• Fashion

How Kowtow is making sustainable cool

Gosia Piatek tells us how she created one of the world’s leading sustainable fashion brands

Twelve years ago Gosia Piatek had an idea; to create a fashion line with a positive impact. One that was ethical and sustainable from seed to garment. Back then, ‘sustainable’ and ‘fashion’ had rarely been grouped together, there was no Everlane, Veja or Reformation, and #thegreencarpetchallenge was just a twinkle in Eco Age’s Livia Firth’s eye. New Zealand-born Gosia’s vision was to create clothes in a way that met her high ethical standards, which had been ignited in her early 20s as she chased the snow around North America, Canada and New Zealand.

“The natural beauty and pristine environment blew me away and coming back into urban life was always a shock to the system. It made me realise that we have to protect what’s around us,’’ Gosia says.

From using only fair trade, renewable and sustainable fibres, to ethical manufacturing through to the garments themselves (which would be designed to last in classic silhouettes), Gosia set her standards (and expectations) high. What transpired is one of the fashion world’s most-loved sustainable fashion brands, and one which is helping make sustainability cool.

When I started Kowtow no one wanted to hear deeply what fair trade or organic meant. It’s so refreshing that the dialogue has evolved and we can now have open, intelligent and important conversations,’’ says Gosia

“Now it’s amazing to see that words such as ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’ are becoming more normal in the fashion landscape.”

Here we chat to Gosia about, how fashion has changed in the last decade, what sustainability means to her along with her favourite eco sneakers brand and what’s inside her own wardrobe.

How has the fashion industry changed since you launched Kowtow?

It’s inspiring to see more companies doing their bit to try and make the industry greener and more transparent. Some major events have happened in the past 10 years, including the Rana Plaza disaster, which created the Fashion Revolution movement. Our general awareness about plastic, the environment and working conditions has amplified and now they are interesting subjects for everyone to speak about.

What’s more important to you? Sustainability, ethical production or toxin-free garments?

It all goes hand in hand. I don’t see one without the other, hence why it was so important for our cotton to be both organic and fairtrade certified. I really don’t see why one aspect should suffer. Why not protect it all?  

What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced so far?

Strangely, not too many. I have been lucky to have surrounded myself with amazing, talented, creative and motivated individuals who make Kowtow what it is today. I think creating a business with a strict philosophy means you attract a lot of like-minded people, so it filters out a lot of negativity.

Has working in ethical fashion changed your overall lifestyle?

I think like everything it’s a work in progress. The more I learn the more I try and implement into day-to-day living. At the moment I’m trying very hard to eliminate plastics from everyday use, which has meant I now shop very locally (Gosia splits her time between New Zealand and London where her husband’s business is based) as all the supermarkets are overloaded with plastic. I buy my fruit and veg from the green grocer and fish from the fishmonger.

Kowtow AW 19

What’s your sustainable fashion mantra?

Buy less, buy second hand, wash with care, mend and purchase ethically, and only buy what you love and adore.

Do you have an ethical fashion muse?

I’m not sure if I have an ethical fashion muse but one person who I greatly admire for their tenacity to do good and change the world is Jane Goodall. I heard her speak last year in Sydney and she blew me away with her selflessness and desire to keep changing and evolving in response to what creates true impact.

What’s in your wardrobe?

White shirts and t-shirts, wide leg pants and jeans – all Kowtow. There is the odd dress, jumper and jacket too. My wardrobe is a very manageable size.

Favourite eco shoe brand?

Veja, of course! We stock them in our flagship store in Wellington, New Zealand. They are a comfortable and ethical sneaker brand from France who use organic cotton uppers or vegetable tanned leather and sustainable rubber plantation soles. They come in cute colours too.

Kowtow AW19

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