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A chance encounter on a Croatian yacht between a former Air NZ aeronautical designer and a fashion model-turned-cardiologist has led to the launch of New Zealand’s latest luxury fashion export label.

The new sustainable swimwear label, Cinnamon Swan, uses fabric made from recycled plastic bottles with offcuts from the production process then ‘upcycled’ into matching accessories in New Zealand. Geoff Gates, Cinnamon Swan co-founder, says the premium brand is designed to appeal to an ethically conscious consumer who still has a passion for fine design and individuality.

Gates, who previously designed multi-million dollar interiors of private jets as well as Boeing, Airbus and Air New Zealand aircraft, says his design skills are complementary to that of his business partner and director of fashion Anneline Helms.

“When Anneline and I first met, there was a realisation that our respective skill set could be used in the development of a new fashion venture that had export potential. Anneline has years of experience as an international model for labels such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Swarovski before focusing on pursuing a career in cardiology and her insights from the fashion world have helped shape the new accessorised clothing line,” he says.

Gates says in the sector of e-commerce fashion they target, the level of consideration and detail that go into the packaging decisions are just as important as those needed for the clothing itself. “The ethos of the brand lies in both sustainability and luxury and the market we are targeting are looking for an ethically holistic approach to the design as well as the packaging and distribution of their clothing. 

“While the swimwear material contains plastic bottles the export packaging has been carefully designed to be entirely free of plastic. We use a refined, drawer style cardboard box to present the product which can be reused by the customer as a jewellery box and a bag made from biodegradable material. Even the hang tags don’t use plastic attachments and thanks to another locally sourced innovation, we also have a recycled, water-activated tape to seal our boxes. 

“The shipping boxes have also been downsized by half their original design to further reduce our carbon footprint,” he says.

Gates says the company has launched in time for the New Zealand and Australian summer season before focusing on the European, US and Chinese markets. He says pricing decisions were also carefully worked through to meet the needs of the Northern Hemisphere export market. 

“There is a lot of demand for New Zealand luxury brands in China and we have begun working with a specialist company to help us establish a presence in that market. In some countries such as those in the European Union, the import duties paid by customers can be a significant barrier to purchase from overseas retailers. To meet the needs of this market we have reached a price point which can best be described as the ‘low end of the high end’ of luxury swimwear,” he says.

Gates says the impact of the COVID pandemic on bringing the products to market has been challenging and meant they had to coordinate their first international photoshoot from New Zealand. He says initially, the line will be distributed through their website and via a new Instagram store. 

Gates says through the daily efforts over the past 18 months to amass 27,000 organic followers on Instagram has meant they were able to make export sales on the first day of launching the new line.

“Over the past year and a half, we have been reaching out to people on Instagram who we felt shared the same values as the brand we were developing. The focus has been on building a quality follower base rather than targeting a mass audience. 

“The investment in time to develop these relationships has already seen a number of customers purchase from our website as soon as the products went live – even from as far away as the UK, despite the season coming to an end there,” he says.

Photo above: Geoff and Anneline.

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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