Verve caught up with Gosia Piatek, the creative behind Kowtow to find out more about Kowtow, their ethical and organic products and plans for the future.
Where did the name Kowtow come from?
Kowtow is a Chinese word and is the act of deep respect shown by kneeling and bowing so low as to have your head touching the ground. We thought this was a very fitting name for the brand.
Has fashion always been a part of your life growing up?
I would have to say yes. Coming from Poland to New Zealand at the age of 7 I desperately wanted to fit in, fluro was big in 1987 and I embodied it heavily with a fluro ra-ra skirt, fluro singlet, fluro shoes, socks and a hair scrunchy. Fitting in was the key and I’m like that today — a chameleon. In New Zealand I dress differently to how I dress in London (where I live half the year).
Aesthetics, whether it be through fashion, architecture, interiors or how my food looks on a plate has always been important to me. Certain colours make me feel calm and clutter makes me feel angry. Fashion is just an extension to being a visual person.
Where do you take your inspiration for your garments from?
Life. In London I live a very urban life where I get to immerse myself in culture and art and in New Zealand I live in a marine reserve, and the sea and sky never cease to inspire me.
How important do you think it is for other companies to take an ethical approach to clothing production as you do?
Very important. I don’t think it is possible for the large fashion houses to dramatically change all of their production to ethical and sustainable from one day to the next, but they could defiantly make more of an effort. For designers that are starting out I think they should build a foundation on ethics and sustainability like we have and not off it, the world needs to see a change now.
Do you visit the Kowtow factory often?
Yes, we visit every six months to monitor sampling and production. In December our head creative and production manger are both going over to visit the farms who grow our certified fair trade organic cotton, the aim is to come back with some beautiful footage and continue sharing our story.
Do you feel you have a personal connection with your employees in India?
Yes of course. We are especially close with the cutters and sewers in the sampling room. They love that we aren’t precious and really get amongst it during crunch time. It’s a team effort.
What are the benefits in organic cotton?
Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land, yet it accounts for 25% of the world’s insecticide market and 10% of global pesticide sales, making it the most pesticide-intensive crop grown on the planet. Once the crop relies on chemical fertilisers it becomes reliant on higher consumption each season. It is a nasty cycle of chemicals and debt, as the farmers cannot fund the pesticides/insecticides and end up in debt to the chemical companies.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 20,000 people a year die in developing countries from pesticide poisoning, and a further 3 million people suffer chronic health problems. Organic cotton never uses genetically modified seeds, conserves soil though crop rotation, retains water more efficiently thanks to increased organic matter in the soil, controls weeds through physical removal rather than chemical destruction and controls insects by maintaining a balance between ‘pests’ and their natural predators through healthy soils. Plus the cotton is of a higher quality and has an amazing hand feel so the consumer can notice the difference.
Describe yourself in three words.
Energetic, creative, neurotic.
Are you working on any new collections currently?
Always. We are launching Winter 2016 in February. We have already finished designing Summer 16/17 and just started design on Winter 2017. We have to work very far in advance as we have made a commitment to sea ship our collections rather than air freight. It’s really great as it means we stay true to ourselves and don’t take part in fast fashion trends.
Follow Kowtow on instagram for beautiful imagery and latest updates – @kowtowclothing
and visit the website www.kowtowclothing.com
Questions by Jess Hartley