Kenneth Cole has been advocating for AIDS research since the 1980s when the disease was stigmatized as the “gay virus,” those affected by it were marginalized and few dared to discuss it openly. Cole courageously began to change this, addressing AIDS in his pioneering brand campaigns and joining amfAR’s board in 1987. He also has donated over 2 million pairs of shoes to the homeless. He built a health center in Haiti. In his first five years as amfAR’s chairman, he doubled the nonprofit’s size. The list of inspiring accomplishments goes on and on.
For Cole, philanthropy isn’t a side project. Tolerance isn’t a PR strategy. This is his life, his mission, his brand. Like few other designers, Cole has used his voice to make a social, political, and societal statement. His brand has changed the game with a New Yorker’s in-your-face approach to herald positive change. “If you look good,” Cole says, “you will invariably feel good, and be more inclined to do good.”