Tom Kay – Finisterre Founder

As you may have noticed, we’re big fans of Finisterre over at the Allrounder. Yeah sure, we love the clothes; just the right mix of being fashionable, functional and built to last – we like clothes that last. But there’s a lot more to Finisterre than just the clothes. It’s a brand with a story behind it. A brand built on a desire to create something for a reason.

Tom Kay set up Finisterre over ten years ago through the belief that cold water surf clothing lacked innovation in the UK. From a little flat above a surf shop, with nothing more than a three page website, he launched their first product; a waterproof fleece made in Devon, designed specifically for cold water surfers.

Now the Finisterre brand has gone from strength to strength, not only with the surfers out there but for non-surfers as well. With innovations like a transparent supply chain, responsibly sourced fabrics and a decision to place wool at the centre of their fabric development, it’s no surprise that the company focus is summed up as “product, environment and people.”

We spoke to the man behind Finisterre, Tom Kay, to find out a bit more about how he set the whole thing up.

When did you have the idea to start your own clothing range? Was it something you always wanted to do?

No not really, it was more that I couldn’t find the sort of clothing that I needed as a surfer over here, also that’s made with an environmental and ethical agenda. So that’s what I set about addressing with Finisterre.

Can you remember the point where you decided to launch the company or was it a gradual thing?

It was a cold January walk out on the marshes of North Norfolk, from then I started to build the foundations for the brand – the name, the product, what we’d stand for as a brand.

What was it like to launch a product into an already well established action sports industry?

From a standing start it was very hard, especially as we were trying to work with recycled fabrics and natural fibres – back in 2002 few people got this and materials were hard to come by. People in the sports industry didn’t get why, but we always focused on product quality and the legitimate narrative around the brand, so we started to get traction.

What do you think it is about Finisterre that makes it stand out as a brand?

Many things, but if I had to use one word it would be its commitment as a brand. This ranges from why the brand started, committed to the quality and style of our product, innovating where necessary. Also we live and breathe the brand down here on the cliffs in Cornwall, so this extends to the people and the culture.

What’s different about the fabrics and materials you use?

We’ve been blending our own Merino for over 7 years now and we’ve been working with recycled polyesters and fills on our insulation jackets for a similar amount of time. Our knitwear yarns are of the highest quality and the Bowmont Sheep Project is one its kind, resurrecting an entire British supply chain as well as a flock of sheep.

If you hadn’t created Finisterre, what do you think you’d be doing now?

I would probably have been a marine biologist.

What has been your proudest moment in building the company?

There have been many key milestones – winning the Observer Ethical Business Award, opening a store in London, taking our Bowmont sheep to Savile Row, the wetsuit. I’m always proud to see people wearing our product!

You live and work in Cornwall, what is it about the place that made you want to set up the base there?

I’m lucky to have been in or around the sea a lot of my life and this is what I wanted to bring into the brand and our product. So being located on the site of an old tin mine on the cliffs of Cornwall, 100 metres from the sea was important for the brand. It’s a regular source of inspiration to us all.

What’s next for you and Finisterre?

I’m very excited about the wetsuit – launching this Autumn – which we developed with the help of over 250 surfers. Our London store is going well and we possibly might look at more key locations across the country.

Any tips for people thinking about turning their business dream into a reality?

Never a perfect time, just have to take the plunge and keep at it! Passion and belief will carry you through the troughs.

For more information about the Finisterre story and to look through the rather nice collection, nip over to the website here.

Picture credits: Finisterre