For Isabella Cisneros and Ramiro Carranza, the launch of their eco-conscious swimwear line was kind of a perfect storm. Both felt a profound connection to nature, with Carranza turning to the outdoors when he moved to Miami from Argentina as a young man. After watching A Plastic Ocean, a documentary on Netflix exposing dangerous levels of plastic polluting our oceans, the two felt restless about the consequences of pollution and somewhat powerless to make a major, lasting change.
These musings would remain simply that, until a 2016 trip to Tulum, Mexico, drove them to take an actionable course toward a more sustainable future. On that trip, Cisneros and Carranza spent a week at an eco-friendly hotel. Electricity was forgone in favor of solar energy; the food served was grown in the hotel's private garden. Spending a week off the grid was a sharp contrast to the typical Tulum experience, where bindhi-sporting, designer-threads-wearing hipsters took molly and danced to EDM on the beach in an effort to connect with Pachamama. In exploring the multifaceted sides of Tulum, Carranza and Cisneros realized there might be a way to marry the fashion-conscious and the eco-conscious.
In founding the Tropics, a swimwear line composed of plastic recyclable materials, Carranza and Cisneros aim to solve two persistent problems in the fashion industry. Fashion, one of the most eco-hazardous industries — EcoWatch reports the industry is the second-largest pollutant in the world — needs more innovative clothing brands that make use of recycled materials. By utilizing fabrics made from recyclable plastic, the Tropics is both eliminating harmful waste from the ecosystem while implementing a more sustainable production process and inspiring their peers.
"We're on a mission to spread the word about sustainability," Cisneros says. "It's up to our generation to make a change."
Now sold exclusively through the Tropics' website, the brand works with Repreve textiles, which are frequently employed by eco-friendly brands such as Patagonia. Cisneros and Carranza handpick recyclable plastics — usually at beach cleanups they've organized — and send them to a Repreve processing facility that breaks those materials down into yarn. The two then send their designs — hand-drawn by Carranza, an art director by trade — to a Colombian manufacturer for production.
"We've saved 5,500 bottles out of the ocean," Cisneros says, "and each swim trunk is made with 11 plastic bottles."
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In addition to its eco-friendly mission, the Tropics wasdesigned as an alternative to department store swimwear lines. Carranza long thought high-quality men's swimwear was hard to come by — either the fit was wrong, the design was stale, or the price was too high. In designing for the Tropics, Carranza focuses on earth tones and minimal prints, paying homage to the natural elements that have rooted his love of his surroundings.
The Tropics' mission is to elevate Miamians' environmental consciousness. As a member of 1% for the Planet, the company donates a portion of the proceeds from every $95 pair of trunks sold to the organization. Carranza and Cisneros plan to host frequent beach cleanups to continue to draw awareness to ocean pollution issues, and they hope to engage new environmental warriors through targeted social media campaigns. The Tropics has recently partnered with influencer Chris Rogers to bring awareness to the brand and its cause.
While the Tropics is evaluating whether wholesaling its wares makes sense for its startup line, Cisneros has big plans for the future. "We would love to bring like-minded people together and have a good time while doing something to give back," she says. "I would love to see our generation turn the page and get together to make a difference for our environment. I would love to see the Tropics all over the world. We hope it catches on."