Design – Kuwaii

Designing for Forever

We are passionately opposed to the ‘churn’ model of fast fashion. Our entire approach is setup to be different: smaller, slower and more simple. From the first ever Kuwaii piece, our vision has been to offer an alternative to trend driven, throwaway fashion. With every collection, our focus is on excellent craftsmanship, minimising our waste and environmental impact, and creating truly impeccable clothing and footwear that our customers will love for many years to come.

Slow Fashion

Fast fashion is energy demanding, time consuming and pollution generating. It also poses serious ethical issues for worker’s rights. Our slow fashion approach stands in contrast to the environmental and ethical havoc of fast fashion. It ensures that we can build strong, respectful and loyal relationships with our makers, and that we are able to minimise our waste, both in terms of fabric during production and garment wastage at the end of each season.

Volume and quality are intrinsically linked. Fast fashion brands typically produce huge volumes of low-quality garments, and demand unethically low prices from their makers. The items produced are designed to be high-turnover, and are often nearly out of trend before they’re even taken home by a new owner. These fast fashion brands will release up to 52 new seasons a year, with some releasing as many as 400 new styles each week onto their web stores. When you think about how many of these items end up in landfill within six months, it’s pretty shocking.

In contrast, we produce very small runs, made to order for our stores via strict budgets, with a strong focus on designing forever. Our designs and fabrics last the test of time – a fact we know, because our customers tell us! We have chosen a model for our business that is low volume and high quality. Our entire product range is built on an ever-evolving basis of “Classics” which are timeless, well-made, eternally flattering and wearable pieces. These are high quality garments, in timeless designs, made in very small runs. In fact, some styles we create are only ever produced in a run of 35. That’s only 35 made in the whole wide world, across all sizes and colours! As a testament to this, we have an incredibly small amount of old season’s stock in our head office valued at approximately $7500 AUD (April 2019), and this is something we are very proud of, especially when compared to brands such as H&M, who had stockpiled $4.3 billion in unsold clothes in 2018.

Circular Fashion

We believe, and are working towards, a fully circular fashion system. ‘Circular fashion’ can be defined as clothes, shoes or accessories that are designed, sourced, produced and provided with the intention to be used and circulate responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use. (Dr. Anna Brismar, 2017,”In other words, we believe that fashion products (and all products, really) should be designed with longevity, efficiency, non-toxicity, biodegradability, recyclability and with good ethics at the forefront. Similarly, they should be sourced and produced with priority given to local, non-toxic, renewable, biodegradable and recyclable resources, as well as efficient, safe and ethical practices. The products should also be used for as long as possible, through good care, repair and sharing among multiple users over time.

We know that Kuwaii pieces keep their value and can often be sold second-hand for up to half their original retail price. One the product’s active life has ended, the Circular Fashion model explains that the components of your garment should be composted to become nutrients for plants and other living organisms in the ecosystem. Overall, the life cycle of products should bring no environmental or socio-economic harm but instead contribute to positive development and well-being of humans, ecosystems and societies at large.

Our Goal

To have all our retail, wholesale and product operations fully circular by 2025.

Designing for Forever

Every year in Australia, $500m worth of clothing is sent to the tip. The fast fashion model is a major contributor to the global landfill crises, with unrecovered textiles creating 4-5% of landfill in Australia. It’s an unsustainable system that we’re determined to help change. Every single Kuwaii piece is designed in our Brunswick studio, by our designer/owner Kristy, and our brand manager Averil. We carefully consider the pieces in our ranges – nothing is produced unless it has an important place to fill in our product range.

We design with forever in mind. Nowhere is this more evident than in our range of “Classics”. These are our best-selling pieces that we continue from season in and season out, and which create the basis of each Kuwaii collection. Our pieces are beautiful and timeless, made to last with the wearer and to be loved through their lifetime. Nothing makes us happier than seeing Kuwaii pieces passed on from one friend or family member to another, taking with it years of memories and life.

Every single Kuwaii design is born from a dislike of excess and mass production, and desire for quality, timelessness, simple beauty and practicality. Each piece is carefully considered with our customer in mind: how will she wear it, how useful is it to her, and how long will she be able to wear it for? Practicality, elegance, comfort and attention to detail are at the foundation of our design philosophy. We want our garments to be timeless and adaptable, so we design many of our pieces with elements of versatility, giving our customers a range of different ways they could wear them – this increases the life of the garment and means that it can be worn in many different ways, for different occasions.

We have a healthy and realistic idea of the female form, and it’s important to us that our collections reflect the beautiful diversity of our customers. Our shapes work well on women’s bodies – they are fitting, flattering, and impart a sense of confidence for women of many shapes and sizes. Our pieces are tailored carefully so that they can flatter a women’s body through various stages of her life, and these stages include pregnancy and breastfeeding, both of which we cater for in our product range. In 2018 we were proud to begin the expansion of our size range, with the inclusion of a size 4 and a size 16.

Kuwaii garments are designed to stay away from landfill. We believe that well-made clothing, in timeless designs, that are worn properly and cared for properly, should have an incredibly long lasting useful life. We also believe in re-purposing the materials of our garments once their useful life is over – such as our weaving collaboration with Maryanne Moodie where she turned our fabric scraps into woven art. We also offer a lifelong repairs program on our clothing and footwear, as well as running the educational program Wear, Care, Repair. to help to shift our customers towards the mindset of buying less and caring for what they have. You can see more information on these programs here

Cost per Wear

Cost Per Wear isn’t so much a formula as it is a philosophy: buy less stuff, but try to buy better stuff that you’ll feel good wearing, and love so much that you will want to look after. It’s the antithesis to what fast fashion stands for, and by introducing a Cost per Wear mindset, you can be more conscious of the things you choose to buy and more intentional with how you use them. To get the most out of CPW, you have to really love and enjoy the things you own to the degree that you would rather keep your used item over the prospect of a new one. We are very proud that Kuwaii pieces retain a significant portion of their retail value even when worn (up to half of the RRP, depending on season and condition!) We know that it can be so hard to consider clothing and footwear as investment purchases if you’re struggling with money, and there are so many amazing ways you can invest in fantastic pieces without hitting Fast Fashion brands.

We advocate a wardrobe made up of vintage favourites, independent and ethical brands, items swapped or traded, or purchased from second hand boutiques.
We also believe in gifting your old Kuwaii that may not be suited to your wardrobe anymore: although not tangible, gifting a friend or loved one a special piece has a value all of its own.

Cost per wear calculator

Price of piece + cleaning or care costs – expected resale value / total expected wears = Cost per wear