The lads at Finisterre must be stoked. They've just picked up the coveted Observer Ethical Awards, in the Fashion category. Mind you, as The Observer duly noted: "This is clearly no normal fashion label." Indeed not. This surf-inspired company, from Cornwall, UK, currently has only has four staff and a mere six styles.
It is a very lean operation that is clearly punching above it's weight class, in terms of getting recognition for ecodesign in the sports arena. The Observer goes onto say, "In fact, it's all about 'testing convention', from the way they (very efficiently) run their mail order through the tiny local post office, shun cheap fabrics in favour of renewable or recyclable fibres, and have pulled out of China ('That would be considered commercial suicide for most sportswear brands,' says marketing man Ernie Capbert) in favour of working with nuns in Colombia and a women's outreach project."Other Awards
They have also been nominated for the second year for the Surfers Path Green Wave Awards and earlier this year scored two nominations from ISPO, Europe's largest sport exhibition, nudging out over 260 other up-and-coming brands to garner one of three finalist standings in the ISPO Brand New Award. They also made it through to be finalists in ISPO's Volvo Eco-Sports Design award, which have been dubbed the largest green awards in Europe. ::Finisterre
Discussion on business models
Recently we had an email chat with Ernest Capbert, who looks after the marketing at Finisterre. We ruminated on how the sports industry's opportunity to be a catalyst for change in business generally, and more specifically, in patterns of consumption and production.
"We started Finisterre six years ago, with nothing, all in the name of functional product with a classical design, in support of environmental and social issues, that's it."
However, Ernie explained that, "Finisterre is still not the company we dream of. Especially when perceived from the outside! We exist in such an intense and intimate environment that it is easy to forget that the foundations and ideas we are currently putting in place have not yet blossomed yet in view of the rest of the world."
But he points out that focussing on the negative, can be, well, ... negative. "As Tom [our] designer is always saying, 'we will never change anything by telling people what is bad.' "
"I think the real trick here is [...] taking a hard line to this problem, looking deeper than just 'eco' this and 'offset' that."
Ernie observes that some companies play out an exercise in ticking as many environmentally aware boxes as possible. He says, "I only recognise this as it is something that we had originally tried to achieve in our early days. The problem was that as we tried to implement more green initiatives further and further down the chain we started to realise that the causality of [our] actions were sending ripples far beyond our comprehension. What's more, the infrastructure that the industry was built upon was incapable of giving us the answers that we required."
He continues, "As a result we have been working furiously, over the last year and a bit, on an infrastructure that gives us vastly more control over the decisions that we make. The information we are coming to terms with is vastly complex, but totally relevant in understanding the implications of our actions. A big part of this has revolved around the ability to communicate, learn and educate all the different parties involved."
And follows with, "Before I ramble beyond my means, perhaps I should make my point. We believe that the systems we are implementing have to be grown organically from a simple starting point. The kind of comprehension that is required to tackle this most serious of problems has to evolve from a starting point as opposed to the remodeling of a finished point."
Our email conversation covered the recent demise of Nau, another green outdoor sport apparel company. Ernie wrote, "We believed that Nau was an excellent attempt of remodeling a finished point." However, whilst the guys at Finisterre feel such end-point remodelling might be successful at changing those things that the consumer might be aware of, they also feel it is, "ineffective at implementing the type of change that we believe is required. [...] we have to move the bench mark of our green expectations."