I’m gonna have people start calling me Kenneth . . .
Only so there’s the slight chance they’ll confuse me with this Kenneth . . .
The story for Kenneth Cole started four years ago when savvy
designer Kenneth Cole had a bright idea. After lining up factories, and
going to Europe to design a collection of shoes, his idea was to borrow
a 40 ft truck and park it in midtown Manhattan during the weekend of
the big Shoe Show and sell out the back of the trailer. At the time, a
shoe company had two options. One was get a room at the Hilton and
become 1 of about 1100 shoes companies selling their goods. Kenneth
Cole did not feel like it provided the identity or image he felt
necessary for a new company, plus it cost a lot more money than he had
to spend. The other way was to do what big companies were doing and get
a fancy showroom in the Midtown Manhattan area not too far from the
Hilton. This was even more expensive. So the idea of selling out of a
truck made sense to him.
He called a friend in
the trucking business and asked to borrow one of his trucks to park in
Midtown Manhattan. He said sure, but good luck getting permission.
Kenneth Cole then went to the Mayor’s office and asked how one gets
permission to park a 40 foot trailer truck in Midtown Manhattan. The
Major said one doesn’t. The only people the city gives parking permits
to are production companies shooting full length motion pictures and
utility companies like Con Ed or AT&T. So that day all the company
letterhead was changed from Kenneth Cole, Inc. to Kenneth Cole
Productions, Inc. and the next day they applied for a permit to shoot a
full length film entitled “The Birth of a Shoe Company.”
Kenneth Cole Productions painted on the side of the truck, they parked
at 1370 6th Avenue, across from the New York Hilton, the day of shoe
show. They opened for business with a fully furnished 40 ft trailer, a
director, models as actresses, and two of New York’s finest,
compliments of Mayor Koch, as our doormen. Kenneth Cole sold 40
thousand pairs of shoes in two and a half days (the entire available
production) and we were off and running.
since then, the company has grown from a shoe company to a global multi
line entity making not just shoes, but also handbags, apparel and
accessories. Kenneth Cole product can be seen worn by celebrities such
as Jessica Alba, Carrie Underwood, Charlize Theron, and much much more. (www.designerathletic.com)
Wow. Now that’s how you kick off a kompany, Kenny.
And doesn’t it just make you want to kick yourself? Because the idea seems so simple, so obvious, so right for a fashion company.
It’s the kind of idea that just makes cents.
For more on Ken’s story, read here.
Oh and here’s a question . . . how many people do you think laughed at Ken when he told them about this idea?
You know what I think? Explorers and pioneers, no matter what industry you’re in, whether it’s shoes or show business, are like comedians.
When people laugh at you . . . you’re on to something.
Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.