At Home in London with Kowtow's Gosia Piatek
When Kowtow designer Gosia Piatek fell in love, it turned her world upside down - literally. The fashion designer shares how she's found home on both sides of the globe
When and why did you move to London?
I met my partner Thomas in India while visiting our factory. He is a Londoner and was working on a music video in Kolkata. We met over breakfast one day in the hotel and spent 24 hours together, before he had to fly to London and I flew to Wellington. We kept in touch over Skype and fell completely head over heels in love. Four months later, I visited him in London and fell pregnant. So we now have a 2-year-old son, Laker, and we live between the two countries.
What memories have resurfaced from your childhood in Europe since you moved there?
I was 5 when I left Poland for New Zealand, so my memories aren’t very vivid. However, I speak Polish to Laker. There are so many Polish people and shops in London. It’s great to hear the language being spoken on the streets. In New Zealand, I only ever heard my parents speaking Polish.
What’s the biggest challenge you face with Kowtow’s head office in Wellington and you on the other side of the world?
The challenge for me personally was the time difference. Twelve months ago, I was staying up till 1am most nights, Skyping back home while looking after a baby. I quickly learned this wasn’t sustainable and was feeling really burnt out. So I hired more people, gave promotions and empowered staff to make decisions for themselves. All of this has meant that the business has grown hugely. My going away was actually a blessing in disguise.
How often do you return to New Zealand and where do you stay when you do?
I do summer to summer. It’s pretty nice. As I write this, however, I am back in Wellington for a two-week design deadline stint in the middle of winter. At first the back and forth between the two countries bothered me as I felt really unsettled and it was exhausting travelling with a wee baby, but now I am seeing how fortunate I am to be able to live here in Wellington, right on the waterfront in a marine reserve — and in central London. I can have nature and culture. It’s really inspiring.
Tell us about your London home.
The house is Victorian and was inherited through my partner’s father. I really love the garden. Thomas is an amazing gardener, I love the french lavender that lines our path into the house. It smells so pretty and creates such an inviting entrance. The thing I struggle with most is the lack of light. Victorian homes are so dark and I am used to my very light and bright New Zealand home and studio with ocean views. We have inherited a lot of paintings from Thomas’ dad, who was prolific, so pretty much every spare corner, surface and nook is used for storing his paintings. I feel that one day we should do an exhibition in honour of him.
In what ways have you stamped your own style on your home?
When I met Thomas, the house was full of weird and wonderful objects, which I managed to empty out a bit. He is a total maximist and I am a minimalist. He thinks I’m heartless because I throw birthday cards away and don’t keep them forever.
How do you bring your passion for sustainable living into the home? Are you strict about the sort of furniture, linen and ornaments you buy?
We have a really lovely garden, for which we buy organic plants. This summer we had a bumper crop of teeny tiny wild strawberries, which are the most delicious things you’ve ever tasted. In London they have a really great waste system, where they pick up your compost and garden clippings. Thomas is drawn to anything vintage. Recently we had a 15th-century wooden door restored by a local carpenter and put into the house for our son’s bedroom door.
I guess we don’t make a big thing of buying ethically — it just doesn’t occur to us to buy because it’s cheap. The house is already very established and full, so if we do pick something out it’s because we love and need it. The things we’ve had to buy recently have been for our son. I usually check Ebay first as buying more new stuff just seems so wasteful when he’s only going to play with it for a little while. Recently I purchased a mega set of Duplo on Ebay for him. My mum and dad also make Laker really cute toys: swings, a rocking horse and hand-made soft toys.
Tell us about the work you’ve put into the garden, what you’ve planted and how it has evolved since you moved in.
Thomas is a very keen gardener. We have a fern garden, which came from the Pan set and a rose garden, which came from Beauty and the Beast. He was second unit director on both these films and at the end of shooting, filled up his entire car with plants, it was pretty funny. We also have two thriving apple trees which I really love. Our garden really doesn’t make you feel like you are in the centre of London, it’s very special.
What type of spaces appeal to you? Is there a particular room that stokes your creative juices?
I love minimal spaces. We are adding an extension to the house this winter and it will be the space I get to create, which will be fun. I moved into Thomas’ space so it’s really taking a while to navigate around his style. I like our kitchen the best, as it was recently renovated with a skylight. It’s really light and looks on to our lush garden. We also have a massive gas stove top, which is amazing for cooking big feasts.
Can you paint a picture of your neighbourhood?
Up the road is Crouch End [in the north], which has a real village vibe. Lots of cute cafes and boutiques, a local organic shop, florist, baker, butcher, fishmonger and a clock tower. But down the road is a bit rougher. There are contradictions and contrasts around each corner. That’s what London does well — mixes everyone up.
How do you find bringing up your son in London, compared with Wellington?
At first I really struggled with London, it was such a contrast to New Zealand. But now I have made a few friends and I’m finding my footing. I work four days a week in a studio near home, I have Wednesdays off with Laker and recently have been visiting different art exhibitions with a friend. Last week we went to see Georgia O’Keeffe at The Tate and a few weeks before that, Yayoi Kusama at Victoria Miro. Summer in London is great, the parks are really amazing. We often go to Hampstead Heath, which is so wild and unkept.
Design and fashion-wise, what’s inspired you lately?
I love the street style in East London. Girls in London have a cool, casual aesthetic. Londoners are so accepting of anything outside the box, you don’t need to conform to any type of style. Also, the quality of homewares, clothing, design objects and packaging is at a really high standard here, which has had a direct effect on us upping our game at Kowtow.
What books are hiding in your collection?
My favourite wall is behind the sofa where all of our design, art, photography and fashion books are kept. I like that when I am vibing on something or working on inspiration for a new range I can usually find the subject matter in our house.