Kenneth Cole Visits SMU for the Tate Lecture Series
April 6, 2010
by Laura Noble
Known best as a household shoe brand and as a bigwig among fashion’s elite, designer Kenneth Cole showed off his funny side along with his philanthropic chops during a visit to SMU for the Tate Lecture Series Tuesday evening in McFarlin Auditorium.
After a brief introduction by SMU President R. Gerald Turner, Cole loosened up the crowd with a few self-deprecating jokes and one-liners.
“My favorite quote is, ‘Before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes,” said Cole pausing for a moment. “‘If you don’t like them, then at least you’ll be a mile away and have their shoes.’”
Passing his own metaphorical shoes to the audience, Cole launched into his company’s history and background starting from the 1983 beginning selling shoes out of a 40-foot trailer truck makeshift-store in the middle of New York City.
He touched on the importance of fashion and its meaning in his life before diving into even deeper topics concerning his social activism.
“Fashion is ubiquitous,” Cole declared. “It’s really the only universal language and it’s how people form their basic opinions of us.”
Though his passion for style runs deep, his second motivation comes from his involvement with the non-profits like Help USA for the homeless and The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR).
He admitted that his philanthropic involvement started as a business idea, but revealed that each issue has become profoundly personal for him— he’s even taken to blogging about the importance of being aware and taking action to help others.
Returning to the fashion perspective, Cole wrapped up with a few words about his success and how his company has grown to thrive.
“The key is to find a unique point of view, find a place for it and own it,” Cole told the Daily Mustang in an interview before the lecture.
When it came to any last pearls of wisdom, Cole didn’t hesitate before coyly sharing a few parting words: “It’s great to be known for shoes, better to be known for your sole.”