The famed fashion designer Kenneth Cole is adding a new men's cologne, Mankind Legacy, to an ever-growing portfolio of scents hitting the market this year.
In his latest chat with Gotham, Cole dishes on the new fragrance for men and reveals his must-have accessories.
In light of the name of your new fragrance for men, Mankind Legacy, talk to me about how your build built its own legacy.
KENNETH COLE: I think everyday we’re anticipating what we can be and we’re dreaming and we’re fantasizing and we’re inspiring to be something that is very personal to all of us. And I don't think any of us have a clue as to where it‘s going to ultimately take us, but we have a sense of the direction where we want to go. So I think it’s kind of a new notion in all of our aspirations. And again it’s not necessarily where we’ve been, it’s who we are everyday. And we are truly defining how we are going to be perceived tomorrow and thereafter.
We've seen brands like Louis Vuitton and Carine Roitfeld release genderless fragrances this past year. And, in March, you too released a set of three genderless scents. Did the previous set have any impact of the scent of Mankind Legacy?
KC: I think so many scents today could feel good on everybody. And I think probably this could be that as well. I mean, we’re speaking specifically to men with this latest scent—it’s branded "Mankind"—but at the end of the day there’s something about the notes I think could very well feel good to women as well. So, we are in a genderless universe right now, and we’re defining ourselves in new ways: we’re choosing our pronouns, we’re choosing our scents and we’re deciding how we want to be looked at and reffered to.
Would you agree that we've seen that extend into fashion already?
KC: I think it’s in fashion, yes. I mean, people have a sense of who they are and how they want to be looked at, and they reflect that on all of their choices.
You have clothing that targets men and women, but what would you say is the difference in marketing to each?
KC: I think men are a little more loyal, only because men find brands that they trust and they stay with them a little longer. Women are always searching for what's fashionable. But it’s very, very rewarding when you are able to connect in a meaningful way with a man or a woman. And I do think at the end of the day it is very much about not just what they look like on the outside as for who you are on the inside, not just stand in for what you stand for, and that crosses both genders.
Mankind Legacy, Kenneth Cole ($82). kennethcole.com
Talk to me about your friendship with Donna Karan, because you have a new sandals collaboration due out.
KC: I’ve known Donna for a hundred years, and we’ve crossed paths throughout many different intersections throughout our careers. But we both have committed ourselves to Haiti since the earthquake in 2010. I was down there with a philanthropic agenda, and hers was more of an artisan one. And she introduced me to some of those individuals, some of those talented creative artisans. I built the health care center in City Soleil outside of Port Au Prince. And we were also working with some, a little group called Rebuild Globally. I’m trying to recycle old tires and make some new sandals from old components. But, this is a different direction and we imported some components, because there are no natural resources in Haiti, and created something bigger than either could have done alone. So it’s fascinating, and the jobs that will be created from this, the people who will be skilled laborers at the end of this, will hopefully benefit from it.
I have to ask you about your timepieces. Are you a watch collector?
KC: I think in time we all enjoy our watches. I think watches are a great fashion accessory. And as much as we don’t need them to tell time, because have phones and other things that do that for us, people love their watches and I'm not an exception.
Is there a favorite accessory that comes to mind?
KC: I prefer accessories that are ones below the ankles: shoes. Everything you wear affects, shoes more than anything affect how you feel. So, they have kind of a special place in our hearts.
You’ve done so much already, is there anything you haven’t done that you’d still like to go out and do?
KC: It’s a good question. I can’t think of anything that I haven’t done that I really want to do, but I’m always wanting to take what we do and make it even more and more meaningful in more and more places.
Photography by: Photography courtesy Kenneth Cole