Behind the Scenes: Entrepreneur, Designer, Philanthropist Kenneth Cole

During my interview with Kenneth Cole in his Manhattan offices for our July cover story, three things happened that didn’t make it into the article but told me more about Kenneth Cole as a person than many of the answers he gave me.

No. 1. I arrived about 20 minutes early for the interview. After waiting a few minutes in a well-appointed conference room (decorated with shoes, of course), I asked for the nearest ladies’ room. When I returned to the conference room, there was Kenneth Cole. Yep, five minutes early himself. But, did he make a fuss—or even a face—that I had kept him waiting? No. He turned, smiled, extended his hand and greeted me graciously. Not only was he early to the interview (which, honestly, rarely happens), he was very understanding of my unexpected tardiness.

No. 2. As we sat down at the conference table, he pulled out a necktie from his jacket pocket, and chuckled. “I have two ties. Just in case,” he said. “I guess I didn’t realize I already had a tie on.” He laughed at himself a little, unrolled the tie from his pocket, held it up and asked, “Which do you prefer?” I told him I liked the one he already had on. “Good, good,” he said, rolling the other tie and placing it back into his pocket. “How many of your subjects give you a choice of neckwear?” he asked, smiling. Not many. And not many are as willing and able to laugh at themselves, either.

No. 3. Near the end of the interview, Cole showed me the red rubber bracelet he was wearing to benefit Haiti disaster relief. His youngest daughter, Catie, was selling them, and he had been doing his best to help her. After the interview, we shook hands, said our thank yous and he left the room. I was gathering my things when Cole came rushing back into the conference room. “Amy,” he said, a little out of breath, “the bracelets are $5.” In his hand, he held out one of Catie’s red bracelets. He’s a salesman at heart, that Kenneth Cole. Well, you can guess what I wore on the plane ride home.

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