‘Designed in Scotland with adventure in mind, FINDRA is a clothing company built on a passion for outdoor and active lifestyles and an understanding of what people want from clothing to suit that’.
One of FINDRA’s key brand values is INNOVATION. This applies to our approach to business and our design philosophy; innovation is always at the heart of my designs.
The definition of innovation is ‘the action or process of creating a new method, idea, product, etc’. For me design is very much a process; to create something you must have a start and a finish with an outcome. I follow the design principle that ‘form follows function’. I like pushing the boundaries and creating something that is fresh. Products should be designed to be functional and practical, as well as stylish and understated.
Creativity is so much a part of who I am. As a little girl, I loved to draw and get creative, the seed for what has become FINDRA was sewn way back then and has quietly evolved over the years that followed. As a creative person I am inspired by lots of things, but predominantly nature and the stunning landscapes I’m surrounded by in the Scottish Borders. I also love architecture and Scandinavian design. In fact, the name FINDRA is a combination of Gaelic and Scandinavian words. A rå (in Swedish), comes from Scandinavian mythical folklore and is a keeper or warden of a particular location or landform. The different species of rå are sometimes distinguished according to the different spheres of nature with which they were connected; such as Huldra are strong, beautiful, mountain-dwelling creatures that protect the forestland. I like the thought of strong individuals who care about and enjoy the outdoors just like the people I have met and cycled with over the years!
What I love most about being creative though is the challenge of overcoming restrictions and working within boundaries and yet still creating, innovating and reaching a conclusion. My own design process has evolved a lot over the years, from my college days to my time spent in Industry.
I studied Industrial Design and Textiles at Heriot Watt University, specialising in knitted textiles, then went on to the Royal College of Art to do an MA in knitwear design, before working in fashion design for the next 20 years. My love of textiles and my experimental approach to fabric creation enabled me to develop some amazing innovative fabrics, some of which caught the eye of furniture and lighting designer Tom Dixon who loved my ‘laminated boiled wool’ fabrics which I exhibited at the RCA degree show in 1995. I really enjoyed the 6 years I spent studying design and textiles, the freedom and creativity, being surrounded by many talented designers across many disciplines. It was an exciting and liberating time but I also knew I wanted to learn my trade and get an insight into the commercial aspects of fashion design, and so began my career as a practising designer.
Working in Industry is a very different environment to that of Art School. In Industry you learn to blend your talent as a designer with the skills required to create a commercially viable product, which is on brief and viable! I learned so much in this environment.
It was this training that taught me great attention to detail. This period was so important to how I developed as a designer and my understanding of the process and what’s involved in taking an idea and making it a commercial reality. For the next 20 years, I would work on the designs of many of the world’s leading brands from the household names of Calvin Klein, Escada and Brooks Brothers to independent emerging designers. I travelled internationally and learned what was required to design for different markets and cultures.
Applying my approach to design and implementing this in a commercially driven environment laid strong foundations for my venture into setting up my own brand.
FINDRA launched in December 2014, but I’d already spent two years researching the market. The idea for FINDRA came from my love of the outdoors. I was spending a lot of time mountain biking in the Scottish Borders, but when I went looking for cycling kit, I was really disappointed with what was on offer for women. As a designer, I felt the women’s products suffered from the ‘shrink it and pink it’ approach, which is when a man’s item is reduced in size, and a pink flower or go-faster stripe is added. I thought the existing products were letting women down and wanted to create a brand that supported women, encouraged them to get outdoors more and be more confident doing so. I knew I wanted to create something new, fresh and innovative. I wanted to create products which didn’t exist and apply an approach to design which also didn’t exist in the cycling and outdoor market. I wanted to solve the problem in a way that led to a better outcome.
The first steps on my design process were all about observations, taking in and analysing what was already on the market. What were women wearing, what did work and what didn’t, what could I improve upon and make better? How could I ensure that what I created was going to give that better outcome? With FINDRA I knew I wanted to create lightweight, stylish, technical layers that would work together (when worn) to support and enhance the body's natural response to activity and also be light enough to pack down small and not add additional weight when in the rucksack or backpack.
When I launched FINDRA, it felt like I was sticking my head above the parapet. I remember being extremely nervous at how the brand and my designs would be perceived. What if nobody wanted them, liked them, or bought them? Then what? When you step up to a challenge and put your stamp on something, you take a risk and with risk, there is no guarantee. I had to believe in my process and my skills as a designer. I had to believe in my ability to be creative, to innovate and to produce a range that was not only fresh and new but also commercial and viable. My first designs for FINDRA are still going strong, with the Marin Cowl Neck being awarded an ‘International Design & Innovation Award’. It is still selling strong to this day.
In February this year, we launched the FINDRA “Stroma Jacket”. This jacket has taken two years to go from concept to customer. It is our first entry into outerwear and is a testament to the approach my team and myself take to designing and creating innovative, quality products for our customers.
Four years on from starting FINDRA, I still get that nervous feeling in my stomach when a new design is presented, but I think that’s a good thing as being complacent is dangerous. After all, ‘great things never came from comfort zones’.
The FINDRA Stroma Jacket is available now!
Alex Feechan · stories · stroma ·