Transition of Style





Gender-free footwear - NiK Kacy from NiK Kacy Footwear

NiK Kacy is a queer non-binary Chinese footwear designer, seen here looking seriously towards the camera.

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NiK Kacy, the visionary behind NiK Kacy Footwear, is revolutionizing the queer fashion scene. Joining us on Transition of Style, NiK discusses their groundbreaking journey in the industry, highlighting the unique challenges and triumphs as a queer entrepreneur. This episode delves into NiK’s experiences from navigating microaggressions to pioneering LGBTQ-focused fashion initiatives like Equality Fashion Week in LA.


Rocio Sanchez:  [00:00:00] Welcome to Transition of Style, the podcast about style, fashion, queerness and how queer leaders today are making a change in the fashion industry. Today I welcome NiK Kacy, designer and leader of the NiK Kacy Footwear brand, as well as doing a bunch of other stuff, including spearheading the Equality Fashion week in LA.

Rocio Sanchez: We’re gonna talk about all of that and more today. Thank you so much, NiK for showing up.

NiK Kacy: Thank you for having me. It’s, always a pleasure and, love sharing stories and increasing our visibility.

Rocio Sanchez: Yeah, of course. And, tell me, you are in LA now, is it?

NiK Kacy: Yeah, I’m in LA right now and, I live in Mid City, if anyone knows where that is.

Rocio Sanchez: Well,  I know that I, I feel a connection towards you because you’re also a fellow Queensie, right? Born and raised in Queens. Am I right? 

NiK Kacy: No, just raised in Queens. I was born in Hong [00:01:00] Kong actually. 

Rocio Sanchez: Okay. Pretty cool. Well, raised in Queens. I definitely feel an affinity to that. We have a little bit of a, of an insight where you grew up, where you were born, where you are now, and we have a little bit of insight on what you do now with the Equality Fashion Week and NiK Kacy Footwear of course.

Rocio Sanchez: But I wanna learn more about you. I would love to know before, during, after. All the things that you’re doing, in your career, how did you personally develop your own style? How would you describe it and how do you think it reflects how you feel on the inside versus how people perceive you?

NiK Kacy: I mean, I think there’s so many people out there listening probably who could relate to my experience, which was, you know, being assigned female at birth and being raised in, in a traditional kind of Chinese culture where women are, you know, or little girls were raised to be not seen and not heard. And to basically serve everybody else. Forced for a very [00:02:00] long time through most of my childhood to dress in a particular way.

NiK Kacy: And my mom is, she’s a wonderful human, but like, she was very much a fashionista. Probably, which is how I kind of picked up having a good eye for fashion. But I think that, you know, I was kind of like her Barbie doll type of thing. Where she would try to dress me up. And I, I remember just when I look back at my childhood, like just the amount of tantrums I, I remember having to throw because I did not know how to articulate why I didn’t wanna wear a dress. I just remember feeling like, I don’t wanna wear this and I don’t know why you’re forcing me to. I’m talking about, very young age, all the way to like high school. 

NiK Kacy: As I got older, I remember every time we’d go shopping I would be picking out the more masculine outfits. And sometimes I think she would, let me, like she was still pretty fashion forward in her eye of seeing like, oh, this is kind of like this, like cool androgynous look, you know, and [00:03:00] I, I see some of the photos of my childhood, I’m like, wow, that was really androgynous. That’s cool that she let me wear that.

NiK Kacy: But I think as I got older, when I got to start really picking at my own outfits, I wanted to emulate the fashion I saw in men’s fashion, but because it was so hard to find in my size and because my body did not conform to the sizing of those kinds of like shirts and whatnot, you know, having breasts and, it was very hard to really find my own style.

NiK Kacy: And I experimented throughout college and different styles were, I think for the first time, because I was alone and liberated and having my own freedom to choose to wear whatever I want, I would experiment with like wearing dresses and skirts. And I just remember I did that for like a week in college and everyone would run up to me and be like, are you in love?

NiK Kacy: Because they associated me wanting to express myself physically and present myself in a way that was more feminine and all of a [00:04:00] sudden, because like, oh, I met a boy. And that just really pissed me off so much. And I hate the attention that I was like, you know, screw this like, why does me wanting to feel good about myself and experimenting with my look, have anything to do with anybody else, you know?

