As part of our season of reconnection we’re introducing you to the people who design our range. We caught up with our lead Menswear designer Todd, to discuss what it was like making the move from London to Cornwall and the inspiration behind marrying the Cornish landscape with one of surfing’s most iconic bits of clothing, to produce the Kernowaii shirt.
When did you first start with Finisterre and how did it all come about for you?
Oh wow… I think it’s my six year anniversary this week, or like yesterday or something. Good timing eh?! So yeah, 2013 and it was kind of a split-second decision. I’d built a life in London, and things were good. Things were really good and I didn’t have any intention of leaving to be honest.
So anyway, I was playing Bike Polo in Normandy. You know, as you do…
Wait, Bike Polo? Go on, can you give us a one sentence explanation?
Umm… riding bikes, round a concrete court, hitting a ball around and hopefully not breaking your legs. It was started in Seattle by bored courier bikers who were waiting in-between jobs.
Right. Sorry, so you were at a bike polo tournament in Normandy then…
Yes… We were in Rouen in Normandy and there was a bunch of really cool French guys wearing these black Finisterre jackets. I’m looking at it thinking ‘Finisterre?’, it has to be French. I was intrigued and I asked them, “what’s Finisterre? What’s going on here?” and they just looked at me and said, “but Todd, you should know! It’s from the UK, from Cornwall!” and I just had a moment of, WHAT?! As soon as I got home, I was googling Finisterre.
And then I kept seeing this job… it had been there for about a year. I kept saying to my wife, “Finisterre still haven’t found a menswear designer! What’s going on?!” and she just said, “well you should do it, if you’re that passionate about it.” So eventually I actually did it, and applied for the job. Somehow, it happened! I think it was just meant to be, it really was. I was just like, “right then, we’re moving to Cornwall.” It was so exciting and so weird!
What first drew you to Finisterre as a brand?
I studied fashion from a more creative, high end point of view. I never really wanted to do fashion, I wanted to do art and sculpture and painting and I somehow ended up doing fashion because I was pushed that way because I was quite good at it. So it was still about art, wearable art. But I thought, where am I going with this? I got more and more into functional products. For me that’s more integral as a designer, to design something that someone needs, that’s useful, rather than just design something for the catwalk or for fast fashion.
From the moment I read the book ‘Let my People go Surfing’, my whole mind shifted towards functional and sustainable clothing. I was really into the outdoors and cycling and I wasn’t really into fashion any more. It had to be functional gear and that’s what Finisterre were about.
How was that transition for you, going from city to the coast and did you find that it had an influence on your work?
I mean, I’ve heard this said before, but coming to work at Finisterre, you only truly get it when you’re here. The purpose of the whole thing… as soon as you come to a place like this and you experience four different kinds of weather in one day, it’s only at that moment that you truly get why this brand exists and why it’s shaped the way it’s shaped.
It’s evident that everything around us here influences what we do. And that was really exciting for me because I look for inspiration all over the place, sometimes in the most random areas. I’ve always had this thing about hardware stores and chandleries. I could definitely spend all day in there and I would find inspiration in the most random places.
But the end result still needs to be a waterproof jacket. The colours might come from a bird or a flag that I’ve found in a shop. The components, because we design every little tiny piece of it, might be inspired by a shackle or some nautical engineered equipment that we’ve found. But you wouldn’t necessarily know, because what you get is a jacket. It has to work.
So how did the Kernowaii print come about? It’s not necessarily what you’d associate with Finisterre usually.
It came from thinking, how can we do something, how can we have fun and how can we put our little twist on things for the summer? And with surf culture, the Hawaiian shirt is just there. It’s right up there at the top of the list. I’d always wondered, should we do a really nice organic cotton Hawaiian shirt, but what could it be? What can it mean? Is it just a nice shirt for someone to wear or can it say something, or mean something?
It just felt like the obvious thing to do. Rather than all those beautiful Hawaiian graphics and all the Tiki designs we thought, “why don’t we show our area and have some fun with it?” So we have the engine house and the seabirds and the things that surround us here.
People have just responded really well to it. There was a whole group of guys, one of them was getting married and he wanted all the men in the wedding party to have the Kernowaii shirts. There’s a great photo of about 12 of them, and yeah, he’s getting married in it!
So relocating to Cornwall must have been a big shift for you. What was the experience of moving down here like for you and your wife? How did it all go down?
We just hired this long wheel base van. I’d not driven for about 17 years, and also had this huge responsibility of a van! That drive was amazing. We had giggles the whole way thinking, “What are we doing? This is NUTS!” We’d had a whole life in London but it was so exciting. It was like we were kids again all of a sudden, in love and holding hands and going to Cornwall on this weird adventure! But it was for Finisterre and it was incredible.
We’d already found a nice house down by the water and we were just ready to get stuck in. Getting up in the morning and actually seeing a river coming into the sea from behind your house, and being able to walk down to the water, compared to walking over the roads in Walthamstow, the contrast was absolutely huge. This sense of freedom…
Has your relationship with the sea changed or developed since you’ve been here?
I just feel at ease, I guess. I love going into a city but it’s that classic thing of, “Get me outta here!”. It’s just this ease and sense of freedom, knowing that I can hit the coast and where I’m located, I can go north or south and get to either coast super quickly, which we do all the time! So yeah, we spend a lot of time by the water.
I think, one think to note is that people think that the good stuff only happens in the city. That people in the city work really hard and they’re the most inspiring people in the world and maybe you retire by leaving and going to the coast. But actually we’re not old people, we’re young people. We’re a young brand and we’re full of energy and we work really, really hard. We’ve got too much inspiration here and I think the stuff that we do, from my experience, is beyond what people are doing in the city. We’re very pioneering in our approach.