Kowtow: From Seed to Garment Film

May 9th, 2017

The origins of the word kowtow comes from China. Here the act of kowtowing is considered the highest form of reverence where one kneels and bows so low, their head touches the ground. A fitting name for a clothing line whose aim is to respect not only the earth their organic cotton comes from, but each of the hands that touch its garments.

Kowtow’s origins began in Wellington, where designer and founder Gosia Piatek grew up after fleeing Poland with her parents at the age of five. Despite having no background in fashion, after graduating from University, Piatek was in search to do something meaningful. When a friend suggested founding a Fair Trade organic cotton business, she took the idea and ran with it.

Piatek and her team work solely with organic cotton to create apparel from the seed to the garment. The transparency of this journey allows their customer insight into the origins of their clothing item. To do this they work exclusively with a farm and factory in Calcutta, where fair wages are a must and ethical work standards and balanced hours for their employees means working a season ahead of most other labels.

The quality of Kowtow’s fabrics and their eye for details – each button and trim is sourced and produced ethically, both environmentally and socially – has garnered Kowtow a cult following of women around of the globe. The label now has retailers in New York, London, Paris, Copenhagen and Tokyo and is celebrating ten years in the business.

Poepke is proud to have this considered label adorn their hangers.

Text: @shanachandra

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Kowtow

August 26th, 2016

1 Momentum Dress White Kowtow Stockist Sydney Australia Poepke 1

2 On The Horizon Dress Kowtow Stockist Sydney Australia Poepke 1

3 Stahl Housecoat Dress Black Kowtow Stockist Sydney Australia Poepke 1

4 Capture Skirt Kowtow Stockist Sydney Australia Poepke 1

5 V-Neck T-Shirt Black Kowtow Stockist Sydney Australia Poepke 1

6 Sunday Jumpsuit Kowtow Stockist Sydney Australia Poepke 1

7 Momentum Dress Black Kowtow Stockist Sydney Australia Poepke 1

8 V-Neck T-Shirt Grey Marle Kowtow Stockist Sydney Australia Poepke 1

New pieces from Kowtow: all fair trade and in certified organic cotton.

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Kowtow

September 4th, 2015

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Our first drop of organic cotton pieces from Kowtow is in store now.

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Kowtow

October 2nd, 2014

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Introducing Kowtow: a new label to Poepke, composed of deceptively simple pieces.

Effortlessly elegant, casual clothes that form dramatic silhouettes, Kowtow is minimalism perfectly executed. Bold graphics, and eco-friendly fabrics make Kowtow garments effortlessly cool. The softness of organic cotton means the clothes also feel incredible against your skin. Kowtow is 100% fairtrade and ethically sound.

We spoke to creator Gosia Piatek to get the behind-the-scenes on the label.

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Rather than being born out of the fashion industry, Kowtow was initially the result of pursuing a sustainable, ethical business model. How did it all begin?

Back in 2007 I had a naive and wonderful idea with my partner at the time to start up a fair trade organic cotton clothing label. With absolutely nothing to lose and not a penny to our name, we managed to secure a $5000 government grant and a large t-shirt order. The rest is history.

How do see your approach as a little different from that of other labels?

We think about ethics and sustainability first and foremost, then we work the design around the limitations. For example, we haven’t managed to source ethical/sustainable zips so we create patterns that can avoid zipper closures, which in turn means we constantly have to think outside the box and be very creative with our design and pattern making approach.

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What sorts of benefits does the fairtrade model have for your producers and their communities?

Being a certified fair trade company with the Fairtrade Labelling Organisations means that our cotton farmers receive a premium for their harvest. Usually the people at the bottom of a supply chain get paid the worst, and being fair trade allows for farmers to earn a living wage plus other benefits such as bonuses, which they can choose to spend on community projects such as schools, clean water and cattle.

The cornerstone of the label is organic, fairtrade cotton. Could you tell us a little bit about where this cotton comes from?

The cotton is from India. Our producer groups are small scale and many of them only own 1-2 acres of land. They all work under the organic and fairtrade umbrella, which means that our cotton is grown pesticide free and uses natural techniques such as companion planting, crop rotation and non-GM seeds.

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Is the effortless, relaxed feel that your pieces have a conscious part of your design?

Yes, everything we do is conscious. Although that said, we do only work with cotton which is a more relaxed fabric, so as a result we do end up with very wearable collections.

The minimal aesthetic neatly complements your ethics and materials. What are some of your reference points in going into the design process?

We love to approach each collection with a  strong theme, whether it’s referencing architecture, artists or crafts.

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