of a women’s footwear collection in 1982. Today the company is one of the nation’s most successful and respected fashion houses, designing and marketing a full range of products through more than 5,000 distribution points globally.
Cole has used his company to promote social consciousness through unconventional advertising that touches on issues from gun control and cloning to abortion and AIDS. His personal philosophy is expressed in the book he co-authored in 2003, Footnotes: What You Stand For Is More Important Than What You Stand In. His most recent book, Awearness: Inspiring Stories About How to Make a Difference, was published in 2008.
In 2008 the company launched AWEARNESS: Kenneth Cole, a not-for-profit entity that encourages community service. Cole is chair of The Foundation for AIDS Research and a founding board member of HELP USA, an organization that helps the homeless become self-reliant. He also is a board member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and The Sundance Institute.
Cole will answer questions from SMU community members and local high school students in the Turner Construction/Wells Fargo Student Forum at 4:30 p.m. April 6 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballroom.