"She alone didn't change the handbag world but she was an inspiring accessory," Kenneth Cole wrote in a since-deleted tweet about Kate Spade

By Karen Mizoguchi and Kaitlyn Frey
June 06, 2018 05:00 PM
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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 with a new one, 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.”

Kenneth Cole
Matt Baron/Shutterstock

Cole explained the reason behind his replacement tweet.

“I often say ‘we may not heel the world, but we hope to be an accessory,’ ” he said in a statement to PEOPLE. “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 source close to Cole tells PEOPLE the designer “feels terrible” that his tweet “enabled such an unfortunate distraction” from the “horrific” news of Kate’s death.

“Kenneth has known Kate for many years. They were colleagues and on the board of the CFDA together. He used to check in with her periodically about different things but hadn’t seen her in a while,” the source tells us.

According to the source, when Cole posted the initial Tweet, he was not aware of the circumstances of Kate’s death. After learning of the suicide, he “took a look at the Tweet again to make sure it was appropriately sensitive and decided to take it down and change it.”

RELATED VIDEO: Kate Spade, 55, Found Dead in N.Y.C. Apartment from Apparent Suicide

The source adds, “He’s always used puns to express himself over his 30 years [in the business]. This was never his intention.”

Police confirmed Kate was found dead Tuesday morning from apparent suicide at her and Andy’s Park Avenue home in Manhattan. A housekeeper discovered her, according to a police source, and she left a suicide note addressed to their only child Frances Beatrix.

As news of Spade’s death broke, celebrities and fashion insiders shared tributes to the prolific designer, who was known for her colorful bags and accessories.

Kate Spade
Brian Ach/WireImage

Kate Spade New York tweeted in memory of its founder: “Kate Spade, the visionary founder of our brand, has passed. Our thoughts are with her family at this incredibly heartbreaking time. We honor all the beauty she brought into this world.”

CFDA Chairwoman Diane von Furstenberg and CEO and President Steven Kolb said, “The CFDA is devastated to hear the news of our friend, colleague, and CFDA member Kate Spade’s tragic passing. She was a great talent who had an immeasurable impact on American fashion and the way the world viewed American accessories.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).