Kenneth Cole on the new normal and post-pandemic fashion priorities – Footwear News



The pandemic has changed lives in many ways and created significant changes that will impact our society and our businesses forever.

It was the message of Kenneth cole, who was the keynote speaker on opening day of the MAGIC and Project shows at the Las Vegas Convention Center here on Monday morning.

In a question-and-answer session with Edward Hertzman, founder of The Sourcing Journal and executive vice president of Fairchild Media, Cole said that after a year of incredible disruption, a new normal has emerged – one that’s unique to each. company and to each individual.

“It won’t be the same for both of us,” he said. Whether it’s a hybrid work model or more focused on our families, our planet or our mental health, each will emerge with different priorities.

That being said, Cole believes the fashion industry is better positioned than most because it reinvents itself with new collections every six months. And while businesses are now leaner and will need to be more agile and productive, fashion brands have proven to be able “to scale faster than most of us would have imagined,” a- he declared.

The pandemic has also placed a “disproportionate focus” on important issues outside of fashion, such as the planet and the people who live there.

Cole drew a parallel with another major health problem that wreaked havoc on society: the AIDS / HIV crisis of the 1980s.

“HIV was not so contagious, but it took over,” he said.

And while Cole didn’t expect to be a champion of social causes when he launched his shoe brand 38 years ago, it ended up defining his business.

More recently, Cole has turned his attention to mental health issues, which affect adults and youth alike.

The fashion industry, which is built on “perception”, is hit harder than most. “We are judged by the number of likes and retweets we get and the reviews,” he said. And we all need inner strength to overcome these parameters of success.

But whether it’s AIDS or mental health, a brand needs to have a real message and stay relevant to survive, he said.

“Things change all the time,” he said, “and we’ve built a platform for change.”

He continued, “The products are important but they come and go. It is the brand that endures. I don’t know anyone with a room in their closet, so you have to earn a spot.

During the pandemic, the brands that won were the ones that made consumers feel better about themselves and the choices they made with their spending money. Because Kenneth cole started creating masks to protect people from the virus, he ticked those boxes and added value to people’s lives.

He said today’s consumers have so much choice that in order for them to choose a particular brand, that brand must “constantly reinvent, reset and refocus.” You have earned the right to exist, but you have to earn the right to be chosen every day.

Without a distinct point of view, brands can lose their connection with their customers and “become a label, not a brand,” he said. “I always say, it’s good to be known for your shoes, but better to be known for your soul.”

Cole also weighed in on the pros and cons of being a public company. The brand had been public for over 20 years but became private again in 2012.

He said no brand should consider going public unless it “needs access to resources”. Wall Street’s scrutiny prevents companies from looking long-term, and the stock market also views inventory and marketing expenses as liabilities rather than assets, he said.

He also said joining forces with big companies is not a necessary path to success. “Bigger isn’t necessarily better,” he said.

Instead of selling to a big brand manager like Authentic Brands Group, Cole said his business has thrived by auctioning off its own licenses with “synergistic partners” who uphold the brand’s ethics. “If the product doesn’t look good or perform well, it casts a cloud over everything,” he said.


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