Budding shoe designer NiK Kacy is making history. The New York native is soon set to launch one of the first upscale brands wholly dedicated to producing gender-neutral footwear.
Kacy, a former Google employee, came up with the idea after years of disappointing shopping experiences.
“Ever since I was a child, I was not able to find shoes that I wanted to wear,” Kacy explains. “I generally like to dress more masculine, and I wanted to wear men’s shoes. I would see these awesome shoes on the street worn by guys and I’d ask where they got [them from]. I would go to the stores and I was always [either] directed to the women’s section, or the smallest men’s sizes were too big.”
Eventually Kacy realized just how many others shared the same frustrations. It was only a matter of time before Kacy decided to offer a solution in the form of NiK Kacy Footwear.
The pioneering shoe label is making its debut with a collection named Fortune which is comprised of five styles including: the Classic Derby, the Wingtip Derby, the Desert Boot, the Dress Boot, and the Monk Boot. Customers will have a total of ten options to choose from with some styles having color variations.
The collection will also feature signature red stitching throughout each shoe. Kacy hopes the added element will bring good “fortune” to all of the supporters who purchase.
“What I wanted to do was convey a sense of positivity,” Kacy says about the meaningful accent. “Being from a Chinese culture and background, it’s a spiritual belief that red brings good luck.”
A red equality symbol will don each shoe as well.
Sizes will range from 35 to 44 (US women’s 5 to men’s 11).
Last month Kacy turned to Kickstarter to raise revenue for initial manufacturing costs which consists of creating new molds in gender-neutral proportions and green-lighting the first production run of 200 shoes. The campaign has already reached its minimum goal of $36,000 and is currently in its final push to meet stretch goals. Each level of additional funding will allow Kacy to expand the brand to include more sizes, vegan leather, and high heels.
Kacy says the response to the Kickstarter project has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Everybody has been like ‘yes, yes, yes!’,” Kacy says. “I think that’s really wonderful because that’s what drives me to keep going.”
Getting the shoe line off the ground has been no easy task for Kacy. The Los Angeles-based entrepreneur has spent countless hours researching and preparing for business. Kacy even traveled to Italy to attend an international shoe fair. Being there offered a valuable education on the craft of shoe design and reiterated the importance of what Kacy was developing.
“I met hundreds of people from all over the world who had been making shoes for decades,” Kacy says. “[However], most of them didn’t actually want to talk to me because I look different, and I did not fit into what they were used to. But the few that did speak [with] me, and were open-minded, and were interested in what I had to say and why I was there, agreed with me that there was a need.”
But despite recognizing the need, Kacy says that many designers and retailers remain unwilling to develop merchandise for a niche market that largely includes queer, trans and androgynous dressers.
Kacy, who identifies as gender-fluid or third sex, is committed to showing the industry that those consumers matter just as much as any other.
“I feel passionately that fashion should not be limited by our gender,” Kacy says. “It should be something based on what your style is, by how you want to express yourself creatively. It’s important that I can be the voice and be visible as part of those communities, because visibility is what educates and education is what defeats ignorance.”
In 2013, Kacy underwent top surgery. The procedure was a dream come true and in many ways a direct reflection of the confidence Kacy hopes to inspire with the NKF brand.
“I wanted to have surgery from the moment I got boobs,” Kacy says laughing. “I spent so much of my life wearing clothes I wasn’t comfortable in, wearing shoes I wasn’t comfortable in, and never feeling authentic. I never felt like I could carry my head up high like the way that I do now.”
At the forefront of change, Kacy couldn’t be any happier with life today. Raised by a single mother, bullied as a child, and embroiled in a long-time battle with self-acceptance, the George Michael/Madonna super fan has experienced a fair share of low points. But Kacy believes those circumstances built character and created the strong-willed individual that now stands ready to revolutionize the shoe industry.
“The reason why we exist is to make a difference and be of service,” Kacy says. “There were many moments when I wanted to give up, and I’m so grateful I did not.”
And so are the thousands of people who will finally have a pair of shoes made especially for them.
Click here to donate to Kacy’s kickstarter.
by Deon NewsomFollow @officialMOSWN
* There may be some words contained in this article that are unfamiliar. See definitions below:
Androgynous – a person who may appear as and exhibit traits traditionally associated as both male and female, or as neither male nor female, or as in between male and female
Gender-fluid – a gender identity where a person identifies as 1) neither or both female and male; 2) experiences a range of femaleness and maleness, with a denoted movement or flow between genders; 3) consistently experiences their gender identity outside of the gender binary
Gender-neutral – used to denote a unisex or all-gender inclusive space, language, etc. Ex: A gender neutral bathroom is a bathroom open to people of any gender identity and expression
Queer – an umbrella term representative of the vast matrix of identities outside of the gender normative and heterosexual or monogamous majority
Third-sex – gender identity where a person is neither male nor female, nor androgynous
Top surgery – term used to describe medical surgery on the chest for the purpose of better aligning a person’s physical body to their gender identity and expression; may be referring to a bilateral mastectomy (removal of breasts) or breast augmentation
Trans – umbrella term, originated from Transgender