A Nunavut woman whose great-grandfather's sacred shaman robe was copied without consent by U.K.-based fashion label KTZ, says an email apology offered to her by the design firm is "bittersweet."
"We sincerely apologize to you and anyone who felt offended by our work as it certainly wasn't our intention," stated KTZ in an email to Salome Awa this morning.
The label's fall 2015 men's collection includes a number of garments based on traditional Inuit designs, including a sweater that appears to be a replica of a shaman's jacket, belonging to Awa's great-grandfather, used without her family's consent.
"KTZ has always been inspired by and paid homage to indigenous cultures and tribes around the world," the apology said.
KTZ said the Inuit community was credited in its press release and online features at the time the garment was released.
"It feels like a bittersweet victory," said Awa, who works as a morning show producer at CBC Nunavut.
Awa said the apology feels incomplete because it failed to provide an explanation as to why the company did not ask permission from her family before copying their great-grandfather's sacred garment.
"It's not right, they should have contacted us in the first place," said Awa. "I think they thought we didn't exist."
Awa said despite the "half-hearted" apology, she's also upset that KTZ made no mention of her great-grandfather in the email, nor did they acknowledge the problematic use of Inuit and indigenous designs in their other garments.
Pulled from stores, online
Canadian retailer CNTRBND, which has stores in Toronto and Vancouver, has announced they are going to pull the item, called the shaman towelling sweatshirt, from their stores.
The item, which is priced at approximately $845 and has been selling online since January 2015, has also been removed from KTZ's online stores.
"I'm not fully satisfied, they have not offered any monetary compensation from their gains," said Awa.
She said the fashion label could have asked her family if they wanted proceeds from the design to be donated to a charity.
Awa said the email does show that "clearly on KTZ's end they did something wrong, and they apologized."
Although the shaman towelling sweatshirt has been removed from KTZ's website, other Inuit-inspired designs are still available online, including items that use Inuktitut syllabics — the written Inuit language.
Awa is consulting with the rest of her family as well as a lawyer to decide on her next move.