Why an aeronautical designer turned to swimwear made from plastic bottles

An aeronautical designer who fitted out 777s and private jets has turned fashion designer, creating luxury swimwear made out of plastic bottles.

Geoff Gates, 31, who met junior cardiologist and business partner Anneline Helms, 29, by chance on a boat trip in Croatia in 2018, has launched swimwear label Cinnamon Swan with the export market in mind.

The pair came up with the idea for a label that uses fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and offcuts from the production process “upcycled” into matching accessories.

Gates, who worked for former Air New Zealand subsidiary, Altitude Aerospace, for seven years designing multimillion-dollar interiors of private jets as well as Boeing, Airbus and Air New Zealand aircraft and other airlines, says he has always been entrepreneurial and was looking for a new opportunity to be creative.

“Combining that with our passion for fashion and design and wanting to make people feel good about themselves, we knew that we could create something that was far more than what I was doing in my old job,” Gates told the Herald.

The Auckland CBD-based business launched in September after two years under development and is using influencer marketing to find its feet.

It is eyeing growth in New Zealand and Australia over the summer months, but also exports to Britain, Canada and Greece.

Cinnamon Swan swimwear is made in Bali from byproducts of recycled plastic bottles found in the ocean. Gates said the concept around the label was to be a sustainable business that “stood for more than profit” and “represented the future”. It is conscious of its carbon footprint and does not use plastic or materials that are not biodegradable in its packaging.

Gates said the recycled fabric and sustainable ethos had proven a hit with consumers and the business had so far sold about 60 items of swimwear.

It’s a small operation at present, but Gates has ambitious plans for the brand.

“People in Europe really love it and now we’re focusing on New Zealand and Australia.

“The next step for us is we want to get into a range of boutique stores in Australia and New Zealand to complement our online presence.”

It plans to expand its product and sizing ranges before developing out into lounge wear and accessories.

“We want the Cinnamon Swan name to be New Zealand’s swim and beachwear name, and beyond that we have plans to make this an international label.

“We don’t want to play the game small.”

It has recently begun working with a distributor to help it establish a presence in China and will soon focus its efforts on the United States and greater Europe. Long term, it wants to open its own stores located in all major markets, but will begin with stockist retailers.

Over the past 18 months, Cinnamon Swan has amassed 27,000 followers on Instagram, which Gates said had meant the business was able to make export sales on its first day of launch. Its first sales were from international markets.

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