Interview with Nik Kacy from @kleffnotes

I had the opportunity to chat with designer, NiK Kacy about their upcoming Equality Fashion Week in Los Angeles. This is the first event of its kind in the LA area and is being run to help give a spotlight to LGBT+ designers and their work, as well as help benefit the LGBT+ community through outreach. I greatly appreciate NiK Kacy taking the time to speak with me and if you are in the area starting on October 5th you should definitely try and check out their event.

Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

I’m NiK Kacy and I created the first genderfree luxury footwear and accessories line after a lifetime of not being able to find shoes that fit both my identity and my feet. My brand NiK Kacy Footwear started off with a Kickstarter campaign on the first collection of masculine of center designs but with a genderfree sizing. My new collection is gender-neutral in aesthetic but as with the first collection will always remain genderfree in sizing and comfort. As an LGBT-certified business, I realized that our community struggles a lot with having the right resources to help us succeed.

You are doing something very cool starting on October 5th, how would you describe the Equality Fashion Show?

Equality Fashion Week is broken down into two parts – 1. is the opening reception on the Rooftop of the Montrose, with fashion show and performances and special guest host Carmen Carrera. We wanted to start off with a big bang and introduce our designers and artists and really bring the community together in all of its beautiful spectrum so that the media could see first and then learn later. 2. is 4 days of pop-up events from 4-7pm at the Montrose lounge inspired by their Vino & Vinyl Hour, we are expanding it into 3 hours of opportunity for designers and performers to meet-n-greet with the general public and sell merchandise or show off their latest works. I wanted to create a platform for them to be able to access the public as well and help generate not only buzz but also sales because at the end of the day we are also businesses trying to succeed. Being able to have popups at the Montrose helps us potentially reach audiences we normally wouldn’t. And with the press covering the show, we hope it will help spread word on the popup events as well.

What drew you to create a week focused on Queer Fashion?

It’s been a vision of mine to create an LGBTQ+ focused Fashion Week in Los Angeles because there is a need for increased visibility and to show impact but it was missing here in LA, a city where many queer designers reside. I have shown in many queer fashion shows and two queer-focused fashion weeks including Queer Fashion Week and Rainbow Fashion Week, as well as DapperQ’s Fashion Show during NYFW but I wanted something in my city. So many of the queer designers I have met along the way are here and I felt like there just weren’t enough resources for us. Most of the shows I showed in didn’t help me reach beyond my LGBTQ audience so I wanted to create an event that reaches into the mainstream along with media and industry people.

The event is being hosted at the Montrose Hotel, was there a specific reason you chose to hold it there?

Originally, the Montrose West Hollywood was seeking to put on an event to help celebrate the launch of their newly remodeled boutique hotel and their PR person reached out to me to invite me to participate. When I realized that they didn’t have experience producing a fashion show, I saw an opportunity to do so much more than to throw a party. After our initial chat, seeing their genuine desire to give back to the community, I ended up pitching to combine my vision with their celebration and together we could partner to create something that would positively impact the LGBTQ+ community.

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Could you share some details about some of the designers and other entities that are being showcased?

Yes, we will have 6 other designers in addition to myself – including Sharpe Suiting, Stuzo Clothing, Dapperboi, Hologram City and more. You can learn more about the designers and performers at www.equalityfashionweek.com. We are so excited to have Carmen Carrera hosting the fashion show as well as having a few live performances!

You have also worked to make Equality Fashion Week more than just an event, but something that benefits others, especially within the Trans community. Could you share some details about your partnership with TransLatina Coalition? 

I’ve been a fan of the work that Bamby Salcedo has been doing for the Trans community for almost a decade and in the last few years had the chance to get to know her and become an even bigger fan. She is an inspiration to me and is a constant reminder that everything that I do I want to ensure results in a positive impact for my community, specifically those who need it the most. Being able to give more exposure and potentially raise funds for the TransLatina Coalition with this event means that together, as a community, together with our allies, we can create positive change. The Coalition will have a table at the event to provide outreach and education, as well as taking donations. We originally hoped to find sponsorship to cover not only the cost of putting on this event but also to raise funds to support the non-profit organization that provides so many vital services for our trans sisters.

You also have your own brand, Nik Kacy Footwear, could you discuss what your brand’s goals are and what sort of fashion they focus on?

