Kenneth Cole Stands Behind His Controversial Syria Tweet [UPDATED]

Kenneth Cole, who made headlines in 2011 when he sent out a tweet making light of the uprisings in Egypt, is courting controversy again on social media.
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Hayley Phelan
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Kenneth Cole, who made headlines in 2011 when he sent out a tweet making light of the uprisings in Egypt, is courting controversy again on social media.
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Kenneth Cole, who made headlines in 2011 when he sent out a tweet making light of the uprisings in Egypt, is courting controversy again on social media.

Yesterday the designer sent out the following tweet, which seemed to reference the current debate over military action in Syria.

"Boots on the ground" or not, let's not forget about sandals, pumps and loafers. #Footwear"

Unsurprisingly people were pretty pissed. (See: Gawker's headline: Kenneth Cole Volunteers to Die in Syria.) According to CNN, one Twitter user wrote: "Mocking war to sell fashion? Really?" The general consensus on the 'net was that the tweet was insensitive and inappropriate.

Cole, however, doesn't see it that way.

"I've always used my platform to provoke dialogue about important issues including HIV/AIDS, war, and homelessness," Cole said in an Instagram video released last night. "I'm well aware of the risks that come with this approach and if this encourages awareness and discussion about important issues, then all the better."

It's a markedly different damage control strategy than the designer chose in 2011, after that fateful Egypt tweet. Back then, he issued an apology, calling the tweet "insensitive" and "absolutely inappropriate."

To be fair, a big part of Cole's brand image has always been the designer's outspoken, sometimes boundary-pushing approach to raising awareness via ads or marketing. Over the years, those campaigns have included anti-gun and anti-war messages, as well as ads raising awareness for HIV/AIDs and homelessness. And Cole is an activist in his own right, acting as Chairman of the Board for amfAR, whose board he joined in 1987.

That being said, we're not sure his most recent Syria-related tweet has much of a message, other than to promote his footwear. We've reached out to Cole's press team and are waiting to hear back.

UPDATE: Kenneth Cole PR has sent the following statement from the designer:

For 30 years I have used my platform in provocative ways to encourage a healthy dialogue about important issues, including HIV/AIDS, war, and homelessness. I’m well aware of the risks that come with this approach, and if this encourages further awareness and discussion about critical issues then all-the-better.

What do you make of his tweet?