It can be a battle to feel comfortable and look presentable after sitting – scrunched – in an airplane seat for several hours. With Pilot, Auckland-based designers Ruby Chunn and Zac Suvalko offer a way to achieve both.
The fashion and accessories label, which launched in April, revolves around a capsule wardrobe of classic items to wear on the plane. Most garments are black, and designed with timelessness and personal comfort top of mind.
Partners in life, Chunn and Suvalko had long desired to work together. Chunn’s background is in design and research, having worked at creative agency Thoughtfull for the last five and a half years. “The type of work we do is wide and varied,” she tells Broadsheet, “but I focus on qualitative research and design. This means we do lots of deep dives in our research, taking the time to truly understand a problem before we design a solution for it.”
Suvalko has experience in fashion and graphics – he was the head designer at local fashion label I Love Ugly for nearly six years and currently has a boutique design practice called Studio 024.
With this combined experience, a functional fashion label felt like a natural business in which to join forces. Led by Chunn, the pair undertook extensive research and identified stylish but practical travel wear as a gap in the market.
“Through our extended network, we identified people who travelled frequently for work,” she says. “We spent time with them, understanding how they approached travel, what they’d pack, unpicking what their frustrations and needs were.”
Chunn and Suvalko started developing samples, wear-testing many of the pieces themselves during pre-Covid travel. Over two years, they developed and refined the collection until they landed on something they were really happy with.
Pilot’s designs aim to stylishly counteract the ways our bodies are put through the wringer when travelling – think heating, cooling and swelling. Often, this shows first and foremost on our clothes in the form of wrinkles, stains and odours.
Merino jersey wool is lightweight, naturally breathable and wrinkle- and odour-resistant, making it the ideal material for travel attire. And you’ll find lots of it in Pilot’s first collection. Chunn and Suvalko developed a double jersey knit as their signature fabric. It has less of a sheen than single jersey merino and is also more durable.
The hero piece is the 50/50 T-shirt, which Chunn describes as Pilot’s “foundational product”. It takes its name from the fabric composition of 50 per cent merino wool and 50 per cent cotton, and is designed to feel like your favourite comfy tee – while boasting the aforementioned pro-travel properties.
“[It] perfectly encapsulates what we’re all about,” Chunn says.
Alongside essentials including sweaters, pants and shirts, the debut collection features underwear (a crop top and briefs, and cosy knitted “cabin” socks), plus accessories: a merino silk ribbed beanie, cashmere eye masks, a down-filled scarf, a hard-shell passport holder and a braided luggage tag.