Agata Kozak and I hit it off instantly. Minutes into our first phone chat, I instinctively knew the London-based eco fashion designer and I would become more than just like-minded acquaintances. And my gut feeling was right.
The phone call I describe actually took place December 2015, if my memory serves me correctly. Today, Agata is not only a client, but someone I now consider a friend.
As a fellow 'mindful boss lady', Agata possesses many qualities I admire: intelligence, creativity, tenacity, integrity, openness, discipline and open-mindedness. But what has solidified our long-distance work relationship-slash-friendship is an equal passion for sustainable fashion.
Agata's commitment to the cause is as unwavering as my own. I am in awe of her determination to eliminate fast fashion, an exploitative fashion business model that had once been kind to her and helped her gain a foothold in the fashion industry
How she went from fast fashion to conscious clothing.
Graduating from two reputable design schools, SDi in Barcelona and Mimar Sinan in Istanbul, and strategically moving to one of the world's fashion capitals - London - Agata quickly forged a dynamic design career.
Just five years in and she could count as her employers, global high street brands and high end designers - those showing at London Fashion Week no less.
Agata was making an envious fashion-is-good-to-me-so-can't-complain living doing what she loved. But the more she worked in the industry, the more she despaired. The industry that promised glamour when she was a young girl was not entirely delivering on its promise. Instead of creating fashion Cinderellas, she was increasingly being called on to create Cinderalla's ugly sisters.
When the Rana Plana building collapsed in 2013, Agata realised she could no longer be a bystander who cried innocence. As a fashion designer and admittedly high-street fashion consumer, she felt responsible for the part she had played in creating this money-hungry, take-no-prisoners beast. When she read Lucy Siegle's book "To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?" her fashion world finally came tumbling down. The two events marked a turning point in her career and is what ultimately pushed Agata to launch her conscious fashion brand, COSSAC.
Related Post: The Human Cost of Fast Fashion
Visually, it's not hard to work out why I adore this brand.
But my love runs deeper. From it's use of sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton, Tencel and modal, it's edgy, minimalist design through to its thoughtful branding (the #ECOHOT tagline was a brilliant choice) COSSAC is an eco label I am happy to endorse.
It has design integrity.
The brand won me over when they gifted me with a cropped "It's just a ride" black organic cotton tee two years ago.
The words suited me to a tee (pun intended). I had left the corporate world and my urban city lifestyle to move to a 120-acre farm in the Middle of Nowhere. It was my choice. I had intentionally chosen my life path. I had chosen the 'eco' road less travelled.
Why? Because let's face it, life IS just a ride.
We live it, experience it, enjoy highs and lows and then it stops. So the tee? Right on. Years later, I still wear it. It has a permanent place in my top drawer.
COSSAC is unlike any other eco fashion brand. It isn't typically minimalist nor is it dull monochrome. It is edgy, sassy with cropped tops, bomber jackets and LBD's with a design twist like elbow cutouts or deep plunging necklines. It's signature printed tees while not for everyone perhaps, are full of witticism. As a wordsmith, I am highly susceptible to a cheeky slogan.
I love the style shoots too, which are thoughtfully done, as though Agata is preparing to have the images published in an indie fashion magazine rather than her brand lookbook. The attention to detail is extraordinary. She brings together talented photographers, models and makeup artists to pull the entire thing off. Total respect.
The brand is a celebration of not just how women connect to each other, or to the environment, but to their creative spirit.
I can almost visualise Agata hunched over a pad of paper sketching out her thoughts and ideas, reflecting on her memories, travels and experiences. The way she considers how each detail connects and marries to the whole concept, not just in terms of form or structure, but to her overall eco fashion philosophy. And I can imagine her pondering which of her fellow artists will help bring her vision to life.
It all makes perfect sense right? Art imitates life imitates art. COSSAC is Agata expressed in the medium of fashion. No wonder why I adore the brand!
