As It Happens

U.K. fashion house pulls copied Inuit design, here's their apology

The design house Kokon To Zai has sent a letter to Salome Awa saying sorry, and promising to pull the item from its stores.
KTZ has apologized for using a sacred Inuit design in their high-end sweater. (KTZ website / Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC (from book Northern Voices))

Fashion designers KTZ have apologized to the Inuit great-granddaughter of a shaman whose design they copied.

On Wednesday, Salome Awa, who is also a producer at CBC North, told us that the sweater being sold by KTZ for over $900 was a copy of her ancestor's sacred parka. Until this week, the garment was also sold at stores here in Canada. 

Today, she told us the apology she received by email was "bittersweet." 

"I'm kind of happy about it but sad at the same time," she tells As It Happens co-host Carol Off. "They didn't even mention an apology to my great-grandfather and they didn't even offer any monetary gains to our family." 

Designer Marjan Pejoski acknowledges the crowd after a presentation of the KTZ Fall/Winter 2015 collection during New York Fashion Week, February 17, 2015. Pejoski is the creative director of the London-based fashion label. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

This week's controversy is not the first time KTZ has been criticized for using indigenous designs. The company claims their patterns "capture the beauty, truth and power behind indigenous things," acting as a tribute rather than an appropriation of the designs. 

"This is a stolen piece. There is no way that this fashion designer could have thought of this exact duplicate by himself," Awa says.

'How dare you use this garment design that was envisioned by my great grandfather,' said Salome Awa, 'It’s his design, his vision, it’s so meaningful to him.' (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

In addition to the letter emailed to Awa, the company announced it's pulling the design from stores and their website.

Awa credits the intense media attention for getting the offensive item pulled, but also the many people who contacted KTZ to voice their concern.

"Yes I said it to many media outlets. But I think it's the people out there, the public, who helped them to make an action." 

Here is the full letter:

Dear Salome 

Thank you so much for contacting us and for giving us a chance to express our point of view.

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. 

At the time the piece in question was released (January 2015) the Inuit community was credited in our press release and online features, for example

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. 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. 

We have already removed the item from sale online and will remove the item in question from our stores.

Kindest regards


Salome Awa said after reading the letter, she still has questions for the company.

"I want to know how they got it, how they obtained the exact replica and I want to know why they didn't ask our family?

"Did they think we did not exist?"

Hear Awa's full reaction to the apology, by clicking the Listen audio link above.