11/16/1998 at 01:00 AM EST
Looks count for a lot, but women also want a man who understands them. Footwear mogul Kenneth Cole has the looks thing down. "He's definitely a hottie," says singer Chynna Phillips, a pal for three years. "He's got a great build and a terrific smile, and he's very outdoorsy and athletic." As for understanding women, that's just good business. "I have to think how I would feel if I were a woman and what I'd want to wear," explains the 44-year-old designer and CEO of Kenneth Cole Productions. "There's nothing more sexy," he adds, "than comfortable shoes."
That adage, coupled with Cole's hip-classic fashion sensibility, led to sales of $185 million last year. But his company's socially conscious ads, spouting such wisdom as, "To be aware is more important than what you wear," indicate good soul, not sole.
What you don't see in the ads is the man himself. "I don't even shave every day. The nice thing about being a designer is that it allows me a lot of personal liberties," says the 5'11" Cole, whose main concession to personal maintenance is working out with a trainer three days a week. Wed since 1987 to Maria Cuomo, 36, daughter of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and chair of HELP USA, an organization for the homeless, Cole speaks yearningly of the weekend trips to New England they took before they married—and reprise each fall on their anniversary. Now that he has three daughters, ages 4 through 10, understanding women is a personal as well as a professional necessity. The payoff is substantial. Come Valentine's Day, he notes, "I'm the only guy in the house, so I'm the subject of all their efforts. I get lots of hearts."