Celebrated London-based brand, KTZ, is coming under fire for misappropriating a traditional and “sacred” Inuit design in its Fall/Winter 2015 menswear collection, which it showed in London this past January. Salome Awa, a Nunavut woman based in Toronto, says she was “furious, in shock and angry” to discover that KTZ, which has a celebrity fan base consisting of Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, MIA, Kylie Jenner, and A$AP Rocky, among many others, had copied a traditional Inuit design without permission and for the sole purpose of profiting off of her culture. "This is my great-grandfather's sacred garment copied right down to the tee,” she said in an interview this week.
Interestingly, KTZ specifically mentions in its show notes for the Fall/Winter 2015 menswear collection, a reference to the Inuit people. The notes read: "A Clockwork Orange Alex English villain taking pleasure, personal amusement, taking innocence from others […] Sent on a mandatory journey via the dreaming of designer Marjan Pejoski to meet the Inuit people."
According to Awa, the garment at issue was encapsulated in a photo of her great-grandfather, an Inuit shaman, which was taken by Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen in the early 1920’s and which was subsequently published in the book Northern Voices: Inuit Writing in English in the 1980’s. A replica of the garment was also displayed in the 2006 film The Journals of Knud Rasmussen. She calls KTZ’s design, “a mockery of my great-grandfather’s spiritual well-being, as there’s no other garment like it anywhere else in this world.”
The sweater was originally being sold by KTZ and other retailers for $1000. Currently, another version of the design, which is being called the Shaman Toweling Sweatshirt, is available on KTZ's website for $845. Additional Shaman-themed items from the brand’s Fall/Winter 2015 collection, such as the Shaman mask buckle belt and the Shaman Print Gusset Sweatshirt, are available on other e-commerce sites.
Awa, who noted, "There has to be some kind of mechanism in place to say you just cannot copy aboriginal or Inuit designs and make money off it," is in the process of seeking legal advice on the manner after a number of unsuccessful attempts to contact KTZ, including the brand’s creative director, Marjan Pejoski, who is known largely as the designer behind Björk's iconic swan dress, which the singer wore to the 2001 Academy Awards.