If fast fashion can be characterised by of-the-minute pieces built to withstand neither wear and tear nor changing trends, the key to slow fashion lies in finding pieces that are the exact opposite.
Enter Melbourne based womenswear label Kuwaii. The brainchild of designer Kirsty Barber, Kuwaii make beautiful, simple pieces that are both elegant and functional, understated yet still able to make the wearer feel pretty damn spesh. Even from first glance at their website, it is clear that a commitment to ethics underpins all of Kuwaii’s production, from turning fabric off cuts into sample pieces for charity sales, to using only recycled paper for packaging and printed lookbooks.
Their most recent AW collection, Constance features timeless and flattering cuts in gorgeous fabrics - lush velours, wool blends and super soft tencels. We got to chat to Kirsty about Kuwaii’s beginnings and what it means to be an ethical brand.
Tell us the journey of Kuwaii
Kuwaii started ten years ago when I graduated fashion school and decided to leap into the great unknown and to open my own fashion brand. The thing is, I had the concept of Kuwaii for a very long time, even before I had studied fashion. The idea was always the same - then, as it is now - to provide clothing as an alternative to mass produced fashion. A decade ago I saw the fashion industry heading to a horrible, generic point, and so I decided to stand up in the face of fast fashion and attempt to provide an alternative.
How would you describe your brand to someone who has never seen your clothing before?
There’s a simplicity to our pieces - they are not fussy or busy. However, there is always a special touch, whether it be a very special detail, a fabric, or a unique shape or cut. The pieces I make are designed to be incorporated into the wearer’s life, and so they are practical. I believe beauty should not be at the expense of practicality. They are also designed to empower our customers, and to make them feel understood through my design.
What is unique about the fashion industry in Australia?
Because it is small, and Australians are very supportive of their homespun brands. I also think our distance from the rest of the world gives us a unique perspective to our designs.
What does slow fashion mean to you and how do you engage in this movement?
To me, slow fashion means less rather than more, quality over quantity, being thoughtful about every decision that you make, and thinking considerately on the three pillars of sustainability - social, environmental and financial. It means letting my heart guide me, and not being driven by money.
What does being an ethical brand mean to you?
To me, it means that I can be proud of the business I own and run, the decisions it makes and products it produce, and that I can feel like we are offering something good to the world. Ethics are such a personal topic and I have always said that Kuwaii is a brand built on values - meaning, my values. I hope that these values also resonate with our customers too.
Favorite part of the design process?
Choosing colours, researching inspirations, fitting the sample garments - actually I really love the entire process and wish I could spend more time doing it.
Kuwaii in three words…
Refined, detailed, romantic