Finisterre, the French-Sounding British Brand Making Waves at the End of the Earth

Having just opened its latest store in London, we explore how the brand’s past continues to shape its present.

Fashion
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For an island, the UK is rarely discussed in the pantheon of great sea and surf cultures. There’s no doubt the weather is partly (read: mostly) to blame, but at the southwestern tip of England you’ll find some of the best surfing waters this side of the Atlantic. You’ll also find a brand whose embrace of the Great British climate is the very reason it exists. Founded by surfer Tom Kay “in a flat above a surf shop” in 2003, Finisterre is now into its third decade creating functional and sustainable outdoor wares, with collaborations under its belt including Vans, Timex and Palladium. Just this month the brand opened a new store in London’s Seven Dials quarter, a stone’s throw from the city’s fashionable Soho neighborhood where finding fashionistas mixing ready-to-wear luxury with outdoor brands is par for the course, and a world apart from its base in Cornwall, England’s final frontier, a magical place where the land meets the Atlantic Ocean and where legend says giants once roamed.

“I founded Finisterre from my love of cold water surf, the sea and a deep belief there was a better way of making product.”

Derived from the Latin finis terrae – meaning “end of the earth” – Finisterre’s name is geographically appropriate, but its philosophy has always been about preventing just that. “I founded Finisterre from my love of cold water surf, the sea and a deep belief there was a better way of making product,” founder Tom Kay tells Hypebeast, adding that he “wanted to create quality products that were fit for purpose, respected the environment, and would survive a more rugged environment.” Finisterre creates clothing and accessories that range from technical wear for surfers to everyday apparel for the outdoors, focusing on natural fabrics – like wool, something of a signature material for the brand – and on perpetuating longevity, whether in sourcing materials that would have otherwise gone to waste, or in providing lifetime repairs through its Lived & Loved program. When Hypebeast visited Finisterre’s headquarters in St. Agnes – a civil parish with a population of less than 8,000 – there was an palpable sense of shared values, a feeling that the brand wasn’t your average band of office brothers and sisters, but a team brought together through their shared love and passion for the ocean. “Our community is easily my proudest achievement,” Kay states emphatically, “Finisterre isn’t just about clothing, it’s about fostering a community of like-minded people who are passionate about the ocean and the outdoor lifestyle.”

In the two decades since its founding, the brand has gone from developing innovative fleece material that improves warmth and wind-resistance t0 launching several initiatives that have had a real impact on the lives of various groups of people. One of these, The Wetsuit Project, sees Finisterre make special adaptations to wetsuits based on an individual’s unique requirements, allowing people with injuries, disabilities, or restricted movement to access the sea. Another is the “designed by women, for women” Seasuit Project, a full-coverage swimsuit designed to allow “equal access to the ocean for everyone”. Underpinning all of its philanthropic endeavors is the Finisterre Foundation, a social enterprise that’s both technically and legally separate to the main business, “set-up to help anyone facing barriers to accessing the sea” with a remit to focus on small scale charitable projects. The brand was also B Corp-certified in 2021.

“Finisterre isn’t just about clothing, it’s about fostering a community of like-minded people who are passionate about the ocean and the outdoor lifestyle.”

Finisterre’s summer range is a collection seemingly inspired by the intersection of surf, street and workwear. Instantly recognizable silhouettes including coach and chore jackets are found in olive and navy, with natural hues of grey, blue, green and yellow seen across shorts and shirts that wouldn’t look out of place in a Carhartt WIP catalogue. It’s no surprise, really, considering the brand’s head of design, Todd, has a background in streetwear. “Streetwear for me has always borrowed from purpose-built product,” he tells us, “I think I just understand an aesthetic that translates to urban environments and it’s really great to apply that to Finisterre product.” Todd, who’s been with the brand for 11 years but spent most of his career in the capital, says he’s “discovering a whole new level of creativity” in Cornwall, finding inspiration in being closer to nature. Cornwall, known for its folklore, is inspiring the brand’s design plans in 2024, Todd tells us. “We’re digging deeper into some of the myths and folklore which surround us,” he says, adding that we can “expect exciting prints and graphics fused with great styles and new and innovative sustainable materials.”

So, two decades in with 11 retail stores to its name, what comes next for Finisterre? Expanding into America is one thing on Tom Kay’s horizon, he tells us, but continuing to foster its community, to help to democratize access to the oceans, and to build on the foundations it laid in 2003 will always be its next move.

Finisterre’s new Covent Garden flagship store in London is located at 47-49 Neal Street, WC2H 9PJ.

 

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