NiK Kacy: And certainly not a boy. So that was my little experimentation phase. And I think that once I really started to come into my own identity and my gender identity, my queer identity, I kind of just stuck with that New York Black. You can’t messed up with just black clothing. That’s pretty much my style, is a very simple classic look, and I think it’s because I just don’t want to put that much thought into it anymore.

NiK Kacy: You know, I wanna put my energy and thought into the other things in life that I really wanna pursue and I’m passionate about. 

Rocio Sanchez: Yeah, there’s definitely a trend, with other people that I’ve spoken to so far about the performance of femininity and how, of course, like your [00:05:00] relationship to gender is what you make of it. But there’s so much value in this experimentation, right? It gets such a slack about like, you’re just experimenting.

Rocio Sanchez: You’re just in a phase. And so what if I am? Sometimes you need to go through it in order to figure out what it actually is and what you feel comfortable with. And that feedback, even if it’s this is good or this is bad. Even if somebody tells you, Hey, you look great, you might not even be like, I don’t want that.

Rocio Sanchez: Like I don’t, you know, oh, hey, you look great. Are you doing this for a boy? Like that’s the feedback that you think about, kind of ruminate and you say, that’s actually not what I want. So you move on from that. And I think that that’s a really important, powerful part of, growing up and coming into your own.

Rocio Sanchez: I think it’s really a powerful tool. And I can relate to what you said a lot because I grew up in New York and I grew up in a Latin family and, femininity was very like, hyper-feminine. It was always just expectations, and of course it’s New York. As many people just wear that, that New York black clothing casual look, there’s also just as many people wearing the over [00:06:00] the top, the colorful, the all eyes on me, which is fantastic and beautiful.

Rocio Sanchez: I definitely performed femininity in that way and was just bombarded every single, there was not a day that I would go out without being harassed on the street. Right. Which is just its own problem. And eventually I came to the point of like, I just don’t like that attention. Right.

Rocio Sanchez: Like, it, it, sometimes there’s that trend of like, I just don’t like that attention. Whether that’s a, or you’re doing it for a boy, or the actual men are giving you that attention and you’re like, I don’t like this. 

NiK Kacy: Totally. And like, I mean, the experience of like so much exoticism. Because, being like a person of color and also feminine presenting, all of a sudden it, it was, all the cat callings and whatnot. And it was very strange. I mean, but I learned a lot about myself because it, it taught me to one, kind of figure out what are the looks that I like and how comfortable I was delving into this kind of feel of like, gender queerness. And this androgynous, very [00:07:00] fluid feel, which I had not realized that was even possible before, but it took me embracing that feminine side in order to get there. 

Rocio Sanchez: Yeah, absolutely. And also there is, I mean, again, femininity can be so beautiful as well. So people who do it and they perform it for themselves or they perform it for other queer woman perhaps, or other queer folks. Like that is the most, that is Chef’s Kiss, you know, or they do do it genuinely for themselves.

Rocio Sanchez: It’s just a beautiful thing to witness and it’s also such a creative thing. Not to say that when you’re like in the understated style, that that can’t be creative, because I have found that I have found creativity in the minute details, of let me wear the same outfit again, but change the shoes. And really pinpoint that. There’s such beauty, to that as well.

Rocio Sanchez: That brings me to, of course, the other stuff that you’re doing and bringing it into your career. So you have NiK Kacy Footwear, you have Equality Fashion Week, and of course, undoubtedly you have a bunch of other stuff going on too, as business owners usually [00:08:00] do. So I would love to know about, why footwear? 

NiK Kacy: Since childhood, like I said, where, I wanted to emulate this kind of masculine look of all the things that I, I would see, in the media, in movies, on the streets. And, you know, shoes were something that I really just had an affinity for where I, I love shoes. 

NiK Kacy: And I just remember feeling like I love women’s shoes, like feminine presenting shoes on women. Absolutely love it, but I just never liked it on myself and that it just never felt right on me. And when I would try on, at that time what’s called men’s shoes, I just remember being like, God, I wish these would fit me. But they never did because I have smaller feet.

NiK Kacy: And it’s just at that tipping point of where men’s departments begin the sizing. Back in like 2010, there was starting the movement of, queer people realizing that like, we need to start [00:09:00] creating our own things. And I’m sure before that it had happened, but I think it wasn’t until like the 2010 era, society started to become a little bit more open to it.

NiK Kacy: And so there was a huge movement of, just a lot of these different fashion designers making clothing that were very gender queer. But nobody was making shoes. I think for me, I was working at Google at the time and I just thought, you know, I don’t feel completely fulfilled at my job. And there were just a lot of like reorgs and stuff and. And I realized like, this is my opportunity, this is my time.

