Arizona-born, NYC-based brother-sister duo Christopher and Nicholas Kunz, are not your average set of siblings. The two joined forces in 2003 to create Nicholas K, one of the consistently talked about high fashion mens and womenswear brands in New York. Known for its mastery of draping and experimentation with parkas and anoraks, the brand, now ten years old, boasts membership in the Council of Fashion Designers of America and consists not only of ready-to-wear but also accessories (most notably, amazing shoes). We talk to Christopher and Nicholas about their upcoming Soho pop-up shop, the business of fashion, Kelly Cutrone, and more ...
The Fashion Law –Tell me a little bit about your brand, since business is so focused on branding nowadays.
Nicholas K– We describe our brand as "Urban Nomad." Its about creating a harmonious balance between nature and city life. We want to make things that are not trend driven, but will make a lasting impression.
The Fashion Law–Your designs are very much an result of the "modern urban nomad” idea. What does that mean to you?
Nicholas K– It refers to the evolved renaissance individual. Worldy, ecologically conscious and diverse. Someone who values experience over ownership. Technology has enabled the world to shrink both consciously and geographically … International travel is so easy and we have near instant access to what’s happening around the globe. Our lifestyle strikes a balance of living in a dense population with a rural cabin and travel to amazing places. We are professionals that strive to create lasting products that are both strong in design and construction, and we believe owning the right things enables one to lead a streamlined life, much like nomads experienced.
The Fashion Law–Do you ever worry about others copying your designs?
Nicholas K– Of course its something that we worry about. Unfortunately, its prevalent within the industry and some businesses within the industry only exist because of it. Its even more disheartening that retailers knowingly support it. Protection is difficult under the current system and even so smaller designers don’t normally have the resources to chase offenders.
The Fashion Law–More and more brands have business partners today. Chris, you have been involved since the beginning and co-founded the brand. How did you get involved and what are your biggest challenges in growing and maintaining the brand?
Nicholas K – I guess I have my hands in everything. My job title changes hourly. The industry has changed a lot in the last 10 years and at our level of business, we get squeezed from both ends. Large conglomerates have extensive budgets and resources for branding, while fast fashion retailers jam the market with endless inexpensive product.
The Fashion Law–From the beginning you have stocked in the U.S. and abroad. Does that present any additional challenges in terms of design or business? Nicholas K – Fashion is global now. Most brands and retailers you see in NY can be found in cities all over the world. If you have a successful brand, chances are you can be successful in other markets with the right group of partners. The challenges are mostly learning about the different expectations of the new market and how to develop the brand presence there.
The Fashion Law–You launched the brand in 2003. How do you guys think you’ve changed personally and/or professionally since then?
Nicholas K – With time comes a certain sense of maturity in oneself and the collection has progressed along with us.
The Fashion Law–Peoples Revolution does your PR. I have to ask - what is it like working with Kelly Cutrone (who is quite obviously such a huge force in fashion)?
Nicholas K – Kelly is like a whirlwind where ever she goes and is constantly on the move, probably akin to the ‘god particle’ that’s been so elusive to the science world. She is an essential part of PR and knows how to make things happen.
The Fashion Law–You have been in fashion for quite a while now. What have you learned about the business of fashion?
Nicholas K – Its not linear. Most other industries seem to have a certain path to follow while the fashion landscape changes seasonally. There aren’t many industries with such short product lifecycles.
The Fashion Law–What are you currently working on?
Nicholas K – We are working on a few things ... Fall 2014, a pop up shop in SoHo and developing a store concept.
The Fashion Law–What are you obsessed with right now?
Christopher – Expedition Travel, “modern nomadic travel”
Nicholas – Gardening and learning how to be self sufficient.