Buying organic and ethical clothing mightn’t seem a big deal now but eight years ago, finding a fashion label built on those principals was an anomaly. That’s how New Zealand label Kowtow first began, and how it has continued to operate since 2007.
Founder and creative director Gosia Piatek made a choice from the beginning to use only fair trade, organic cotton. She’s never used zips in her clothing because she’s never been unable to source any that are sustainably made.
Piatek is fastidious about having a transparent production model, visiting her cotton growers and two factories in India every six months to ensure respectful labour practices are in place. Both factories are monitored by the Fair Trade Labeling Organization International.
“We’re working from the seed to the garment,” Piatek says. “It’s not just like buying organic cotton, where you don’t know where it’s from or how it’s made. All our fabric is made to our specifications, so the growers have to grow the cotton, spin it into a yarn of our specification and then make into a fabric that we want.”
The longer production time means Kowtow designs seasons one and a half years ahead of schedule. It’s reflected in the brand’s minimal, trans-seasonal pieces that place emphasis on longevity over trends.
Kowtow’s current season drop, The Studio, is inspired by a ceramics studio. On offer are pleated dresses and skirts that fall below the knee, relaxed button up shirts and long-line blazers, most in muted dark greens, black, white, grey and two core prints designed in-house.
“For me, using only one fibre – cotton – isn’t restrictive,” says Piatek. “Each season, the idea of the perfect shirt or trouser changes, so it’s nice to be a perfectionist when it comes to the the fabric.”