NiK Kacy: Like I can branch out. I saved up some money. And I’m like, you know, I’m gonna go and I’m gonna research why. Why is nobody making just shoes? Why are people putting gender on shoes? They’re objects. There should be no gender assigned to them. It should be about the person wearing them and how they identify and they should get to choose to wear whatever they want. And so I just went researching and, I didn’t study fashion design. I just [00:10:00] knew what I liked, but I was an artist and I did have the artistic background and art degree. So I think that creativity side and the technical skills of that helped me do what I need to do and then take also my skills as a producer to basically just like figure out how to produce shoes.

NiK Kacy: And I just drew all the shoes I’ve ever wanted to wear but I made them in the way where I felt they were gender equal. And when I asked people, you know, in the shoe industry, like, why don’t you just make shoes? All they could hear is like, oh, why don’t we make men’s shoes for women?

NiK Kacy: And it just always had to seem to like go back to very male centric, focused. And I’m like, no, why don’t you just make shoes for everybody and be inclusive? And so I, I realized that, I just had to do it myself. And the worst case scenario was that I get a new wardrobe of shoes if it doesn’t work out, and, you know, everybody still wins, right?

NiK Kacy: But I, I realized in doing [00:11:00] it, it wasn’t just about me anymore. It’s really about all of us and being able to change the way we perceive how fashion is, and that it should be up to the person. 

Rocio Sanchez: I definitely could see how people connect with that as well. So what has been like a struggle that you’ve found as you’ve built out your business. 

NiK Kacy: Honestly, there’s so many, I don’t even know, where to start sometimes. The struggle is super real. As I think queer fashion designers, especially back in the 2000, you know, 13 to, I mean, even as late as the last few years. So many struggles. One, obviously acceptance. Even from the manufacturing standpoint, like going into making a pair of gender equal shoes, redesigning the last was, which is the mold of the shape of the shoe. Basically all shoes are categorized as men’s or women’s because based on that last, that mold is a women’s last or man’s last. And so what I set out to do was I [00:12:00] wanted to create my own last, which is completely genderless, but based on my very subjective opinion, you know?

NiK Kacy: To me, because I felt very non-binary myself, I based it off what I liked as an aesthetic, right? And I removed the traditional conditioning that society has conditioned our people or culture to think, which is like men need to look like they have big feet and women need to look like they have small feet.

NiK Kacy: And I kind of just stripped all of that away and I just designed like a sexy shape that will just fit or don’t fit, you know, like? And so even in that attempt alone, which is so simple you think, because you’re just like, oh, we’ll just make this shape. But approaching even like a master last maker in, a country that is all about the shoes. They’re third generation last makers, all of these things. There’s so much pushback. Cause they’re like, no, that’s not how you make a shoe. I often think [00:13:00] like, if there had been like a cis male who had gone to ask for this, there would be no questions. Right? 

Rocio Sanchez: Right. 

NiK Kacy: But because it was me, everywhere I went it was very strange. I could feel like there was a hidden unspoken discrimination. There was a lot of like misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and racism. You know, so like, it was so layered in the amount of discrimination that I was facing.

NiK Kacy: I talk about this one story very often, and I’ll share it briefly, where the first time I walked into this factory, the entire factory went silent. And then I could hear people whispering. And so when we left, I asked my translator, who was my agent at the time, and he was like, oh, they didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl, you know?

NiK Kacy: And it’s like, why does it even matter? Right. It’s so weird. But, that’s just one small example. As queer entrepreneurs general, [00:14:00] we also are faced with the challenges of like lack of capital. You know, we have a lack of access to capital, all the venture capitalists and stuff, you don’t see a lot for like queer people.

NiK Kacy: And if there are ones for people of color, it’s generally just people of color. And so oftentimes I see a lot of funds or grants for like Black entrepreneurs or Asian entrepreneurs or Hispanic entrepreneurs. But there had not been a lot for queer entrepreneurs. That is starting to change, which is nice.

NiK Kacy: But it’s still comparatively very, very, very drastically different. And then on top of that is having a queer customer base, particularly very like transgender, nonconforming focused. It’s also the difficulty of having a population that generally doesn’t make a lot of money.

NiK Kacy: So when you’re offering this concept of [00:15:00] trying to show our community, like we deserve high quality products, not fast fashion, you know, more sustainable things that are gonna last you. Because we should, we should be a community that knows that we are fucking rad and we deserve to have high quality products.

