Kenneth Cole has long been a supporter of the LGBTQ community, and the brand’s recent Pride collection — the third such edition — was celebrated last night in New York in conjunction with Pride month. At its Bond + Bowery store, the fashion house brought together several advocates to commemorate its “Tied with Pride” campaign along with Out Magazine and special guest, actress Caitlin Kinnunen.
The collection includes low-top sneakers, offered in black and white, which feature rainbow laces and accents on the heel tab. Celebrities like Kerry Washington, Kelly Osbourne and Lena Waithe are just a few of the notables that have already been seen spotting the shoes. This year, the brand also added apparel to the mix for the first time with shirts, hats and socks.
Kinnunen, who will star in the broadway musical “The Prom” this fall, performed a ballad from the upcoming show at the event. Cole was also present and the designer shared some words about the significance of supporting the community.
The duo spoke to FN during the event to offer words of encouragement for individuals who identify as LGBTQ in a world that isn’t always accepting.
FN: You’ve been an advocate of the LGBTQ community for over 35 years and back then it was a very different landscape. How did you find the courage at that time?
Kenneth Cole: “I’ve always sought as an individual, also as a brand, to relate to people. Not just what’s on their body, not just what they stand in but also what they stand for. Human rights is something we’ve always believed in and the LGBT community [experienced a] lack of acceptance that was extraordinarily debilitating. This is at a time when HIV first became and issue and then as it became pervasive we started seeing people dying at rates that were just overwhelming. It became an opportunity to get involved in something very meaningful and a way to make the business and the brand and the man equally part of that crusade.”
FN: How would you like to see more companies incorporating the LGBTQ community in an authentic way?
Caitlin Kinnunen: “I honestly just think they need to do it. They need to embrace the fact that this is a community that is here and proud and loud. They need to say we aren’t going to ignore you anymore and just do it.”
KC: “Whatever you do, do it in a genuine way. This isn’t a marketing campaign this is an expression of the brand, and it’s part of the DNA and it’s not something we’ll do this season and then something else next season. And if you do it, be transparent and make it real and that’s what we do. And it’s about not just what you say it’s about making an impact. Ideally a measurable, meaningful and sustainbale impact.”
FN: Despite changing times, people still receive backlash for how they identify. What advice do you have for them?
CK: “I think people need to truly embrace themselves. You can’t shy away from it and that’s terrifying but if you step out and you are proud of who you are eventually people will come around to it. It’s one of those things that’s easier said than done but people have to really work on acknowledging who they are on the inside and take baby steps to show other people. It doesn’t have to be instantaneous, it doesn’t have to be a huge thing. You can just tell one person you’re close to and then tell some more. Baby steps all the way.”