We sat on the ragged ox blood chesterfield with surf images hanging above our heads. Tom from Finisterre descended the wooden stairs in the workshop space and put the kettle on, gestured for us to come over and join him; we jumped up and parked ourselves in the open plan kitchen space.
Finisterre is a clothing brand based in Cornwall born from the needs of hardy British surfers, pushing innovation and product development in the surf industry. In their words, they produce “functional and sustainable products with a strong sense of style for those who share a love of the sea.” That love of the sea is something Tom remembers from an early age; he spent many of his early years on the North Coast of Norfolk but didn’t get into surfing until he was nearly 17. Once he did, he was hooked and this became his passion. He continued surfing at university where he was studying marine biology but realised he didn’t want to become a scientist.
It was his passion for surfing on these shores and his love for the coast led him to set up Finisterre. “I was flicking through a surf mag when I saw a black and white photograph of a surfer taking off on a huge, cold 30ft wave - it stopped me in my tracks. The preparation both physically and mentally to get to that very point takes serious commitment and I knew I wanted to create a brand that represented this kind of commitment. Since day one we’ve committed to product, people and the environment.”
So with a blind naivety, an optimistic drive and serious conviction Tom set about to make Finisterre happen. He said “In the beginning you don’t have the perfect business model or the financial fire power to compete but what you do have is determination and belief”. He set about building a brand that would make innovative, sustainable products and in 2008 the company won the Observer ethical business award with a range that included recycled polyester jackets, organic cotton and Merino wool base layers. Shortly after this they started looking at ways to bring their manufacturing back to the UK. Some of their product line is made from their unique blend of Merino wool, some of this wool coming from Australia and New Zealand. The idea was to create a UK supply chain, grown, spun, woven and manufactured into product right here. This focus led them to Lesley Prior in Devon with her flock of Bowmont sheep.
The story of the Bowmont sheep story goes back to the 1970’s. The Macaulay Breeding Institute wanted to create a UK breed to rival the fine wool from the Merino sheep of New Zealand and Australia that would survive in the UK. In order to achieve it they crossed a Saxon Merino, known for its super fine fibre, with a hardy Shetland breed, fully acclimatised to the harsh UK weather. The result was an acclimatised sheep with a fine fibre, necessary for soft handle garments. Unfortunately funding soon ran out and the programme was abandoned and for the Bowmont breed, this led to a rapid decline. Fast forward twenty years and Lesley Prior took it on herself to collect the only remaining pure bred Bowmonts in the land – 29 sheep in total. The last 7/8 years has seen Lesley and Finisterre work together to reach Bowmont flock numbers of 260+ and Finisterre produce a limited edition of Bowmont sweaters, made through a 100% UK supply chain. It’s a great story and a fantastic product.
The brand is legitimate to its heart and is lived and breathed by the passionate crew that can be found in the workshop a stone’s throw from the crashing surf in St. Agnes. This is to such an extent that the team will go off to remote places to find waves, living in an old Swedish army tent (plus wood burner). They search for unbelievable, uncrowded waves and with the wind howling and the sea freezing they come up with product ideas. They’ll cook their own food, live for the surfing, test the product and spend time together as a Finisterre family. It’s this commitment and focus that attracted us to Finisterre and what sets them apart lots of other lifestyle brands. Buying Finisterre products you know you’ll be investing in items that have been created, tested and ethically produced with a real passion and a focus on delivering the best that they can possibly be; products that will also stand the test of time.