Our anatomy of business series focuses on conscious fashion label Kowtow and it’s founder Gosia Piatek.
In this five part series we deep dive into Gosia’s business, covering topics such as sustainability, building a global business and succession planning.
In this week’s instalment we discuss creating a sustainable and ethical business from the ground up. Click here if you missed last week’s instalment.
Green is finally “in” for the fashion industry. Buzz words like “eco-friendly” and “conscious” are all the rage, with many fashion labels portraying themselves as environmentally friendly. But is this authentic or is it just fashion’s latest profitable trend?
Gosia Piatek founder of Kowtow, believes that it’s a definite step in the right direction that large brands are embracing a sustainable perspective. She explains that it’s great that consumers are becoming more conscious because their influence has motivated many of the big brands to introduce sustainable and/or ethical lines. This is really positive as it continues to spread awareness about social and environmental issues.
Gosia believes that to create an industry standard for ethical and sustainable fashion both the consumer and the fashion industry need to take more responsibility and have more proactive discussions to look at the bigger picture. Ultimately they need to go beyond the surface level of eco fashion and consider the full life cycle of a garment.
Kowtow is the real deal. It’s been sustainable and ethical since its inception 10 years ago, when people dismissed sustainable clothing as dreamcatchers and brown hemp. In fact, these sustainable and ethical values formed the very foundation of Kowtow. Gosia’s aim was to show the business world that “through great design, you can grow an international business while being transparent, ethical and sustainable”. And in her eyes they’ve proved that.
Gosia has been passionate about the environment and leading a healthy lifestyle since a young age when she would pick up rubbish with her parents whilst on bush walks. She continues to hold these values today, eating a seasonal vegetarian diet and walking to as many places as she can to keep active. A keen snowboarder, Gosia has always loved spending time in the outdoors. It’s this connection to nature that was the driving force behind her desire to produce products that are gentle not only on the planet but also on the people who make them.
Kowtow stands a head and shoulder above the rest
Kowtow sets itself apart from the pack through its seed to garment approach. They track the entire journey of their clothes from ensuring that their materials are sustainably sourced to making sure the workers are ethically treated. Gosia explains that currently Kowtow is “only working with fairtrade certified organic cotton. This means we can trace the journey of the cotton we use from plant to ginning mill, spinning, cutting, sewing and shipping”.
Knowing the entire supply chain and being comfortable with the certification bodies is also a must. They also contribute 1.5% of their turnover to the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation. This helps to continue their empowering work with small scale producers in countries where there are no or little formal living standards.
But it’s not just the bigger picture that Kowtow focuses on. Their workroom has an ongoing discussion about the little details. They’re constantly considering the smaller details such as their packaging and ways to improve it, where their trims come from, what they are made of and who makes them.
Finding strength from limitations
Gosia is frank about the limitations that come from sticking to their ethos – including longer production times or limited fabrics. However, she explains that they’ve actually turned this into a strength. While they may not be able to use on-trend fabrics such as sequins or vinyl they’ve become very good at manipulating and designing from their self-imposed restrictions. Ultimately, this has led to a very distinctive aesthetic.
Gosia has not picked the easiest route by any means. However, by shaping her business around a core ethos that she refuses to compromise, she has managed to create not only a successful global brand, but also a business with integrity.
Join us early next year for part two of our anatomy of business series “Building for export and managing high growth”.