NiK Kacy: But at the same time, the cost to make them is so high. It was a harsh reality to see not that many people can afford it. And I mean, I can’t even afford my own products right now, because I’ve been struggling so I get it. But it’s just, you think about like if mainstream companies, it would cost some cents on the dollar to make it more inclusive, but it’s cost my whole life savings to make this, you know what I mean? 

NiK Kacy: So  I don’t think most people realize just how much work, us queer entrepreneurs who are trying to solve a problem for our community, what we go through, and how much we devote [00:16:00] and give up, sacrifice, to make this happen. All for hopefully the greater good. 

Rocio Sanchez: The greater good. And also, ultimately, as you mentioned, it’s your savings. It’s all of this. And you’re kind of banking on the hope of, I mean, eventually you wanna live your own dignified life. So your dignified life, your life of shelter and food depends on the success of this as well.

Rocio Sanchez: So there is this intrinsic, the way that this whole world is set up is like, work and fight for literally food and shelter. And so there’s a lot of pressure. I definitely can relate to that. And it’s so easy to underestimate the problems that crop up. You are not ever going to know, you know. It might be as simple as like a technical issue.

Rocio Sanchez: You’re having a trouble with the bank or you’re having, you know, invoicing issues. Today it’s one thing, tomorrow’s the next thing. And then when you go in as a queer person, queer person of color, then it’s the added layers of stuff that, you know, you know in your heart of hearts, this isn’t necessary. Why, why, why?

Rocio Sanchez: And it’s just this confined way of [00:17:00] thinking that is imposed on us and we’re just trying to hear. Again, for the greater good, you know, hopefully, but also for ourselves of like, we wanna support ourselves and our family.  

Rocio Sanchez: But in order to do that, you need ridiculous capital. So definitely something that I would recommend to you if you haven’t already and the people who are listening, is to sign up to the NGLCC. Are you familiar with it? 

NiK Kacy: Yeah, I’ve been a certified LGBTB Business Enterprise for the last eight years. Its one of those things where I think it’s great to have organizations that help queer businesses. I’m actually a mentor for their TGX, you know, initiative. So that we can help other trans owned businesses have access to more resources.

Rocio Sanchez: That’s amazing. the NDLCC, I mean, there’s so many different kinds of resources. It’s just a matter of getting a group of people together and saying, this mentorship program, this is for X, Y, and Z. And there needs to be more, as you said, grants and things like that and, capital coming in.

Rocio Sanchez: That’s what we’re working towards. You keep doing what you’re doing of course. I mean, [00:18:00] I would love to just sign off with one more question, which is let’s see if you can answer on your toes, which is just like, who is your favorite queer creator right now? Or a queer entrepreneur who’s doing amazing things.

NiK Kacy: Yeah. Oh gosh, there’s so many. I would say like, Vicki Posh and her partner Cherise. They’re the owners of Dapper Boy. Queer, lesbian couple, multiracial. They have two kids, they’re living the dream, but they have also struggled. And, recently they just announced that they’re gonna be on Shark Tank, which is amazing.

NiK Kacy: Hopefully that’s gonna really help catapult their brand to the mainstream. And honestly, I’m very excited because having one person out of our group of queer entrepreneurs. Having them have that access is gonna lift all of us. And that makes me so proud of the work that they’ve done and the amount of struggle that they’ve overcome and continue to push forward.

NiK Kacy: And, and we are, you know, in a [00:19:00] queer collective together. We all started at the same time. Dapper Boy and I, we literally had booths together at the first fashion show we ever did. We have continued for the last 10 years to collaborate. And it just makes me really proud to see them succeed.

NiK Kacy: You know, and I know that that needs to be more of the mentality that all of us should share, is this mentality of abundance. And that when someone else rises, we all get lifted together. I really wanna commend them for the work that they’ve done.

Rocio Sanchez: Thank you so much. And again, we’re talking about when one person rises, they bring the rest of us up. And that’s another reason why I asked this question, because, you know, this is a, this episode’s about you, but I would love to kind of spread the love a little bit and see what’s on your mind. Thank you so much for, for sharing your wealth of knowledge. And is there anywhere people can find you? 

Rocio Sanchez: Yeah. So I am also an event producer because while during my journey as a fashion designer, I got to show, [00:20:00] at a lot of fashion shows and what I saw that was within the queer communities, oftentimes our events just don’t have the same pull and the production value and all of the things that a lot of the mainstream fashion shows had. And just even in events in general.

