New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made an appearance at the 2020 American Image Awards, presented and produced by the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), on Wednesday evening.
Gov. Cuomo had the honor of presenting designer and his brother-in-law of 32 years, Kenneth Cole, with the Person of the Year award. But before he talked about Cole, Cuomo gave kudos to the Alibaba Group, which took home the Retailer Innovator trophy, for its sizable donation of masks to the World Health Organization during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Afterwards, Cuomo lightened the mood with jokes about Cole. Cuomo said his brother-in-law continuously rejected his marketing suggestions through the years, including slogans: “Kenneth Cole: Where Shoes Have Soul,” and “Kenneth Cole: I’m no loafer.” He even offered to appear as a model, but again, was turned away.
“He’s not just a great businessman, but he’s a great person,” Cuomo added. “Heart, sole, community and unity, that’s what the fashion industry brought this year.”
Cole received the Person of the Year title for his tireless work fighting against social injustices and specifically for his latest initiative: The Mental Health Coalition. It is large-scale commitment that will bring together nonprofits, businesses, brands, celebrities and influencers in a coordinated effort to destigmatize mental health.
The coalition, which launched in May, is an online platform and digital hub featuring resources from partners, such as The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Bring Change to Mind, Child Mind Institute, Crisis Text Line, JED Foundation, Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and The Trevor Project, to help guide those seeking help.
“This is so far beyond than anything I could have imagined,” Cole told FN in May. “Mental health affects everyone. At the end of this process, you’ll see that people will reach a comfort zone and will make it more much acceptable to talk about mental health. That’s the plan.”
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, experts have documented a surge in emotional distress worldwide as people grapple with the repercussions of the health crisis, not the least of which are mental-health related. In addition, Cole has been a vocal about the importance of health safety amid the coronavirus, launching multiple campaigns supporting face masks. He also launched a line of personal protective wear, with proceeds going towards The Mental Health Coalition.
In his speech, Cole thanked Cuomo and his team, and in closing said, “Vote and wear a f—ing mask.”
The virtual event benefited the Council of Fashion Designers Association (CFDA), its charity partner for the past four years. Other winners included Designer of the Year Brandon Maxwell, Fashion Maverick Bravo’s “Project Runway,” and Company of the Year Ralph Lauren Corporation.