A “Shamanistic Journey” Through Nicholas K’s Spring 2014 Collection

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.7 Comments


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What’s up, Nicholas K? I’m Adrienne K. Nice to meet you. Maybe we’re related??? That’s a joke. We’re not related, because if you were in my family, you would know that putting models down the runway in Native American inspired headdresses is NOT OKAY. Here’s what I’m talking about (plenty more here):


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So, you know, I saw the pictures a couple of days ago and was thinking, “Ok, this is BS. But, in the grand scheme of all the ish I deal with, this might not be the worst. So maybe I’ll just try and look the other way and skip on my merry way…” and then I read this write up about your show in the NYU news. Then I was like “Aw helllll no.”

Picture the urban landscape of pre-Columbus America: quite a paradox but easily captured by Nicholas K in their Spring/Summer 2014 collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. A trance-like track of synth bass was combined with soothing chants to create a modern tribal music that seemed thematically fitting. While still staying true to their bold use of draping, layering, and neutral tones, Nicholas K suggested a new perspective to the term ‘urban chic’ by taking us back a few years.

Garbed in subtly Native American-inspired headdresses, the models displayed the palettes of sand t-shirts, antler booties, smoke sweaters, and onyx shorts. These earthy colors further accentuated the collection’s oneness with nature captured best by an interpretation of Native American culture. While the use of chunky tribal prints was occasionally seen peeking through a granite hoody or displaying prominently on a cascading jacket, the menswear pattern of oversized plaid did not detracted from the feminine earthiness of the collection.

A nod to last spring’s color-blocking, outer pockets made their way into this spring’s collection on male models in mica and grey tones. Perhaps the best look was a pair of matching alabaster printed pant and shirt that fluttered with decadent ease down the runway, evoking the perfect blend of city chic and natural harmony. Take a note from Nicholas K for this upcoming spring; relate to the origins of America but do it with a flare of the modern age.

Ok, I know this is a student publication and all, but can we talk about this language? “A trance-like track of synth bass was combined with soothing chants to create a modern tribal music that seemed thematically fitting”? “These earthy colors further accentuated the collection’s oneness with nature captured best by an interpretation of Native American culture”? That’s the problem with “tribal” themed fashion trends or those “inspired by Native American culture”–it creates this distorted stereotype that Native peoples are a monolith, with one “culture.” This culture apparently is connected to nature and set in contrast to “urban” contexts. That first line kills me. “Picture the urban landscape of pre-Columbus America: quite a paradox…” No. Not a paradox at all. “Pre-Columbus America” was hella urban. Sorry.

And then, oh then, I dug a little more. Here is the “official” description of the collection:

For Spring 2014, brother and sister designers and CFDA members Nicholas and Christopher Kunz explore the spiritual roots of the small bands of indigenous people that formed the Ndee or Apache Nation. Antique smudge fans found on a reservation in the mountains of Central Arizona sparked the inspiration of a shamanistic journey that is embraced by the brand’s own nomadic urban roots.

A palette of sheer whites, antler and bone colored cotton trimmed with deerskin are symbols of peace, happiness and purity. Contrasting darkness in black, midnight and onyx is reminiscent of smudging smoke. Mica, another mist color, is reputed to have spiritual and life-giving qualities. Turquoise, the, “fallen sky stone,” is the accent color used throughout the collection. Natural turkey quills, dip-dyed in black and earth brown, represent the power and essence of the Apache Medicine Men.

Like the Shamans, who were draped in a mixture of textures, the collection consists of an array of free flowing fabrics.  Matte gauze with shimmering lurex symbolically represents desert stones speckled with shining mica, while geods dance across printed viscose paired with reinvented linen and suede moccasins.  The silhouettes of the season call to spirit light dancers – they are magically free and playful.

The show featured hair by Jon Reyman for Aveda, make-up by Daniel Martin for NYX Cosmetics and nails by Sunshine Outing for Zoya.

I can’t. I actually can’t. Past tense, hippie-spiritual BS, “shamanistic journey,”…”represent the power and essence of the Apache Medicine Men”? Yes. Thank you. Thank you for representing the “power and essence” of our spiritual practices in your fashion line at fashion week. That’s definitely the way to show respect.

So whatever. I’ve written 5 thousand million times about why headdresses on non-Native women aren’t cool, why the tribal fashion trend is problematic, what happens with you mess with sovereign nations around these issues, how you can fix it when you screw up like this, and much much more, if you care to go search around in the archives. Actually, you might want to read this take down of “Spirit Hoods.” The language/defense they used was pretty similar. So I’m not going to re-hash it again. Just read this one, if that’s too many links for your poor fashion-filled head.

So Nicholas K, if you wanna be my bro, apologize for sending models down the runway in Native headdresses and appropriating the sh*t out of Native spirituality. Don’t give me any BS about how fashion is about drawing inspiration from “everywhere” or any other number of excuses. I’ve heard them all. This whole thing has been in the news so much, I’m really surprised you didn’t have any inkling this was maybe wrong. You’ve got some explaining to do.


No, really, read this one: But why can’t I wear a hipster headdress? 

NYU news: Nicholas K, Spring/Summer 2014
Video from the show here: NY Fashion Week Nicholas K

Also, I know “Nicholas K” is not a person, but is actually a sibling design team. But it was more fun this way, ok?

(Thanks Chelsea, Celeste, and the others who alerted me to this on twitter!)


  • The Senses

    So fucking sad! It’s one of those : “REALLY” moments that I think will follow me for a bit. Thank you for the post and keep at it.

  • Sizzlemoonsong Dane Hyde

    the images he calls his “inspiration ” are pure thivery…https://www.facebook.com/NicholasKStudio

  • Christian Métrailler

    Thx for the post, it’s terrible to see one more example of commonplace stereotype, and racist portrayal trying to look benign. Shared on my company page: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=538971992843352&id=412314878842398&notif_t=like

  • Amazing as always, Adrienne. Keep fighting the good fight.

  • Gail Lichtsinn

    Dont know where you got the idea that trying to imitate native americans in a glow in the dark costume with feathers is okay..Its a cheap imitation and insulting to boot..Why dont you strut yout stuff in your own ethnic clothes..Making a buck off our backs is also not okay..Poor Taste Disrespectful and Insulting to native people..

  • Aurelas

    You’d think they’d learn after the Paul Frank fiasco! GRRRRRRR

  • Dawn Maracle

    Awesome writing, response and sourcing. Great work!