Kenneth Cole’s first reaction to Kate Spade’s death was pretty awful

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There’s always someone, right? There’s always someone who, in the midst of some kind of tragedy, says absolutely the wrong thing. Maybe it can be passed off as a “bad take” or a “hot take,” but it’s revealing in its own way. The news of Kate Spade’s passing broke yesterday, mid-day, and the reactions and condolences immediately poured out on social media. Most people in the fashion world reacted with simple statements of grief and mourning. But not Kenneth Cole. Cole chose that moment to take a swipe at Kate Spade.

While many celebrity friends and fans shared their heartfelt condolences, designer Kenneth Cole was slammed for his tweet about Kate Spade just hours after her death.

“‘I believed that I could, so I did.’ She alone didn’t change the handbag world but she was an inspiring accessory. #KateSpade #RIP,” Cole, 64, wrote in a now-deleted statement on Twitter about the 55-year-old designer who was found dead Tuesday in her New York City apartment of an apparent suicide.

Following online criticism, Cole replaced the tweet, writing, “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.”

Cole explained the reason behind his replacement tweet, though he did not directly apologize.

“I often say ‘we may not heel the world, but we hope to be an accessory,’ ” he said in a statement to the Daily Mail. “Kate Spade left an indelible mark on the fashion industry and my tweet was intended to pay tribute to her inspiring life and work. After posting the tweet, I realized there may have been room for misinterpretation,” Cole added. A rep for Cole did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

[From People]

“Heal” not “heel.” That was in People’s version, so I don’t know if it was Cole’s mistake or the Daily Mail’s mistake or what. I understand the idea of “we hope to be an accessory” as a comment among fashion designers and fashion people. But it’s the beginning of that sentence that offends me: “She alone didn’t change the handbag world…” First off, no one said she alone changed the handbag world. Second of all, that’s the first thing you’re going to say? You’re going to remind everyone of “her place” in the f–king food chain and in fashion history? That’s where his mind went immediately, to delegitimize her status as an iconic handbag designer. Douchebag.

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Photos courtesy of Getty.

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76 Responses to “Kenneth Cole’s first reaction to Kate Spade’s death was pretty awful”

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  1. NoShame says:

    The #Metoo/Time’s Up movement has a long away to go. First, we have to get rid of the predators, then the people who enabled them and then, the biggest group of all, the people who dismiss women as being less than men. That group includes a LOT of people, people we know and love and sadly, respect. I am losing respect for most of them at this point. Cole would have never made this statement about a man, someone he considered a rival but an equal.

    What they should all know by now is that they’ve literally had thousands of years to run their stupid mouths. Now it’s time for them to shut the fuck up and listen. And you know, have a woman start writing up their press releases.

  2. Kitten says:

    Did he fart or does he always look like this?

  3. Caity says:

    Considering he makes shoes, I believe he means “heel”, as a play on words. Either way, that first statement is gross

    • Rachel in August says:

      That is what I thought as well, but yes, agree with you. Pretty tacky.

      • AnnaKist says:

        Very tacky. Interesting that “tacchi” is “heels” in Italian.

        Oh, dear, Mr Cole. We sense your heartfelt apology coming in 3, 2, 1…

    • Jan90067 (aka Imqrious2) says:

      Back in the 80s and 90s his advertising had a lot of these types of “play on words” using homonyms. It was his schtick.

      A very ungracious thing to say about Spade. The guy obviously had a bitchy, jealous streak about *someone’s* success.

      • KBeth says:

        Agreed. Incredibly ungracious and petty.
        She was not *just* a designer, she was a human being with a family, what a douche.

    • Milla says:

      Stupid person. Kid lost a mum. Her family lost her forever. And he’s discussing handbags?
      She didn’t burn handbags, she took her life. That is the real story. Woman suffered from depression and wasn’t sure how to get help.

    • LadyT says:

      Of coarse it was heel-play on words. His comment was to please himself by being oh so clever. Good Lord what a self-centered jerk.

    • Brian says:

      He always puns in his advertising so it was very intentional

    • Suzanne says:


  4. littlemissnaughty says:

    Oh f*ck you, Kenneth Cole. F*ck you.

  5. KeWest says:

    Honestly a little girl no longer has a mother so does the opinion of one person matter.

    • aims says:

      That’s right. A little girl lost her mother and I’m sure in a lot of pain at the moment. This horrible tragedy doesn’t just effect the superficial. A daughter lost her mother and this will effect her for the rest her life. This isn’t the time for a pissing contest,it’s time for a little compassion and empathy.

