The reaction online was swift, with legions of Twitter users branding Cole insensitive.
"Mocking war to sell fashion? Really?" one user tweeted.
"Terrible. And not the first time," another wrote.
Cole has indeed caused controversy on several occasions with his provocative tweets. In 2011, as protests escalated in Egypt, he wrote: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online... -KC."
He later deleted this tweet and apologized, calling it "insensitive."
In April, after the Senate failed to pass legislation to expand background checks on gun buyers, Cole tweeted a link to an ad stating "Regardless of the right to bear arms, we in no way condone the right to bare feet."
Cole responded to the criticism of his tweet Thursday in a statement issued through a spokesperson.
"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," he said. "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."
Cole is the chairman and chief creative officer at Kenneth Cole Productions, which designs and sells a variety of footwear, bags and accessories. His Twitter bio describes him as a "Designer, Aspiring Humanitarian, Frustrated Activist, Social Networker In training."