April 27, 2021
Sustainability Spotlight: New Zealand's Kowtow and Maggie Marilyn
This April, we at Casper Magazine have focused in on sustainable fashion brands to emphasise how we can all do our part – even as consumers – in the effort to combat the climate crisis. From Australian labels ELK and A.BCH to New Zealand’s incredible ReCreate, we’ve discovered some amazing sustainable practices, and to round off the month, we’re looking at two more Kiwi brands making the effort to care for our planet.
Based in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, Kowtow was founded in 2006 by Gosia Piatek, who views sustainability through the lens of mindfulness. The brand is known for its clean lines and flattering fits, but where it shines as a true pioneer is in its dedication to sustainable and ethical practice.
In a direct and deliberate rejection of ‘fast fashion’, Kowtow’s production chain is incredibly slow, taking around eighteen months for a piece to go from design to delivery. The brand uses organic cotton certified by Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO), which ensures that cotton farmers can negotiate for better prices. Kowtow pays a premium on every single cotton garment to these certified farmer groups, which they can spend on community projects like medical costs and education. For the fifteen years they have been in operation, Kowtow has worked with just two manufacturers in India, with whom they have fostered a close and fair relationship.
The fabrics Kowtow garments are made from are organic, biodegradable, renewable, and entirely unique: the label designs fabrics from the yarn, determining the weight, stitch, colour, weave, and design for themselves. From their organic cotton to their use of ECONYL (regenerated nylon) and Tencel (biodegradable fibre made using wood pulp), Kowtow enacts a circular design ethos that prioritises careful consideration and ecological mindfulness. They’re working steadily towards a closed-loop system, offering complimentary repairs for minor damages and researching the best ways to recycle or repurpose the garments they receive in their take-back program.
Launched in 2016 by Maggie Hewitt, Maggie Marilyn is built on a foundation of transparency, empowerment, and sustainability. With a purpose to ‘use fashion to create a better world’, the label embodies the forward-thinking fashion we love.
Hewitt founded the label at just 21 years old, and has since had her designs worn by such high-profile people as Michelle Obama and Meghan Markle. Her longstanding love of fashion was tempered, however, when she studied Fashion and Sustainability at college:
[I] pulled back the glamorous curtain of fashion and saw an industry that needed fixing, and fast … It was either turn away from the industry altogether or take on the challenge to build an ambitious, passionate brand that proves protecting people and the planet is wholeheartedly possible. It didn’t take long for me to come to a decision.
Just like Kowtow, Maggie Marylin uses only certified organic cotton, with the exception of cotton from upcycled deadstock. They also stopped using virgin polyester in mid-2020, committing to using post-consumer waste recycled polyester and deadstock. As polyester is made from the same plastic used for water bottles, recycling and upcycling pre-existing polyester means that less plastic ends up in landfill and the oceans, with less polluting fabrics produced overall. They also use ECONYL, which, like polyester, can be recycled and recreated over and over, making the process circular rather than wasteful.
Maggie Marilyn is also concerned with reducing their carbon emissions, becoming a Toitū Carbonreduce-certified organisation and committing to reducing their carbon footprint by 30% between 2019 and 2025. This goal means that they’re reviewing their air freight processes, reconsidering their packaging, using video conferencing, and reducing their petrol usage through better route planning and circulating eco-driving tips. In accordance with the brand’s emphasis on transparency, they release Sustainability Strategy Reports to keep their customers in the loop about their practices and their environmental impact.
Kowtow and Maggie Marilyn are both incredible NZ brands working continuously towards a sustainable fashion industry. They’re stellar examples of the strategies all brands should use, from carefully sourcing their materials to re-evaluating their manufacturing and shipping emissions. As we close out our month of sustainable fashion, we’re glad to have finished with these two, but rest assured that Casper Magazine will continue to bring you the best in sustainable fashion, whichever month it is!
If you liked this article don't forget to checkout the editorials to have a closer look at their collection and you might also enjoy our feature on sustainable Australian brand A.BCH.