I first learned of Kowtow after leaving New Zealand when a good friend of mine took a position in sales for them. I have since followed the expansion of their brand and with that growth my admiration has increased ten fold. Challenging the idea that eco friendly fashion is just dressed up potato sack, the Kowtow brand offers inspired collections that are intelligently cut, and perfectly timed for those taking the advice of fashion media and stocking their wardrobes with quality mixable foundation pieces. In saying that they also unapologetically use stunning bursts of colour and pattern (which never fail to grab my magpie eyes).
As one of New Zealand's leaders in sustanable fashion the Kowtow ethic revolves around their supply and manufacturing chain leaving as little impact on the earth as possible, ensuring their workers are cared for, receive quality workers rights, and a respectable wage. Kowtow uses 100% fair trade certified cotton, as certified by the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation - crops are pesticide free and kept in balance with the use of natural predators and healthy soils meaning that crop soil and the families who own and work on it remain healthy for the future.
As someone who likes to be aware of where my food comes from, and with a recent decision to avoid non organic wines and drink biodynamic when possible (which is delicious FYI, check out The Town Mouse Melbourne as a great wine list example ) it seems only relevant to also attempt to apply this thinking to my wardrobe and give support to brands that have a healthy conscience when it comes to manufacturing. Last month the "Who Made Your Clothes?"campaign saw fashionistas, designers and bloggers around the world wearing their clothing inside out to encourage people to consider and find out where their clothing was made - I was thinking of all the brands I know who do work to sustainable levels and Kowtow reined champion. Read my interview with Kowtow deigned Gosia below and then head to their website to clean up your cotton.
The organic or eco fashion culture is gaining momentum, but still has a long way to go. What encouragement or tips can you offer a young designer wanting to work sustainably?
Don't give up when the research part gets hard. What we do takes a lot more energy than sourcing conventional trims or fabrics as we only have a handful of suppliers that we can work with, this also limits our design. However, we have built the brand around such a strong environmental and social ethos that we are willing to work within limitations, which in turn does actually mean a very unique and well honed in product.
A lot of designers might want to work sustainably, but have no idea where to start or source from, can you suggest any helpful websites or people who advise on sustainable sourcing?
The Ethical Fashion Forum is a great resource out of London that can help you get in touch with the right people.
You are based in Wellington NZ, what are some of the pros of being a clothing brand based in a small city?
Your energy can stay very focused in Wellington as it is a relatively sleepy city, so we're not always trying to compare ourselves or do too much at one time. Wellington is also super creative, so there is enough out there to keep us stimulated. I guess with the power of the internet you can research to your hearts content and that's basically how we do things. Sometimes we forget to leave the studio as between Pinterest and style.com we seem pretty sorted.
Any sneaky info you can share about what you're working on for next seasons?
Our Summer collection titled 'Solid Light' is due in stores in August, it's a paired back and much more tailored collection featuring details such as shirt collars and pleating. The colour pallet is white, black, teal, chambray blue and smoke. As well we have created two limited edition geometric fabric prints.
If you had to wear one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?
Our Building Block Drop Crotch Pants.
Illustration - me / Photos - Kowtow