Geoff Gates has always been into design, most recently shaping the interiors of private jets and Boeing, Airbus and Air New Zealand aircraft. But the 32-year-old Auckland man has now turned his creative skills to fashion.
Teaming up with 30-year-old Canadian woman Anneline Helms - a fashion model-turned-cardiologist living in Australia - might seem like an unusual match, but it was a "natural evolution", according to Gates.
He told 1 NEWS today he'd always been interested in design, specifically working in aeronautical engineering for the past seven years since university.
But he said he was also interested in bringing people together and creating products which are ethical, sustainable and around empowering women.
On a boat off Croatia the two friends sparked the idea to launch a swimwear brand which combines their interests and expertise.
After years in the making, Cinnamon Swan launched at the end of last month for New Zealand and Australia's summer, before focusing on the European, US and Chinese markets.
The line uses fabric made from recycled plastic bottles, with offcuts from the production process then "upcycled" into matching accessories, including hair scrunchies, made in New Zealand.
Gates said the products are designed in New Zealand and they currently work with a sustainable manufacturer in Bali, using sourced "earth friendly" fabrics from countries like Italy and the United States.
Even the packaging they used to send out the products is designed to be eco-friendly, he said.
"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."
Big chains like H&M are now also coming out with environmental and ethical clothing lines, but Gates said something they have they say big brands don't is a real connection and "genuine care" for their customers.
"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."
Gates said they even message their customers for their birthday and check in on how they like their products.
"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 said.
But the launch wasn't without challenges.
Like many other businesses, Covid-19 made it difficult to ship products and materials around the world.
Gates said the brand had a good relationship with their offshore partners, but as the business grows they'll be looking to make it home-grown with production in New Zealand.
He also said the brand hopes to showcase women of all shapes and sizes as its marketing rolls out.
"We're really proud to be a Kiwi band and empowering women."