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Kenneth Cole Is Revamping Its Brand Identity by Embracing Its Activist Past

Campaign highlights social causes

Transgender model Andreja Pejic is featured in Kenneth Cole's new campaign.

For years, Kenneth Cole has used his fashion brand's advertising to raise awareness of various social causes—in the early years, it was AIDS awareness and more recently, gun control—often with provocative, cheeky puns. Now the 32-year-old brand is getting a refresh, with a new logo and campaign, and embedding that social cause-focus into its brand identity. 

But the makeover isn't about boosting brand awareness; there's "huge, huge brand awareness," according to Jonah Disend, founder and CEO of Redscout, the shop behind the revamp. Instead, it's about making Kenneth Cole relevant to a new generation of consumers.

The fashion brand is making a significant investment in doing just that—and upping its media spend by 25 percent from last year—with a robust national print, outdoor, digital and social-media plan. Digital spots will run nationally on Undertone, The New York Times, New York Magazine and Instagram. 

The new campaign, "The Courageous Class," shot by Glen Luchford, features real social activists like transgender woman and model Andreja Pejic, hip-hop artist and humanitarian Rhymefest, model and activist Topaz Page-Green, deaf pro soccer player Jamie Clarke, and pro surfer turned activist Jon Rose. With the campaign, the brand is looking to "re-establish Kenneth Cole's fashion point of view and political point of view," says Disend. 

"There's a real DNA of his entrepreneurial courage and awareness that stems from the original development of this company back in the '80s," said Marc Schneider, CEO of Kenneth Cole Productions. "[The new campaign] is celebrating what has made Kenneth Cole relevant and taking it to today's marketplace and looking towards the future." 

Last week, the brand also launched a flagship store at the intersection of Bowery and Bond Street in New York. The store is also part of the brand's refresh, according to Schneider, who said it will be open 24/7. Well, sort of. 

Consumers can "call and make an appointment, and they'll open the store for you," said Schneider. "We're going to be thinking about this as a proxy for future sites and future cities, because it's hard to be the urban uniform if you can't service your customer who needs it 24/7."

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