We caught up with new kids on the block, Finnieston, to talk about the complications of opening a shop during lockdown, the current popularity of outdoor and fashion brands and the mighty Glasgow Rangers making it 55 league titles. Owner Ross is a top lad and we thoroughly enjoyed the chat and his answers and hope you do too, enjoy…
Hi Ross, cheers for taking time to have a chat, how are you today?
We’re doing good thanks. Work life is definitely a bit of an assault course at the moment. An assault course that changes every week!
I have my first baby due in a couple of weeks and I’m surprisingly calm about it as it’s just getting chucked into the mix with everything else that’s going on currently. There’s also definitely some optimism in the air up here with light at the end of the tunnel with restrictions lifting soon and the lighter nights coming in.
For those who may not know, please can you give us a brief backstory into Finnieston?
We launched in 2018. Finnieston is an industrial inspired brand with its roots in workwear. We take a lot of inspiration from the Shipbuilding heritage in Glasgow, building in details to our garments that have a nod to the past but with a modern heritage spin. Our current outerwear pieces are constructed with Halley Stevenson waxed cotton and assembled in Portugal. Our Shipping logo Tees and Jersey are made with Organic Cotton in Portugal and our lambswool accessories and knitwear is all made in Scotland. Finnieston is a district in Glasgow that has a rich industrial heritage, it hails the Finnieston Crane which is considered Glasgow’s industrial icon and monument to the Clyde’s heyday.
What’s your background, did you always want to own your own clothing label?
My background is in retail. My family started up their own Outdoor retail business 35 years ago when I was born. In fact, when I was born I spent the first year of my life sleeping in a drawer in a caravan while my parents showed clothing in tents. They’ve worked their arses off for a very long time and have built a great independent business called CCW Clothing with three locations in Scotland. They specialise in brands like Barbour, Patagonia, Fjallraven , Jack Wolfskin , Didrikson etc…
I went into the family business about six years ago and got a quick shock at how tough the retail landscape was with online discounting affecting business. I’m still the menswear buyer for them and love to build collections in store and thought it was time I did my own thing.
How much of a part does Scotland play in your designs and inspiration?
I love Scotland and the outdoors! It is in itself an inspirational place. Glasgow is close to the countryside so you’re only an hour’s drive away from the hills which is great for clearing your head and giving you some thinking space. Glasgow and its industrial heritage is where we draw most of our inspiration from. I love tartan and tweed as our history is steeped in it but I wanted Finnieston to take a bit of step away from that as it’s been done a lot.
Where else do you draw inspiration from for your designs?
I’m from Glasgow and the city has such an amazing industrial history and I wanted to try and represent that in the best way possible. They were the shipbuilding trailblazers in their day and I wanted the brand to encapsulate that in an authentic way by giving a nod toward that past but having designs and colours and innovative fabrics that fuses with the contemporary. I’m lucky to have a family friend who is a Clydeside historian and author who I’ve spent a lot of time with researching everything. He loves what we’re doing because we’re paying homage to the past and backing it up with well-made clothing and in turn also educating a younger consumer and keeping the history alive.
Luke who works with me on the brand has our socials set up like a mini history lesson which people love! When we’re dipping into the archives and seeing the old Shipping company logos and the old dazzle ships I just felt that there was something untapped that almost looked modern and futuristic
Talk us through your sustainability message – how important is it to the brand?
Sustainability is a word that bugs me a bit! (I realise I have a part on my website talking about it) I feel when you’re a small brand it’s very easy to broadcast it because you nearly automatically fall into that category as you’re small. We try not to cut corners when it comes to using great materials and good factories.
An example is we’ve found a great wool insulation for jackets next winter instead of using manmade fabrics. My Grampa is 87 and still sheep farming so I love that. You can obviously help things by getting as many products made locally and our jackets in our first season were actually made here in the UK, which I loved but they let me down really badly with delivery times in 2018. Following that, the next UK factory ended up letting me down to the point where last winter I didn’t have any jackets. I then spent time in Portugal getting jackets developed as my designer had worked with a reliable factory there.
