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Kenneth Cole returns, better and badder than ever

A model walks the runway at the Kenneth

A model walks the runway at the Kenneth Cole Collection Fall 2013 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Manhattan. (Feb. 7, 2013) Credit: AP

After years out of the Fashion Week spotlight, Kenneth Cole returned with a slew of front-row celebs — Brooke Shields, Heidi Klum, Cuba Gooding Jr. — a fun video and a super sexy collection.

The Kenneth Cole runway show used to be a real “thing.”  His show traditionally held the 8 p.m. slot on Thursday and effectively kicked off Fashion Week. It was the first evening show and, inevitably, wound up being one of the most clever and entertaining of the entire week. The show typically featured some kind of special video, which — like his ad campaign — mixed humor and insight. Then came the clothes, which were ... y’know ... Kenneth Cole: safe, on trend, middle-of-the-road.

This time round his video was as funny as ever — and even more interesting were the clothes. Call ‘em anything ... but safe.

Cole’s video, which revealed a series of printed messages against an ever-changing urban backdrop, noted that the last time he’d shown a collection at Fashion Week there was no such thing as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — or bloggers, curators and “influencers,” for that matter.  “This show will embrace the intrusive nature of social media,” the video announced, poking fun at the new reality. “We don’t care if people love it. We just want them to ‘like’ it.”  The crowd laughed.

The collection, titled “Urban Liberation,” is for tough gals who will liberate themselves by fighting, kicking — any means necessary. And always look hot in the bargain. Tweed jackets, wool felt vests and metallic sweaters are layered on with abandon. A jumpsuit bears mirrored lapels that evoke the wings of a bird (a major theme from his video). Other pieces have panels with photographic images (birds, a city skyline). And accessories add to the heat — from the mirrored leather chokers and dramatic elbow-high leather gloves to those super sexy open-toed boots. (Not — repeat, NOT — to be worn while shoveling snow.)

For those who had to have something then and there, there was a limited edition bag designed by Sarah Jessica Parker in collaboration with Cole — a runway exclusive, sold online that evening for $1,000, with ALL PROCEEDS being donated to amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. As Cole notes in his program, “This bag was inspired by the notion that every girl should look stylish and be safe.”

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