Exclusive: What Kenneth Cole Really Meant in His Tweet About Kate Spade

Designer Kenneth Cole yesterday found himself in a familiar spot: the center of a social media controversy.

The designer deleted — and replaced — a tweet about Kate Spade, who had died in an apparent suicide earlier in the day.

Cole wrote in the original tweet: “’I believed that I could, so I did.’ She alone didn’t change the handbag world but she was an inspiring accessory.”

Speaking exclusively with FN, Cole said his intentions were misunderstood.

“I was trying to be generous to her legacy and to her family, and that is what came to mind. I did it quickly, and in retrospect, I did it too quickly. I tweeted after I heard about her death,” he told FN. “But within an hour, I heard of the awful circumstances around her death. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I then felt it was appropriate to change the message. I put out something that couldn’t be misinterpreted and that was more sensitive to the family.”

According to a person close to Cole, the designer tried to pay tribute to Spade by twisting a phrase he has used regularly for 20 years: “I can’t change the world alone. I hope to be an accessory.”

Though the public backlash was immediate, the person familiar with Cole’s thinking said he had intended to offer a supportive message about Spade, who was a fellow CFDA board member and someone he frequently spoke with over the years.

In the revised tweet, Cole said: “Kate Spade left an indelible mark on the fashion industry and her inspiring life and work will be missed. We lost a true visionary today. My heart goes out to her family and to all she has touched.”

Instead of focusing on the tweet, Cole said he wishes people would talk about mental health — an issue that impacts 1 in 4 American families.

“I am not sitting in judgment of people’s judgment of me — nobody knows my relationship with Kate and the tone behind my message,” Cole told FN. “I guess the biggest takeway is that you don’t use puns with people that don’t know the voice. It was clearly the wrong message but had the right intent. And it was one that was adjusted appropriately.”

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