The Local Fashion Label Kicking Plastics To The Curb
Kowtow founder Gosia Piatek says what we choose to wear can help the planet
Earlier this year Kowtow founder Gosia Piatek announced her fashion label’s audacious plan to completely eliminate plastic from their designs — no small feat, considering the vast amount of plastic used in the garment industry. “We believe in a circular world where waste isn’t produced,” says Gosia.
Since its inception 15 years ago, Kowtow has been committed to using 100 per cent certified Fairtrade organic cotton, and its fully traceable seed-to-garment production chain allows for the brand to make all their own fabrics and dye using all their own colours. So the label’s move to plastic-free clothing is a natural part of their ethos.
The Textile Exchange estimates 65 per cent of clothing produced globally is made up of virgin plastic derived from fossil fuels. This can be used in everything from the fibres a garment is made of, to elastic, buttons, zips and other fasteners. In an age where every dollar counts towards a healthier planet, the global brand’s plastic-free goal couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Plastic does not ever go away, it just breaks down into smaller particles and ends up in our oceans,” Gosia explains. “We want to be a solutions provider, not part of the problem. So working towards a zero per cent plastic mission seems obvious.”
Kowtow has never used zips in its clothing as there are too many components (and therefore too difficult to recycle), opting for nickel-free tacks that can be melted down and remade. Nor is Kowtow’s denim mixed with any synthetic stretch component (Lycra being a commonly used one), as this also complicates the recycling process. All buttons are made from shells and nuts, care labels from organic cotton and swing tags from recycled cotton offcuts.
“If we can replace synthetics out of people’s wardrobes, surely it’s a reason to exist and give people and the planet a healthier alternative,” says Gosia. Kowtow is now looking at how best to replace polyester/cotton sewing thread, (as pure cotton and eucalyptus-derived Tencel both tend to break in its machines), and the thin, synthetic elastic used in the cuffs of their knitwear so the sleeves don’t stretch out. From January, the label’s fusible interfacing (an additional layer of supportive fabric) will be organic cotton and the elastic will be made from natural biodegradable rubber with an organic cotton outer. Meanwhile, the label’s zero-plastics goal meant saying goodbye to Kowtow’s leggings, as they had a 5 per cent Lycra component.
Kowtow’s latest collection is not only designed to work for the planet, it’s also designed in inspiration by it, rendered in an earthy colour palette with notes of vibrant cyan blue, inspired by French artist Yves Klein. Anyone seeking a soft and sensual summer outfit should look no further than the Solar Dress, a zero-waste knitted piece made entirely from certified Fairtrade organic cotton. Then there’s the digitally printed Landscape print that Kowtow’s head designer created from cutting photographs and collaging them together. Gosia’s favourite piece in this print is the Woodland shirt with completely biodegradable shell buttons.
All of Kowtow’s inks and dyes are Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) approved, meaning they’re free from chlorine bleach, toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde and aromatic solvents. Repairs are provided free to Kowtow customers and a circularity programme keeps garments out of landfills.
“Our purpose at Kowtow is to leave the planet better than when we found it,” says Gosia. “It’s the reason we exist.”
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