When I asked Maggie Marilyn in the latest ‘Monthly interview’ who she would have ‘nominated’ as my next guest, she promptly replied “Gosia Piatek, the founder of one of New Zealand’s most pioneering sustainable brands, Kowtow” and I know she did it because this designer and her brand represent an inspiration for her.
But this name, Kowtow, was not new to me and not only because of its particularity; in fact it occurred to me that I had talked about it, but only naming it, short time before, in an article for a fashion magazine about some eco-fabrics and brands that use them. Again, how small this eco-fashion world is!
And so today, together with you, I have the opportunity to deepen my knowledge on this brand, which, like Maggie Marilyn, comes from Neozelanda and which, I bet, has much to say.
So Gosia, my first question is how was Kowtow born? And what is the meaning of the term, it is a curious name!
I have always spent a lot of time in nature and knew whatever I would do, wouldn’t put it at risk. In 2007 I founded Kowtow, an ethical and sustainable womenswear label that follows its production from seed to garment. The word ‘Kowtow’ is a Chinese word that represents the custom of deep respect, shown by kneeling and bowing so low that your forehead touches the ground. It sums up nicely the respect we have for people and the land.
Oh, it’s such a beautiful concept! The presentation of the brand on the site says ‘the Kowtow aesthetic is inspired by Gosia’s interests in art, architecture, culture, craftsmanship, landscapes and her own travels’. Would you like to tell me a bit about your passions, at least the favorite ones that most inspire your work?
I live between London and New Zealand and both places couldn’t be anymore different. In London, I’m inspired by a melting pot of cultures, styles and have accessibility to international art and exhibitions. It has everything a city has to offer. In New Zealand (where we have our design studio), I am more inspired by the natural environment around me. I also live opposite the sea, so that’s probably why there is always so much blue in our collections.
Always on your site I read the origin of all the materials used and that make Kowtow a sustainable brand. Do you want to ‘tell’ them also to eco-à-porter readers?
Our collections are made from natural, renewable, biodegradable, regenerated fibers and are ethically manufactured. All our cotton is certified organic by the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP). The versatility of organic cotton is the basis of our collections and it is also natural and biodegradable.
About three years ago, we made it our mission to make the world’s cleanest denim. Our denim is made from certified fair trade organic cotton, washed using Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified processes and finished with OEKO-TEX certified nickel-free tacks.
Last winter, we introduced merino wool. Our merino wool is ZQ certified and dyed using the Bluesign system then blended with certified fair trade organic cotton to create a warm and luxurious fabric that is kind to both animals and the environment.
We launched our first collection of sustainable swimwear about six months ago. Our sustainable swimwear is made from ECONYL®, regenerated nylon consisting of pre and post-consumer waste material pulled from the ocean. We recycled 120kg of fishing nets in our first collection of swimwear.
As designers, we are accountable for the entire lifetime of a garment. We are committed to designing beautiful ethical and sustainable collections and continue to find ways in which we can design and innovate without costing the earth.
So, this season, we are introducing sustainable tencel. We use Lenzing® tencel, a natural and biodegradable fibre made using wood pulp from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified forests. We have blended tencel with our certified fair trade organic cotton to make an ultra soft fabric that possess a fluid quality.
Yes, I know these materials, we talked about them here! Kowtow was founded in 2007, so you already have a lot of experience. How did you see changing the approach of fashion towards sustainability, both in your country and abroad?
When I launched Kowtow, I felt this was something that needed to told on a global scale. It was never intended for only a New Zealand audience. The vision from day one was to be global, because the sustainable message is so important. It’s only been in the last couple of years that there has been greater media attention around the subject and its finally getting the attention it deserves.
I ask you a question that I often ask my guests: at what point is eco-fashion and could we talk about eco-à-porter soon?
What an amazing idea. Like a sustainable net-a-porter that has the best ethical and sustainable brands of the world in one place. Seems like a great opportunity and gap in the market.
As Maggie nominated you, you should do the same, nominating someone else, any person or brand or other that you consider a reference point in the world of eco-fashion (or in your world;))
I would like to nominate Sebastian Kopp from Veja. They design ethically and sustainably made sneakers with a minimalist and similar aesthetic to Kowtow. They work really well with our garments and we stock Veja in our award winning flagship store, which is made entirely from natural, local and sustainable materials.
Very good Gosia! Waiting for interviewing Sebastian Kopp, I thank you so much for your kindness.
For my readers, I add that the Kowtow flagship store in Wellington, New Zealand, has won an award because of its emphasis on natural, locally sourced and sustainable materials.
For example, the handmade ceramic tiles by local artist, Gidon Bing, the floor rugs made from salvaged and recycled synthetics, including fishing nets recovered from the ocean, the modular sofas designed by Simon James and upholstered with renewable and compostable fibres: virgin wool blends. And so on. Bravo Kowtow!