Sustainable Kiwi bikinis please US buyers

Thursday, 28 May, 2020

Sustainable Kiwi bikinis please US buyers

As parts of North America begin to emerge from lockdown, New Zealand company Kalakoa Swim has seen a surge in interest from US buyers for its sustainability-conscious bikinis.

Founded by former lifesaving champion Toni Burke, Kalakoa Swim makes ethically manufactured swimwear from recycled fishing nets and reclaimed plastic bottles to meet the needs of customers.

Following the easing of lockdown measures in the US, the company has experienced a 300% increase in site traffic in just two days and is now shipping daily orders to a growing customer base in the Northern Hemisphere where people are preparing for the summer season.

Burke said that, along with the US market, she is sending regular orders to the UK and Australia as countries begin to look at life beyond the COVID-19 lockdown.

Burke wearing one of her designs.

The swimwear is created from carvico vita, a material made from discarded fishnets salvaged from the ocean, and repreve lycra, which is made from plastic bottles and waste products reclaimed from landfills.

“The next step in closing the loop is to allow customers to send back the swimwear they no longer use so it can be upcycled appropriately in exchange for a credit towards new product,” Burke said.

“This way the material doesn’t go to waste and we also reward our customers for positive sustainability practices.”

Burke said the bikinis arrive from the manufacturers in biodegradable packaging and orders are sent out in New Zealand-made compostable bags.

“I am constantly trying to make our brand as eco-friendly as possible and will have more ideas on the horizon as we grow,” she said.

Burke said she came up with the idea for the brand after finding it difficult to purchase the type of swimwear she would like to wear herself.

“There was a limited range of stylish, colourful, reversible designs that were good for the environment and stayed on in the surf! Swimwear is a very saturated market and I wanted to create a product that was beautiful, affordable and sustainable,” she said.

Burke said the US, UK and Australian markets are more developed when it comes to buying swimwear online and have a high level of demand for sustainable products.

“I also think they are a bit more daring with their swimwear choices in terms of pattern and design, and in New Zealand we can be a bit more conservative. That’s why I’ve made the swimwear reversible so there is block colour on one side for those who don’t want a swimsuit that makes such a bold or colourful statement.”

Unable to find a New Zealand manufacturer, Burke said all of her products are handmade in Bali. She has visited the manufacturer to ensure their ethical work practices are sound.

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