Kowtow is known for its less-is-more approach to design. This means the collection is minimalist in aesthetic. But the mood extends to the brand’s footprint too.

The Kiwi label recently announced it will no longer use plastic at any point of doing business – from production to posting orders to customers. The tagline “Wear nature. Not plastic” sums up the shift.

Broadsheet sat down with founder Gosia Piatek to find out more about this milestone for the 17-year-old brand.

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What steps did you take to get to plastic-free production?

The idea of circularity existed from the beginning. We just didn't have a word for it. We’ve been around for 17 years but during lockdown I saw an image of a pair of jeans that had been composted. The natural fibres were completely broken down but you could see the chain of synthetic materials – almost like a plastic net – that was left. It really made me think about what’s going into our soil.

What are you hoping to achieve by making this change across the business?
We’ve got a goal to swap out one million pieces in people’s wardrobes from synthetic to natural fibres. It’s ambitious but we think achievable.

How can consumers navigate “plastic washing”?
It’s really hard. Legally, you can label something as 100 per cent cotton if it’s the main fibre. But there’s no regulation around declaring the stitching or trims. We made the choice to swap out every single element in our garments to be completely natural. We’ve already replaced 10 million metres of polyester thread that stitch our garments together with cotton. We’re also using buttons made from shells or nuts and nickel-free metal button fastenings for our jeans instead of zips.

What can brands do to help consumers make more sustainable choices?
I think as a designer you need to be responsible for the waste that you produce. It cannot be up to the consumer, and governments aren’t supporting it really yet. There’s this awesome middle ground where companies have the opportunity to create the change in response to what consumers want.

How can people add new pieces to their wardrobe sustainably, and maintain a sense of personal style, when shopping on a budget?
A second-hand approach is amazing. But if you’re going to buy something from a [fast fashion] shop then you can still buy 100 per cent wool or cotton or linen and it actually feels nicer to wear on your body than synthetics anyway.


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