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9/12 fits Kenneth Cole fine

October 12, 2003|Carolyn Patricia Scott

Kenneth Cole, the clothing and accessories designer, is known perhaps as much for his provocative ad campaigns as for the merchandise his company sells. Using fashion as a springboard for political discussion, his is an activist atelier.

Cole, who titled his recently published his first book, "Footnotes," stopped amid a Southern California book tour (what better place to sell books than amid the department store racks?) to chat about his unusual melding of fashion savvy with a seeming sense that social commentary just might sell shoes:

"Over the years, we've effectively communicated a sense of the times, some times better than others. Probably the campaign where we got a very good grasp of where we were individually and collectively was our most recent campaign: the 9/12 campaign.

"Nobody wanted to talk about 9/11 for awhile, but there was nothing else on anyone's mind, and how can you be timely and relevant and not address it? It almost seemed inappropriate and odd to not go there, however the slight nuance there was that 9/11 was almost sacred. 9/11 had been talked about with compassion and emotion by more articulate people than we.

"But what hadn't been talked about by much was 9/12.

"My sense was that we as a nation had changed in so many ways the day after 9/11 -- and in some ways we hadn't changed at all. So the campaign was a series of images and a variety of messages that said: 'On 9/12, cab drivers waved at each other with all five fingers,' and, 'On 9/12, people who hadn't spoken to their parents in years forgot why,' and, 'On 9/12, 14,000 people still contracted HIV.'

"The world, for all of its problems and promise, went on.

"The New York Post accused us of being exploitive, but we wanted to be relevant. Looking back, I think maybe it was not only acceptable, but maybe it was the most acceptable that we'd done to date."

-- Carolyn Patricia Scott

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