By Andy Rhodes for WTIN
Alex Feechan, CEO and founder of FINDRA, speaks to Andy Rhodes about the company’s technical jacket range featuring coffee-based yarns.
In the highly competitive technical jacket space, innovation in materials and performance is the key to success. With the consumer constantly seeking evermore-impressive products, brands are taking different approaches to meet their needs.
Earlier this year, Scottish brand FINDRA launched its Stroma Technical Jacket, a development that draws inspiration both from the environment and the company’s relationship with its customers. The jacket is made from P4Dry, a technical performance fabric that utilises the innovative Eco-friendly S.Café print yarn.
S.Café is created through the use of an innovative technology which dries and mixes repurposed coffee grounds with recycled plastic bottles to create pellets which are then melted down to create the yarn. S. Café makes up the next-to-skin membrane backing of the Stroma Jacket, improving its overall functionality and performance. Using coffee grounds in this way creates a print layer that is fast-drying, controls odour and wicks moisture away from the skin, reducing the condensation rate.
The use of materials such as this often give a product their USP, and in the case of FINDRA’s use of S. Café, it is something that customers have bought into. “When it comes to the technical side of things we've been keen to source quite innovative fabrics and textiles that are performance fabrics but ones that are, as much as possible, recycled or sustainable,” says Alex Feechan, CEO and founder of FINDRA.
“We took quite a bit of time to try and find suppliers that are doing interesting things in fabric development and it led us on that path to understand the benefits of recycled coffee grounds,” she adds. “Like fashion there's a huge amount of waste in the coffee industry and the fact that the grounds can be taken and re purposed though an extrusion process to create fibres which are then developed into textile really appealed to us and our overall Brand ethos. When we understood the process and the benefits of S café it felt like a really great way forward, and a great choice of fabric to sit alongside and complement our merino wool styles and our approach to design.”
With yarn made from coffee grounds being an unconventional material, FINDRA’s customers bought into the concept. Feechan told WTiN: “Our customers are really amazed by it, they've read about the Stroma Jacket and are intrigued to find out how you take ground coffee beans to make a wearable technical product.”
While the use of coffee grounds offers sustainability benefits, the yarns they help create offer impressive performance benefits. “Because we've used recycled coffee grounds and plastic bottles, the recycled coffee grounds actually aid the performance aspects,” explains Feechan. “They help to wick the sweat away from the body and that helps with breathability and temperature regulation, and again, the coffee ground yarn absorbs odour so in taking the sweat away it also takes away the odour. Things like that allow you to wear the jacket for longer without washing which support our sustainable approach to design.”
Adding to the list of performance benefits, the use of S.Cafe yarn also gives the Stroma Jacket added protective benefits. “It also offers UVA and UVB protection because the coffee grounds within the yarn fill in microscopic holes so they create a long-lasting and natural and chemical-free shield which prevents UV rays from contacting the skin, offering several additional benefits to the wearer.”
The overall advantages of the S.Cafe yarn add to the wider range of benefits the Stroma Technical Jacket has to offer. The jacket is soft and lightweight, offers four-way stretch, has a 10,000m waterproof rating and has a breathable outer layer, making it ideal for outdoor sports. The pockets on the jacket are concealed, while it also boasts taped seams and waterproof YKK zips to increase water repellence. The jacket also packs down small, making it easy to carry on the go.
Incorporating these benefits into the Stroma Jacket has been met with positive feedback from customers, with whom FINDRA shares a close relationship. The decision to expand its product range to include jackets initially came about due to direct customer feedback. FINDRA was already retailing base layers and midlayers, but customers wanted additional layers designed by the company, as Feechan explains.
“Really it was the customers pushed us to consider developing a product that was waterproof and showerproof that could be worn over our base layers. Overall, the approach that I take to designing the range is to create lightweight layers that you layer up and down as you need them.”
She adds: “We sell direct to the customers via our shops, through our own website and, over the last few years now at B2C events where we can speak directly to our customers which is a really good way of getting feedback and finding out what works, what customers like and don't like, and they also get the opportunity to tell us what styles what they would like to see us add in to the range, and I personally think that is a really important part of how we do business.”
FINDRA’s relationship with its customers is unique. The company is run from its flagship store in Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders, with the company’s design studio and shop sharing an open plan space.
“Because it’s open plan, the whole team get involved in meeting customers, serving them and chatting to them, and the customers get to see where we design our products and how we approach the process,” Feechan explains.
“It’s a really positive two-way communication process that we have with our customers. We take on board what they say and they get to see how we approach design. Quite often, when customers come in I get the opportunity to chat to them and show them some of the prototypes that we are developing which is a great way to get their opinions and instant feedback. To have this input from people that have already bought into the brand who like what we are doing is a nice relationship to build on and a really really important one to us,” she adds.
“Our customers love the fact that they can look in to our design studio and see first hand how we approach design and development. Its open and authentic which people don’t often get to experience with larger brands.”
In an age where consumers demand a certain level of transparency, particularly in the textile business, the open plan style layout FINDRA offers delivers just that. “I think it works really well,” Feechan says. “It gives the customer that insight into what goes on behind the scenes and what goes into the products on the shelf. It shows that there is a substantial process, which is very considered and that we as a business take time and work hard to source the right materials and fabrics and develop these into into stylish sustainable performance products that our customer will love.”
Sustainability is a key part of FINDRA’s ethos and its Stroma Technical Jacket. Besides the use of S.Cafe yarn, the company also offers a free repair service on FINDRA garments to its customers, while it is currently working to make all of its products truly sustainable. Much of the company’s environmental focus stems from its staffs’ shared love of the outdoors, as Feechan explains.
“We love the outdoors and we want to protect it, therefore that ethos comes into how we approach design. When you design something, you are in a fortunate position to create something tangible with features and benefits that enable it contribute to a bigger picture, not just for the wearer but also the environment and greater good of the planet and its people.
She continues: “Our core product range of merino wool and merino blends features styles that can be worn all year round with the idea that they can be layered up or down depending on your needs and the weather. They're stylish but they are not fashion so they're not throwaway or disposable items.
“We offer a number of things that help give our product longevity,” Feechan adds. “We offer a free repair service to our customers and we also try and share with our customers some of the knowledge that we have about raw materials like merino and their impact on the environment. We have to work hard to find materials that are sustainable and recycled. About 80% of our products fit under that banner and we have still got a bit of work to do, but we are working towards saying that all of our products are sustainable going forward, and as we grow and build the product range, that is key.”
Away from the Stroma Jacket, FINDRA is making waves with its other products. The brand’s Marin Cowl Neck top has already won a prestigious International Design and Innovation Award and has recently been nominated for a Vibes Scottish Environment Business Award. The awards are designed to encourage and reward the efficient use of resources and improve environmental performance.
“We have been shortlisted in the product category for our Marin Cowl Neck top,” Feechan explains. The Marin is a seamless 100% merino wool product, the fact that it is made in one piece means that it generates zero waste, and obviously we use a natural raw material. With the offer of free repairs adds longevity to this style. As a business we do lot of things that come under the sustainability banner which is a really important part of who we are as a brand and business.
“One of my favourite entrepreneurs is Anita Roddick and her famous quote, which is displayed at the bottom of our brand and business values document is “If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito,” We're a small business, but we take what we do seriously and believe that by good decisions making and a considered approach to design and the environment then can make a positive contribution to our customers the environment and our business.”