The New Zealand fashion label’s creative director, Marilou Dadat, credits the teamwork that made this succinct dream of a scheme work. 

Marilou, you collaborated with New Zealand interior designer Rufus Knight on your new Naarm/Melbourne store’s fit-out — how did that play out? This is the third store Rufus and his team have designed for Kowtow, the first being the flagship in Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington and the second in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. Each space is different but the brief is always the same: what materials can we use that are sustainable and natural? Like our clothing, the design started with circularity in mind; both of our teams are inspired by finding beauty in functionality and natural materials.
The new store is typical of Fitzroy. It was once a home and is quite narrow, with high ceilings, and I love how the design embraces the verticality and height. Our stores always appear more pared back than our collections. The palette of this one is more textural than chromatic — both the space and the clothes let each other sing their song.

Kowtow’s mono-fibre, Fairtrade clothing has a chic new home in Melbourne

Kowtow’s mono-fibre, Fairtrade clothing has a chic new home in Melbourne

Kowtow’s mono-fibre, Fairtrade clothing has a chic new home in Melbourne
MAIN IMAGE & ABOVE “First and foremost, [the interior of the store needed] to do the job — in a beautiful way, of course, which really is my definition of design,” says Marilou. “Whether it’s a space or a jacket, it’s that simple. The big difference for me when approaching spatial design is that you don’t see and feel the finished result at scale until it’s built and done for real, whereas you can try on a prototype of a dress and tweak it with your hands on the spot. How architects achieve what they do and get things right by rendering and planning fascinates me.”

What were some of the key materials used? As with our Fairtrade organic cotton clothing, working with restricted, sustainable and lasting materials is key to everything we do. We worked with Melbourne joiners West Wood to bring Rufus’ designs to life. They suggested we use locally sourced spotted gum for our racking, shelving and storage joinery, and it’s a work of art — so rich and warm, luxurious and humble at the same time. Our solid-wood counter is made of recycled spotted gum, the walls are a coarse limewashed plaster, there are suspended panels of Kozo washi paper, floor-to-ceiling linen curtains act as walls in the changing rooms, and there’s a textural wool rug by Bremworth on the Victorian ash floor. A huge Hotaru Buoy washi paper lantern hangs above our stunning counter; it was designed by London creatives Barber Osgerby and made in Japan using traditional methods.

And you’re currently working on the outdoor area? There’s a courtyard at the back of the store and I’m very excited about the process of designing with living things — plants.

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Rory Gardiner

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