*Editor’s Note: January is “New Year, New You” month on the blog where we will feature organic food, natural beauty products, eco-fashion and lifestyle goods. Stay tuned all month and learn how to live a healthy lifestyles inside and out.
For a long time, many consumer habits have appeared to have no consequence. It is now quite apparent that there is an imbalance in standards of living throughout the world which is fueled by the Wests’ continuing short changing and exploitation of labour markets in the so called “third world”. With a passion for ethical and organic fashion, Kowtow decided to do something about it and created certified organic, fair trade clothing that is ethically and sustainably made from seed to garment.
Getting to the root (or seed) of organic, fair trade clothing I had a few questions for Kowtow founder and CEO Gosia Piatek who taught me exactly what these terms mean and why they are important to the fashion industry.
Choupette Social Girl: Why is there a stereotype that you have to sacrifice style when it comes to sustainable fashion?
Gosia Piatek: I think this way of thinking is in the past now, as ‘sustainably and ethically made’ are words on the tip of everyones tongues whether it’s in fashion, food or skincare. It’s no longer hippy to be concerned about workers welfare or the environment. Now there are so many beautifully refined sustainable labels in the world and larger brands that are introducing sustainable and ethical lines.
CSG: What do “Certified Organic” and “Fair Trade” mean?
GP: We are certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) which means that our cotton is grown chemical free with non-GM seeds and the farmers use sustainable farming techniques such as companion planting. The cotton is also dyed free of hazardous metals such as formaldehyde, nickel and lead. We are fair trade certified by the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation which means that the farmers who grow our cotton are guaranteed a minimum price for their crop. As well, The fair trade premium enables co-operatives to fund projects that benefit the wider community such as drilling bore holes for clean water; building schools and clinics.
CSG: What is the first step someone can make towards transitioning to a “Certified Organic” and/or “Fair Trade” wardrobe?
GP: Firstly, try and mend what you already have. De-fluff your old woollen jumpers and polish your shoes. If you don’t know how to sew take your clothes for mending to a clothing repairs. It’s worth preserving what we already have or buy vintage. And when you really need something new think about it for a while, and when you go to make the purchase make sure it’s of good quality, made from a natural and/or sustainable material and made in a country you trust the labour laws. However, I think ultimately the fair trade certification gives people a peace of mind that from seed the garment is ethical and follows a transparent production chain from farmer to the consumer.
CSG: What are the Kowtow values and how are they reflected in the clothes?
GP: We try and question everything we do down to the trims. Our buttons are made in Italy from recycled hemp, we are going to be using metal tacks in 2017 and we found a supplier who makes them in Germany over China. We still don’t have a zipper solution that we 100% believe in. I guess our values are staunch and that’s why the product is simple. We work with one fibre (certified fair trade organic cotton) and we spend a lot of time designing and developing our ranges. 10 years on and we are still not bored with cotton, as we are working very closely with our amazing factories and mills to create new fabrics, weights, colours and prints, all completely unique to us.
CSG: If the brand had a new year’s resolution what would it be?
GP: Create more products that are truly ethical and sustainable that offer people an alternative to the mainstream. I really feel like there is so much product in this world with no heart and just a bottom line focus and it shouldn’t have to be this way. We can create products, that can compete on an international scale, that are of high quality but are mindfully and sustainably made. I would really love to get into the nitty gritty of production and question every single part of the garment – fusing and elastic for example. I think we already question more than most brands but I think we could challenge ourselves even more!