In a new column for the Evening Standard, each month Wonderoom’s Mairead Cahill shines a spotlight on sustainable brands in the UK.
This month, Cahill features Finisterre for its pioneering approach to designing sustainable outdoor clothing inspired by the sea.
Here she sits down with Tom Kay, founder of Finisterre, to hear about his journey building the sustainable outdoors clothing brand, creating ground-breaking marine biodegradable packaging, and reaching £4m of crowdfunding investment in under two weeks.
What made you start Finisterre?
I started Finisterre in 2003 in Cornwall, born out of my love for the sea and deep belief in making more responsible and sustainable clothing. Finisterre exists to help facilitate and connect people to the sea and we build products to enable and inspire that connection.
What is your connection to the sea and how has it shaped your brand?
My connection to the sea began at an early age and I’m in the sea a lot as a surfer, ocean swimmer, and lifeboatman. But for us as a brand its always been about connecting a whole audience to the sea, not just surfers. This is reflected in our broad product range from knitwear and jackets to swimwear, wetsuits and accessories. Ultimately by connecting people to the sea through our products, we hope that we can remind people of the importance of the sea and inspire guardianship of it.
How has sustainability informed your business?
Sustainability has been there from the beginning and informs all aspects of what we do from material selection, product design, manufacturer selection, to becoming single-use plastic free in our products and B Corp certified as a business. We’re not perfect but we look to be a positive example and catalyst for change in the industry.
What is a good example of how you’ve sought to make your products more sustainable?
When you design a product with circularity in mind you think about recyclability from the beginning and using old materials to make new products. The best example is our bikinis and boardshorts, which are made from part-recycled fishing nets and office carpet tiles rather than traditional nylon, which is quite a dirty material. This also addresses coastal and marine pollution, with an estimated 640,000 tonnes of discarded fishing nets floating around the ocean.
How have you worked to make your packaging more sustainable?
We have just launched our own ground-breaking marine biodegradable packaging called ‘Leave No Trace’. Unlike biodegradable packaging, which can still cause harm it if makes its way into a marine environment, ‘Leave No Trace’ fully dissolves in water and is harmless. Our design team have done a fantastic job developing it and we’re excited to extend it across our product range next year.
What is something you’d love to figure out next as a business?
Something on my mind is how to further reduce the carbon impact of our products. Could we even make our garments carbon positive and thereby make consumption a positive environmental contribution?
How do you manage the highs and lows of the entrepreneurial journey?
Resilience and perseverance are the biggest traits I think you need as an entrepreneur. It helps that we have a strong higher purpose – creating a positive impact through connection with the sea.
This is our north star and it means that my personal purpose and my business purpose are very aligned!
Who or what inspires you?
The resilience of the human spirit. I get inspired by people who have overcome hardships in their life whether physical or mental injury and gone on to do amazing things. It’s not necessarily the people that you would read about in the papers.
What’s your dream for the business?
It’s happening now! The response to our crowdfunding campaign this month has been phenomenal and a testament to the work we’ve done as a team and the power of our community. We hit our initial £500,000 funding target in 32 minutes and closed at just over £4m. It’s really exciting to see people’s love, passion and belief in what we’re doing and their desire to be a part of it. It means that we have the funds to deliver our plan for the business and to really fulfil our potential as a brand.
Finisterre is available through their UK retail stores and via their website finisterre.com
Mairead Cahill is the Founder of Wonderoom and a contributor to Evening Standard Lifestyle. For news, interviews and behind the scenes footage on exciting sustainability brands and entrepreneurs, follow Wonderoom on Instagram @wonderoom.co