  6. Mellie says:

    I’m throwing my Kenneth Cole shoes away today for that $hit…. I like my Kate Spade bags much better anywhoo and for me, I get a lot of pleasure looking at and shopping for Kate Spade bags. As has already been said, he looks like a f#$king d-bag, I’m glad he apparently thinks he’s got the market cornered on fashion…maybe he doesn’t think that, but his pretentious tweet certainly led one to believe he feels that way. Prick.

    • AnotherDirtyMartini says:

      Agree! I’ll never buy his crap again. Cancelled!!

    • DavidBowie says:

      What a prick. I haven’t purchased anything of his in years. RIP Kate.

    • paranormalgirl says:

      Damn it. I now feel the need to rid myself of my favorite Kenneth Cole bag.

    • Mel M says:

      +100! I have one last Kenneth Cole crossbody bag I got super cheap at Marshall’s that I’m trying to sell anyway and I won’t be buying anymore of his crap. I love my KS bag, sunnies and glasses. All of her stuff was so fun.

    • Milla says:

      Called my mum and asked her to take all his stuff to salvation army or whatever you call it in the states. I told her why and she started crying cos of Kate’s daughter…

  7. Deanne says:

    What an insensitive ass.

  8. Lila says:

    I wonder if there is some long time bad blood between them or he was jealous of her iconic success? That is why the first Twitter statement came out with anger.

    • Moe says:

      Lila…i was wondering about this too. What he said was poor but i’d like to give him the bennefit of the doubt as a person and hope he just expressed himself badly. That is unless there was already a standing bit of bagd blood and or jealousy and then he loses all benefit of the doubt and goes straight into the bin.

  9. OSTONE says:

    Man this is infuriating and so insensitive to Kate’s family and legacy. More so because this mediocre man’s label can be found in the clearance rack at Ross or TjMaxx. Jealous much?

  10. Jane says:

    I hope he gets slammed over and over for this.

  11. AnotherDirtyMartini says:

    He doesn’t even know how to smile. I think he has termites in his smile and garlic in his soul. Grinch!

    I’m still shocked and saddened re Kate. My bestie once asked me a few years ago why I’ve never splurged on a nice handbag – I had volunteered that a $50 purse was my max. So last summer, I bought a pale blue Kate Spade. I’ve had it stored away. Never used. Life is too short. I need to use it.

    I feel just horrible for her daughter. Oh, she’s only thirteen, I believe.

    I’ve had family members kill themselves. I’ve made a half-assed attempt. I do not have children, but I still would’ve hurt many loved ones. The last relative I had that killed himself…I always think that they have to regret it (if there’s any self or spirit or consciousness left). If you could look down like Susie Salmon did in The Lovely Bones (murder, not suicide) and see your family, you’d wish you hadn’t done it most likely. So I always think about how life is like a wave with its peaks and valleys. Things do change for the better oftentimes. But if that doesn’t help, the people at are amazing. Phone # near top of page ^ at this link.

    • Mellie says:

      Please know that you are important to your friends and family…not to sound corny, but our 20 year old cousin committed suicide 5 years ago, over a damn boy. She was my husband’s cousin’s only child and the family has never recovered.
      So with that, carry your Kate Spade bag, have a cocktail and stop and smell the roses, life is too short as it is!

  12. L84Tea says:

    DAMN, Kenneth Cole. Can you possibly sound like a bigger asshole??

  13. Erin says:

    Everything about his first statement screams JEALOUS HATING WHITE MAN. He’s just mad that she actually did change the handbag industry and HE DIDN’T!

  14. BJ says:


  15. Christin says:

    Misinterpreted? That first tweet was pretty clear.

    Just own your jealousy and insensitivity.

  16. jferber says:

    I was so shocked and saddened for her and her family.

  17. Superstef says:

    I am sad and shocked to know our world has lost Kate Spade. She was a talented visionary, designer, and an inspiration to fashion minded women all around this planet.

    The day I could finally afford to buy my own Kate Spade bag at Nordstrom was one of my favourite memories – I felt like I had arrived as a business woman because I could afford a luxury item on my own. I still rock that bag whenever I want, and the quality craftsmanship is outstanding.

    For reasons we will likely never know, Katey felt the need to leave this world on her own terms. I respect and admire her for that, and all she did to make the fashion and handbag world a better place for all women. Rest in peace, Kate. You were loved and will be missed.

  18. Pedro45 says:

    Because he changed the fashion industry? Sit the F down, you’re not Christian Dior.