To get a better sense of COSSAC and who Agata is as a person, I recommend you watch this video. It perfectly illustrates the brand's core values, but more importantly, feel like you're peering into Agata's heart as well.
Agata, the original COSSAC woman.
As Agata prepares to launch her SS17 collection, she took some time out of her hectic schedule to answer my questions. Did I mention among her great human qualities is her generosity?
The SS17 collection was inspired by your beloved Istanbul and the time you spent there as a fashion design student. I'm sure a lot has changed in that corner of the world, if news reports are anything to go by. Have you been back?
Last time I travelled to Turkey was in November 2016. Due to the bombings and attacks I had to hold off on my visits as it's not safe there anymore. It's truly awful to see my old home change so much and it gets worse every time I travel there. In fact, this situation has forced me to look for new alternative factories [outside of Turkey] and in Portugal.
You are originally from Poland, and have called London home for the last 5 years. But the UK - like Turkey - is going through its own political changes, most notably Brexit. How do you feel about what's happening in the country at the moment?
I honestly think Brexit is a joke and a crime against the open-minded tolerant world that I'm used to living in. We don't know yet what exactly will happen as the final decision is due at the end of March, but the hostility and racist behaviours have become a very common and sad phenomenon in the UK.
Have you ever been racially targeted in London?
I haven't been targeted myself but there were many reports of racist attacks on Polish people, Muslims and black people following the Brexit vote; I kind of feel it gave a green light to these kinds of ignorant behaviours.
I 'stalk' them on social media! I love art and creativity always surrounds me. I know how difficult it can be to be noticed and break through in this competitive industry so I like helping fellow artists out.
You are hugely busy, running your own brand, travelling, working also as a freelance design consultant. How do you fit so much in? What's your secret?
I'm very organised and I'm a workaholic! But most importantly, as they say, when you do something you love, you won't work a day in your life. Being able to do what I love and make a living out of it is extremely rewarding.
So how do you de-stress?
I try to meditate daily and take baths with epsom salt. I stress a lot, and I get stressed easily, so I do do a lot of these. They say that you should meditate an hour a day unless you are too busy, and if you are, than you should really meditate for two hours! Also travelling back to Poland or to Tokyo relaxes me a lot.
How would you describe your own personal of style?
I think that I'm actually the embodiment of a COSSAC woman. I love minimal investment pieces that I can treasure for seasons and accessorise according to my own mood or occasion. Also my wardrobe is 90 percent black, just like COSSAC's collections!
I like to think that I'm growing with the brand and vice versa.
Which celebrity do you think embodies the COSSAC woman?
I think Emma Watson is a true COSSAC woman. She is beautiful inside and out. She is very engaged with sustainable fashion and the social issues it tackles which I admire a lot.
You love to travel as I can see from your Instagram feed and blog's photo diaries. What's your favourite place and why? And is there a place you really want to go that you haven't been yet?
My fave place hands down is Tokyo. It's my happy place. A perfect mixture of city buzz that inspires me and gives me energy but at the same time it can be an oasis of calm where you can completely relax and disconnect. My favourite thing to do is go to the sentos, the Japanese public bathhouses.
Is there a country that you want to visit that you haven't been to yet?
There are many places on my bucket list. This year, I'm hoping to visit Vietnam, Canada and Iceland to name a few.
What three words best describe you as a person?
All I want to do is travel, create and enjoy life. I'm quite hedonistic but also hard-working and very ambitious. It's all about finding the right balance.
The SS17 collection is now available. To shop the range, click here.
We have also partnered with Agata Kozak to celebrate our 3000 email subscribers milestone. For your chance to win a stunning #ECOHOT garment from COSSAC's SS17 collection, make sure to enter our fashion giveaway here.
Fashion direction: Agata Natalia Kozak
Photographer: Can Sever
Styling: Gizem Goktepe
Model: Aysegul Demirhan
Hair & Make up: Yagmur Karanohut