Kowtow ethical clothing was one of the earliest starters in sustainable fashion, founded in New Zealand in 2007 by Gosia Piatek. Kowtow is a sustainable fashion line committed to creating positive change by using only renewable and sustainable fibres, as well as ethical manufacturing. Kowtow have recently earned a well-deserved A+ in the Tearfund / Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion Survey.
The Kowtow range is minimal with an understated sense of femininity that will take you through season upon season, year upon year – what we like to think of as ‘forever clothes’. Find out why we are excited to support Kowtow in their mission, by making their products available online, and to view and try instore.
Tell us about the driving force that led you to create Kowtow ethical clothing.
Growing up in New Zealand, I was fortunate to have easy access to nature. Splitting my time between bush, sea and snow, I became really fond of the natural world and knew that whatever it was I ended up doing, it would look after people and the environment. At the time, I didn’t know this motivation would take me into clothing, but after speaking with a friend it felt like an industry that needed a positive change.
What are your top 3 reasons to switch to ethical clothing?
- To protect the people who make our clothes.
- To preserve the world we live in.
- To participate in challenging the status quo.
How do you source the most sustainable cotton to reduce your impact?
We only use cotton grown from non-genetically modified seeds and organically farmed without harmful chemicals. Organic farming is achieved through companion planting, crop rotations and onsite green waste composting, which helps to preserve entire ecosystems. Crops are exclusively rain-fed and hand picked several times during the season. The organic cotton farms are small (only 1-2 acres) and run by families who are supported by Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO). Fair trade empowers farmers to negotiate with buyers to secure better prices for their cotton. Every season, certified farmer groups receive a premium to be spent on community projects such as medical costs, irrigation schemes to conserve rainwater, books and clothes for school children, farmer education, training and upgrades.
How do you maintain a fair working standard companywide?
All Kowtow ethical clothing has been certified by non-profit internationally recognised organisations. We make use of independent audits and accreditation bodies to ensure we remain true to our values. We work closely with the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation and ensure our garments are made at SA8000 certified organisations, which encourages clothing manufacturers to develop, maintain and apply socially acceptable practices like guaranteed minimum wage, paid holiday leave, overtime & sick pay, medical insurance and workplace unions.
Even with these standards in place, we insist on building relationships with the people we work with, visiting our manufacturers in India twice a year and speaking with them daily. We understand that working with raw materials means that things change and prices fluctuate, so instead of dropping manufacturers we’ve worked with since our inception, we problem solve together until we arrive at an outcome we’re both happy with.
What specific standards do you look to certify Kowtow against?
We look to the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) and ZQ merino wool for our raw materials; Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Bluesign, OEKO-TEX and the Global Recycle Standard (GRS) for our processing; and resources, the Fairtrade Labelling Organisations (FLO) and SA8000 for our manufacturing.
But for us, it goes beyond certifications. We invest in visiting our manufacturers, seeing the supply chain from seed to garment, and working with them to create real partnerships.
What is the one thing consumers of disposable fashion should know about the industry?
I have no experience with fast fashion, as have never worked in such an environment. At Kowtow we work on a holistic business model through and through and it doesn’t just stop at the clothing; we ensure all our packaging is recyclable, we commercially compost our corn starch packaging, we sea freight, offset our carbon emissions, and drink organic and fair trade certified coffee in the workroom.
We support and collaborate with organisations and businesses who are working on positive social and environmental change. The idea that anyone would think that a Kowtow item is disposable makes my stomach churn – we have a free repair program instore and are working on becoming a fully circular company starting with a full take-back program within the next two months. This will mean we will take responsibility of the garments’ end life and give them a new life. I hope to think we are the opposite of fast and disposable fashion.
Call by the CONTENT store at 32-34 New Cavendish Street W1G 8UE or shop Kowtow ethical clothing online. | Read More: 3 Reasons to Choose Sustainable Fashion Over ‘Disposable’ Fashion