    I realize this is not the point but I can’t process how cruel he is. I’ve been to a suicidal place and it’s so dark people have no idea. Shit like this doesn’t help end the stigma.

    • homeslice says:

      Thank you…can’t his crap be bought at JC Penny at this point??? Sit down is right. Classless pig.

  19. detritus says:

    Kenneth Coles whole marketing schtick is ‘word play’ like that.
    Absolute wrong time for marketing dude. Also, your handbags and quality in general have gone severely downhill and don’t hold a handle to Spades.

    • Pedro45 says:

      He always used the stupidest, most obvious puns in his ads and clearly thought it was genius.

    • jetlagged says:

      Yeah, commenting on someone’s untimely death is the absolute wrong time to get quippy.

  20. paranormalgirl says:

    Kate Spade was a lovely, talented, generous woman. I remember way back when she and Andy still owned the company, she donated a few exquisite handbags to a charity auction I was helping run. One was one of a kind. The world lost a little light.

    • MissMarierose says:

      It sounds like she did that a lot. Soledad O’Brien tweeted yesterday that Spade would give a new handbag to the young women who won internships with O’Bren’s foundation so that would start their careers with something nice.

      She sounds like a wonderful woman.

  21. JRenee says:

    So Insensitive. Someone is missing a sensitivity chip, very disappointing.
    My heart goes out to her family.

  22. lucy2 says:

    Express sympathy, or STFU. Nothing else is needed.

  23. Rachel in August says:

    Off-topic but he does look like an aged version of Calvin Harris … eerie.

  24. CityGirl says:

    Well, I’m done with him

  25. WendyNerd says:

    I have so many of her bags. RIP.

  26. Valerie says:

    The face he makes trying to smile is the one I made reading his tweet. Insensitive cad.

  27. SJF says:

    Douchebag. Will no longer buy his things.

    That said — his ad campaigns for years have used accessories as puns. “Heel” as a fill-in for “heal.” So that was deliberate.

    Just tacky and ill-timed at this occasion.

  28. tealily says:

    I don’t read it as a swipe. I think he’s just really overextending for some wordplay and it didn’t work.

    • GirlMonday says:

      I thought something similar. Who knows what was going on in his head, and he may still actually be an a$$hole in real life, but it seemed like he was trying to shoehorn (pun intended) the “accessory” line. Unfortunately, he missed the inherent/implied insensitivity of his statement. On could also argue that if you go for clever in a statement about your colleague’s suicide, as opposed to sincerity or heartfeltness, then you deserve what you get.

    • jwoolman says:

      I don’t think the tweet was ill-intentioned either. He obviously uses that term “accessory” in a positive way because of his work. It does not sound as though he intended the meaning as in phrases “she was just an accessory” to dismiss someone. The adjective inspiring makes that clear to me. Likewise with the intro phrase – that was to go along with his favorite word accessory. It wasn’t a diss.

      It’s very easy to mistake intent when a person is using a word in a different way than you expect. He saw that happened, took it down, and replaced it with a tweet that was harder to misinterpret.

  29. homeslice says:

    IMO Kate Spade brand was/is a hell of a lot more prestigious than Kenneth Cole…jealous much??

    What a troll.

  30. Rori says:

    Considering wordplay used to be his shtick (maybe it still is, I don’t really know), I’d be willing to buy his explanation, but even then it doesn’t change the dismissive tone of his original comment. He could have made the same “pun” without knocking her down a peg if he’d instead said something like, “she was an indispensable accessory in fashion history.” So either, 1. Your original comment was exactly how you meant it and you’re an ass, or 2. You didn’t realize how your original comment would (obviously and unmistakably) read, and therefore you’re not nearly as bright as you think you are.

  31. Yes Doubtful says:

    I don’t think what he said was that awful? I guess I can see why people think it was a backhanded compliment, but I don’t think that was his intention.

  32. Ally says:

    Guy funneled AIDS charity money to help clean up after Harvey Weinstein’s failed business ventures:

    He should stay out of the public eye for the rest of ever.

  33. Adrien says:

    Sit down, Kenneth. Kate’s purses may be attainable but they were never basic like your brand.

  34. gingersnaps says:

    Badly worded or just tone deaf and full of himself.

  35. j says:

    Who would ever quote “I believed that I could, so I did” IN REFERENCE TO SOMEONE WHO JUST COMMITTED SUICIDE.

  36. Cara says:

    What a dick!!!!

  37. LittlefishMom says:

    He’s a heel