My brand was created out of my own experiences of not being able to find shoes and accessories that fit both my identity on the outside as the inside. I design genderfree footwear and accessories that have utility for all spectrums. My shoes can range in genderneutrality to masculine to feminine but I believe the wearer should decide how they identify with the shoes. The shoes themselves should be absent of gender. I also create accessories that are adjustable to all body types not just in identity but in size as well. Sizing ranges from all size to genderfree sizing. The goal is to remove gender from products and give human beings the opportunity to associate freely without limitations and discriminations. In addition, my brand aims to inspire gender equality not only with our signature equal sign, but by creating genderless products that are sized and priced equally. I believe if people start spending the same amount for the same quality product, it will inspire them to demand to be paid the same as well. As for the aesthetic of my designs, it’s very personal to me and I have always preferred very classic styles juxtaposed with modern details.

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Where do you find your design inspiration and what led you to seek out a career in fashion and design?

I find inspiration every day just looking at people around me, on the street, at events, in magazines, online. When I was little, I used to look at Vogue every day and admired all the models. This was before I even knew how to read English so it was very much purely looking at the photos. I remember loving the details of the designs of clothing and also the beauty in the faces and figures of the models. I definitely knew I was attracted to the female models then hahah, but I would doodle men’s clothing and come up with all sorts of designs. I knew then I was envious of the male body and that I wished my body was like that. That was the beginning of how I knew I was different and not meant to be in my own body but that’s another story.  I continued to doodle clothing designs for many years but later on moved into abstract art and eventually advertising. I never thought I would go into a career in fashion to be honest. I was a Producer and Project Manager for almost 20 years but when I realized that I was so over not being able to find shoes I wanted that it was time I just took the time to make it myself. So that’s what I did. In doing so, I realized there were so many others who shared my pain and experiences and thus became this incredible journey for the past 4 years and so many new friendships that formed because of a shared love for shoes!

As someone who identifies as nonbinary as well as transmasculine, how does that impact your creative choices?

Being transmasculine and nonbinary (to me) means that I have a particular style and aesthetic. But I also believe that my identity does not dictate my creative expression especially thru fashion. If I wanted to put on a skirt, I should be able to do without compromising or changing my identity. That is exactly the point I try to make by creating genderfree fashion. However, I do CHOOSE to design based off of my personal tastes because that is what my forte is. I don’t try to create things I know nothing about or am unfamiliar with. I began my journey as a designer by creating things I’ve always had interests in or wanted to create. As I evolve as a designer, I’m starting to design genderfree high heels as well and that is something that I am very unfamiliar with in terms of wearing BUT I am very familiar with as an appreciator. 😉 I know what I love to see women wear and my goal in designing high heels is to create something sexy but comfortable and pain-free. I’ve spent too many nights carrying my partner’s shoes and carrying them because their shoes hurt after a few hours. I believe in equality so I believe everyone should be able to wear comfortable, good-looking shoes that are quality made.

What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ people looking to get into the fashion industry?

There is still so much for me to learn so I try not to think I have all the answers or the best advice to give. However, I will say that as queer entrepreneurs, we have, and we will continue to face more obstacles than most other entrepreneurs. Being a triple threat minority of Asian, queer, trans and female-born, means even more challenges and stigmas to get through. The key is to persevere and give zero f*cks about what other people think. I’ve had people tell me I can’t do this or that or that I will fail before I succeed. I have had entire factories come to a halt when I walked in and heard them whispering because they couldn’t tell what gender I was. I’ve had so many misogynistic comments made at me (often times in other languages because they think I didn’t understand) that I could have quit before I even started. But for every time I wanted to walk away because I was insulted or hurt or offended, I let that fuel my fire and desire to create change. Using that passion to make a positive impact is so much more powerful than letting it turn into hate or failure. The fashion industry is brutal and incredibly competitive and its expensive to make prototypes, especially shoes. But if it was easy, everyone would be doing it, right? 😉

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Where can our readers find more information about you, your brand, and Equality Fashion Week online?

You can learn more about my brand and I at www.nikkacy.com. My insta is @nikkacyfootwear. You can find Equality Fashion Week at www.equalityfashionweek.com; insta @equalityfashionweek

Share your thoughts with us in the comments or on Twitter, @thenerdygirlexp. You can find me on Twitter, @kleffnotes, on my blog, kleffnotes.wordpress.com, on my kleffnotes YouTube channel, and I run The Nerdy Girl Express Snapchat, thenerdygirlexp.

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