​ktz respond to inuit cultural appropriation claims

The offending design has been removed from sale after a complaint from Salome Awa, the great-granddaughter of an Inuit shaman whose design it resembles.

by Charlotte Gush
30 November 2015, 12:14am

Kokon To Zai (KTZ) designer Marjan Pejoski has responded to Salome Awa, an Inuit woman who wrote to him to complain that a design from the KTZ autumn/winter 15 collection was too similar to a sacred design created by her great grandfather, an Inuit shaman named Ava.

"This is a stolen piece," Awa told CBC Radio, "There is no way that this fashion designer could have thought of this exact duplicate by himself". "These are sacred images that they are using," she adds, explaining that, "They are breaking the Inuit sacred laws of duplicating someone else's shaman clothing... and for profit of all things."

After Awa's claims were made public, one store in Canada removed the design from sale and a number of people expressed their anger on KTZ's social media accounts.

CBC report that Marjan Pejoski has now responded to Awa's letter, saying that, "Over the last 20 years KTZ has always been inspired by and paid homage to indigenous cultures and tribes around the world. It's part of KTZ's DNA to celebrate multiculturalism as a form of art and to encourage appreciation for traditions, ethnicities and religions' diversity".

"KTZ is a very small UK based company -- with a team counting less than 15 people employed across the globe and with ethnic backgrounds ranging from Macedonian, Greek, Portuguese, Polish, German, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Nigerian, Chinese and Indonesian," Pejoski continues, adding that, "Our work is never intended to offend any community or religion".

"We sincerely apologise to you and anyone who felt offended by our work as it certainly wasn't our intention," he says, confirming that, "We have already removed the item from sale online and will remove the item in question from our stores".

Salome Awa has reacted to the apology, telling CBC the feeling is "bittersweet". "I'm kind of happy about it but sad at the same time," she says, "They didn't even mention an apology to my great-grandfather, they didn't mention his name... and they didn't even offer any monetary gains to our family… In terms of, 'We are so sorry that we're going to give the money back that we've stolen from you,' is not there".

Asked what she thinks should happen to the stock, Awa responds, "I sure don't want them, because it's a copy. I don't know, I don't really want to burn them, because for us fur-type design is sacred, any feather or fur is sacred... I guess the only option is give it to people who have no clue what these shirts mean, who need clothes, donate them to someone, as long as they're not being paid [for] or bought, give it to somebody who needs a shirt".

Cultural Appropriation
Kokon to Zai