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Kenneth Cole met with 400 FIT students to discuss the story of his $500 million brand.

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COLE SPEAKS: Designer Kenneth Cole met with about 400 students at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York on Wednesday night to speak of his journey to the $500 million brand he has built, but also in hopes of inspiring the students who are looking to enter the workforce in a down economy. “People say that things will get better in a few months, but to be honest, I don’t think it will get better for years,” he said. “The key is to go out in the world with a sense of contest....Find out where you can offer value as a designer and create something that people will desire.” Cole spoke of his latest success, which was designing a woman’s shoe that is “both stylish and the most comfortable shoe you will ever wear.” The company advertised the shoe over the summer and didn’t produce a large number in hopes of creating demand, he explained. On Aug. 7, 1,500 people waited on line outside of the Kenneth Cole flagship in Rockefeller Center hoping to get their hands on a pair. “We looked at the situation in the economy and used it as an opportunity to change the dynamic of what we sell,” he said. “There’s still demand for that shoe.” He went on to talk about the changing needs of the American consumer and the growing importance of social networking to stay on top of their needs. “By the way, I can use more Facebook friends and more followers on Twitter,” he said. By Thursday morning, a Cole spokesman confirmed the designer had 120 new friends on Facebook.

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