NiK Kacy: What I really want to inspire is that our communities see that like we deserve to be in fancy schmancy places and that we should get dressed up more and like go out and have an amazing time and celebrate each other. So I have a Queer Prom, which is an event that I host to raise money for Equality Fashion because Equality Fashion Week is the first LGBTQ focused fashion week in LA.

NiK Kacy: We compensate and employ over 150 queer, bipoc, QT, like bipoc people. And so that’s a lot of money I need to raise to do that. And I hope, the goal is that every year I can pay everybody more, you know? And so we get to the point of, [00:21:00] paying everyone what they actually deserve, you know?

NiK Kacy: So that’s the dream, and so I need to raise a lot of money. So Queer Prom is the idea of using another event to raise money for the actual event. But then Queer Prom itself has become a very meaningful and impactful event because a lot of us, when we were young, didn’t get to go to high school proms as our authentic selves.

NiK Kacy: So now queer prom is something that gives people the opportunity to go and just be themselves and have this milestone experience of being at a prom. But it’s an adult prom, so it’s more fun. 

Rocio Sanchez: All right. Well thank you so much for sharing that. Honestly, I wish you the best of luck with the events. I’m gonna keep an eye on it. You can find NiK Kacy at 

NiK Kacy: So n i k k a c The best is to just follow me on Instagram because it’ll show you all the different things that I’m, I’m doing. But yeah, otherwise you can go to as well. On Instagram just @nikkacy. 

Rocio Sanchez: Of course. Well, thank you so much for your time today. I’ll see you next time. 


Rocio Sanchez: Transition of Style is brought to you by FC Podcasts, a division of Fashion Consort. Learn more about how FC Podcasts can help you with podcasting, from strategy and creation, to production and marketing at That’s Thank you FC Podcasts, for making Transition of Style possible. 

Rocio Sanchez: Now, back to the show.

Rocio Sanchez: Welcome back to Transition of Style. Today, we spoke to NiK Kacy of NiK Kacy Footwear, who has a lot of things going on and a lot of experiences that we as listeners can learn from. From microaggressions walking into a manufacturing warehouse, to a lack of capital for queer entrepreneurs.

Something we’ve heard previously from a former guest earlier this season, Finnegan Shepard. These are [00:23:00] also the experiences of NiK Kacy’s journey that we as fellow business owners should brace ourselves for. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get the same access to resources either.

The first thing we could learn from NiK Kacy is the tapping in on resources that are available. A good place to start, the NGLCC, or the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. The oldest LGBT chamber of commerce in the world. Signing up to the NGLCC can open you to a world of resources, like supplier diversity initiatives and mentorship programs.

Rocio Sanchez: There are mentorship programs meant for people of color, for trans and gender nonconforming people, and for several different kinds of businesses out there. So check out what they have to offer, maybe there’s an affiliate chamber near you. 

The second thing you could do, if you already do have several years of experience, is to offer to become a mentor for one of these programs. Your expertise and experience can help the next entrepreneur break into the [00:24:00] industry and avoid the mistakes that you’ve made. 

Lastly, if there’s no LGBT business chamber initiative around you, why not make it yourself? I moved to Amsterdam in 2022 and found that there was no LGBT business chamber here, so I created one with a couple of colleagues. And now there’s the Benelux LGBTIQ business chamber. Or BGLBC, which caters to the greater Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg region. So if you are in the region, you should most definitely sign up.

Rocio Sanchez: That’s it for this episode of Transition of Style. If you want to learn more about what’s in store for the rest of the season, be sure to sign up to the newsletter on transitionofstyle. com or follow up on Instagram @transitionofstyle. Thanks for listening. And I’ll see you next time. [00:25:00]

About NiK Kacy

NiK Kacy (they/them/theirs), a trans-masculine gender-nonbinary fashion designer, founded NiK Kacy Footwear in 2013, pioneering gender-neutral footwear. Originally from Hong Kong and raised in New York City, Kacy, now based in Los Angeles, also established Equality Fashion Week. Their influential work, recognized in media like Wells Fargo’s Empowerful Exchange, scholarly articles, and books, has significantly impacted the fashion industry, challenging and reshaping traditional gender norms.


  • Rocio Sanchez, host and producer
  • Caitlin Whyte, audio engineer
  • Sophie Jacqueline, video editor

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