Authenticity, innovation and a strong commitment to sustainability are nourishing the growth of what’s been called ‘the perfect brand’.
What’s in a name? Well, ‘Finisterre’ means literally the ends of the earth, and it’s a word that brilliantly sums up the way that this technical clothing brand is pushing at new frontiers - not just in terms of the performance of its products under the most extreme conditions, but also when it comes to setting new standards of ethical business practice.
It’s also a name that’s been making impressive waves in the last couple of years, way beyond the serious surfing circles in which it first became known. GQ, for instance, listed Finisterre’s Anabatic shell jacket in their ‘100 Best Things in the World 2007′, while the global trend-spotters at über-cool Monocle magazine recently devoted a double-page spread to what it dubbed ‘the perfect brand’. Not bad for an operation started up in 2003 with a £4000 loan from The Prince’s Trust and still run by a five-strong team of dedicated surfers from a converted mine-building at St Agnes on the North Cornwall coast.
Finisterre is tapping into a hunger to connect with something more authentic than the shallow, clichéd values associated with so many of the big, global brands. The guys behind the company are not just talking the talk. For one thing, they’re personally testing their own products on a pretty much daily basis in the most challenging of labs - the Atlantic surf whose thunder is audible from their office. The results are posted on the Finisterre blog, along with vivid reports from other product-testers around the world, including international big-wave surfers, adventure racers and BBC film-crews working in the Antarctic.
For another, they’ve translated the idea of ethical business into much more than a vague aspiration, finding imaginative ways of reducing the company’s environmental impact in every area, from raw materials supply to product life and recycling. The success of these initiatives helped win Finisterre the Observer Ethical Business Award (2008), The Surfer’s Path Green Wave Award (2008), a Cornwall Sustainability Award (2008) and an ISPO New Brand Award (2008), as well as invitations to address international conferences alongside speakers such as Al Gore.
In 2007, Finisterre decided to pull production out of China in view of concerns over working conditions and employee rights. Manufacturing now takes place in Devon and Portugal, and at a facility in Colombia run by nuns as part of a rehabilitation project for at risk women, and more recently the company have been spearheading an initiative with a small sheep farmer to bring back a rare breed with the intention of sourcing high quality wool right on their doorstep.
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