I’m not slating UK manufacturing I just got unlucky. Unfortunately, in this industry there is a lot of trial and error. I’m still on the hunt for more UK production as the communication and control over everything is so much easier. I’d love to have my own factory one day!
Obviously COVID has affected everyone’s life this year, how has it impacted the business?
It’s a bit of double-edged sword! I was meant to have a shop open at the end of March last year which obviously didn’t happen. We couldn’t even get our new line photographed prior to first lockdown, so we launched online in August! I think Covid has created a more conscious shopper where people want to shop local and support local brands and I think we’ve benefited from that. Our Tees, Sweats, Scarves and Beanies have sold amazingly well online. But not having that shop open when we wanted will have affected jacket sales as people just need to try things on. Especially as a new brand. We managed to get the shop before Christmas and it was great to see the up-turn in jacket sales. We’re now starting to see repeat jacket purchasing online which is great.
Is there an item you have designed which you’re particularly proud of, or means something to you more than the others?
I like the collarless Riveters Jacket! It just looks so different and I know the development that went into getting that collar just right. The waxed cotton ‘Vintage Algae’ Herringbone outer material with the deep, red flashes looks class. I like how it looks like it could be from the future or the past
You have your own concept store – how long have you been open?
The shop opened on the 13th of December last year! We were open for 12 days!! Couldn’t write it.
What other brands do you stock?
Other brands we stock are Filson, Stutterheim, Danner Boots, US Rubber, Pendleton – got quite a few more confirmed for next winter. We also like to support some local brands and we have Dangerfield Mills, Whitehill Mercantile bags. Locally made wallets from Dukes Craft Works and jackets from Re-Jean. As well as some locally made homeware ceramics and soap/candles etc…
What are your favourite brands and why?
I’m really enjoying the crossover at the moment with outdoor & fashion! Because of my outdoor background I’ve always loved brands like Patagonia and Fjallraven before they were really popular. Got a Paramo jacket not long ago and I love it. Looks class and serves a purpose. I’m also big into my American heritage Brands. I love Filson and Pendleton, it’s really well made and you cherish whatever you buy from them because it isn’t cheap.
I bought a Pendleton blanket for my living room and built the whole colour scheme of my flat around that blanket. I have my eye on a Brownsville coat from them. It’s a statement piece, the kind you never wear but love!!
Aswell as fashion, this blog is all about music and football – do you have much interest in either?
Love them both! I support Rangers, we’ve had a pretty tough nine years but if there is something good that’s come from the last 6 months, its stopping Celtic from getting 10 in a row.
I’m one of those twats that takes great pride in his Spotify playlists, where if I’m at a party and someone switches them off I’m furious! Recently fell down a Spotify hole where I was constantly listing to new age 80s inspired synth bands. Listen to FM-84- Never Stop, you’ll understand. That gets you in a good mood! Like Fleetwood Mac on steroids!
How much are you missing going to games?
It’s not just going to the games, it the process around it! Catching up with friends and having some drinks afterwards etc. I used to have a season ticket but don’t have the time anymore so go when I can.
Have you spotted any Finnieston gear on the terraces yet?
Things only really took off last year and we have obviously had the league title now – so hopefully soon!
What bands you would love to see wearing Finnieston?
I’d love to get some stuff on the Young Fathers. One of my favourite bands that happen to be Scottish and some smart looking guys.
What’s the best, and worst, thing about owning and running your own label?
Best thing about running your own brand is seeing people buy your stuff! Coming in and seeing orders going all over UK and Europe is a weird feeling. You can’t help but think ‘who the hell are these people?’.
The accountability can be a little overwhelming at times and it has taken a while to get over that initial imposter syndrome. There are so many highs and lows to running a brand and stress levels have been through the roof at times. You begin to realise that even the big brands have bad shit happen to them and quiet times. All part of the process! When you’re relying on so many other people to do their jobs right… things will inevitably go wrong at times.
What are your plans for the future? Would you like to open more stores?
Being a Scottish heritage brand, we do see a fair bit of global potential. Especially on the East coast of America. We would love a store in New York. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch for now, Edinburgh could be good! We have a good customer base there already and tourists would quite like the Scottish element to the brand.
Finally, describe Finnieston in only 3 words…
Built to work!