“Movement is a skill built on sensory feedback – all the information your brain is getting from the 200,000 nerve endings in each foot. So it stands to reason that the ‘less shoe’ you wear when you’re out of the water, the more it will increase your foot strength, mobility and overall performance when you’re in it,” says Vivo co-founder and head of design Asher Clark. “There’s a clear synergy between our ‘feet-first’ design principles and surfing, which is often done barefoot. Every surfer knows that the better you can feel the board, the better you move.”
Building on a theme of ‘reconnection’ for our collaboration, we’ve worked with Vivo to co-design three products for men and women: the Ultra III shoe and the Eclipse sandal, and a Vivo and Finisterre designed waterproof rucksack made by German bag specialists Ortlieb.
“These are two truly original bits of amphibious footwear that, coupled with the rucksack, create the perfect 'bare essentials' kit for 48 hours of coastal exploration, trekking, camping and hunting for waves,” says Asher.
It’s not just the wearer’s water mobility and sense of adventure that stand to benefit from the collaboration. The Ultra III shoe uses a biopolymer substitute for EVA that is free of petrochemicals and fossil fuels, and is made out of algae. Manufactured by a company called Bloom, it’s a material we’re both very excited about. By using algae biomass as a key component, it contributes to cleaning up the freshwater sources from which its harvested, while also helping to offset the widespread use of petroleum ingredients found in conventional flexible foams. Every pair of Ultras re-circulates 57 gallons of filtered water back into natural habitats, stopping around 40 balloons full of CO2 from being released into the Earth’s atmosphere.
Every pair of Ultras re-circulates 57 gallons of filtered water back into natural habitats, stopping around 40 balloons full of CO2 from being released into the Earth’s atmosphere.
“We discussed using recycled rubbers and old tyres within the footwear to begin with, then turned to algae,” says Todd, Finisterre’s lead product designer. “We had made contact with Bloom previously, to explore possibilities around developing fleece products made of the algae. When Asher mentioned the Ultra could be made with Bloom Foam, well, let’s just say I was ‘a bit’ excited.
With a lightweight, all-over hexagon upper, the Vivo x Finisterre Ultra III is breathable, non-absorbent and drains water easily. Sat on top of a hex grip outsole made with sticky rubber, the result is flexibility combined with superlative wet and dry traction. And out of the water, the Eclipse compliments the Ultra perfectly, equipping adventurers with a minimal, barefoot ride designed to take on any terrain – whether walking, hiking or running.
“As the products were also to be worn in water, I wanted to take inspiration from our own wetsuits,” says Todd. “Materials and fabrics are always the biggest issues when collaborating, and generally we’ll push as far as we can physically go in terms of eco materials and how the products are to be produced. With such great product, we didn’t actually have to alter the designs. It became more a question of how we could make these pieces look like Finisterre products. It was all about the aesthetic, materials and the message.”
“Although it seems really simple, we spent a lot of time on how we materialised it, and how we presented the two brands together – both in the branding and in the way it was all colour coded,” says Asher. “Getting a simple but strong identity to represent the collaboration.”
While the final products are clean and minimal, with the use of Finisterre’s signature black and orange throughout, the collection went through several iterations. “We tried several silhouettes and actually they were all great!” says Todd. “Some of the initial colourways were pretty special, too – lots of inspiration from crustaceans and jellyfish. Over time we refined it into what was to be the offer. The selected pieces were probably the most unusual for us to offer, but they fit the story perfectly.”
Meant to be
“Vivo’s ethos is so similar to ours, I’ve always wanted to work with them,” says Todd. “As an upcoming British, ethical business building incredible product, it felt right that we should create something together. They’ve always looked forward and created some outlandish products that break tradition and pioneer new categories – I’ve always admired them for that.”
The feeling is mutual for Asher, too. “There aren’t that many brands, in particular UK brands, that have a similar value set to us, so Finisterre’s always been on our radar,” he says. “Eventually everything aligned. It was a long time coming, but we really like what they do.”
“Surfing is reconnection with nature at an incredibly visceral level, and the more we can draw on that to create products that tread as lightly upon nature as possible, the better.”
As the dust settles and time has passed, Asher reflects. A surfer ever since spending long summer days in the waters of the South Devon coast as a boy, for him the collaboration inspires deeper musings on the nature of surfing and reconnection. “Surfing is a hyper-sensory adventure that starts as soon as you take your shoes off and head towards the water,” he says. “In the ocean you’re weightless, with just you and your board – it’s a really powerful and deeply human experience. Gravity only kicks back in when the wave takes you; you paddle, pop up, your feet connect with the board and off you go. Surfing is reconnection with nature at an incredibly visceral level, and the more we can draw on that to create products that tread as lightly upon nature as possible, the better.”
“It was the whole journey for me,” Todd says, of what he enjoyed about the collaboration process. “Making a great connection and seeing it all the way through without always knowing what the final result would be. It was a meeting of design minds with a will to explore and push the designs forward. I’m excited to see the response to the project. Seeking eco and ethical alternatives is most definitely the future.”