The minimalistic interior of Kowtow, wooden slats holding up hangars of clothes in the centre and beanies sitting on a table in the foreground.

Wellington fashion brand Kowtow champions being fair trade and organic. “Fairtrade, looking after the people. And organic, looking after the planet and environment,” says founder Gosia Piatek. The brand offers modern womenswear from renewable and sustainable fibres and ethical manufacturing. Exclusive prints and seasonal colours complement the brand’s signature minimal silhouettes.

Kowtow (pronounced ko-toe) is a Chinese word. It describes the act of deep respect demonstrated by kneeling and bowing so low that your head is touching the ground. The brand ethos centres around paying this respect to the environment, and leaving the world in a better place than they found it.

The black exterior of Kowtow. A glass door leads into the shop whilst a glass window shows off the clothing inside.

Since Kowtow’s conception in 2006, consumers have increasingly begun to question the origin of their clothes. With the brand’s transparency across its manufacturing process, popularity has surged. Now, Kowtow has two stores, with the flagship on Wellington’s College Street.

The store’s light and airy feel perfectly reflects the brand. Large windows offer a view into the store’s day-to-day life. Sustainable eucalyptus wood forms shelves and dividers, bringing nature in. Beneath your feet are rugs from recycled fishing nets. A comfortable couch encourages you to relax on its renewable wool covering. It’s a calm and welcoming space to take your time browsing the racks.

“The limitations of our ethos keeps us innovative. We don’t compromise on design, and embrace restrictions.”

Gosia Piatek, Kowtow founder

Kowtow designs all its pieces in the Wellington workroom. The designs are then brought to life by Kowtow’s partner manufacturers in India. Each step is part of the brand’s sustainable design chain. Despite exponential growth, Kowtow continues to work with the same farmers and manufacturers.

Gosia wants to see a shift from the fashion industry’s over-production and dependence on synthetic (plastic) materials. Kowtow looks to nature for solutions, ensuring each garment has as light a footprint as possible. This results in innovative solutions to traditionally unsustainable materials. They use shell, nut, and hemp buttons, and natural rubber instead of synthetic elastic.