By Judith Tonner for the Daily Record
THE 43-year-old is originally from Kirkwood studied at Heriot Watt University with her highly-successful fashion career spanning more than two decades.
A COATBRIDGE-BORN designer who combined her passions for fashion and fitness has been named entrepreneur of the year at a sports industry ceremony.
Alexandra Feechan triumphed at last week’s sports business innovation awards for the success of Findra, her new brand of stylish and performance-driven cycling clothes for women.
Originally from Kirkwood, the 43-year-old designer studied at Heriot Watt University and the Royal College of Art before launching her hugely successful fashion career, spanning over two decades.
She launched Findra after taking up mountain biking three years ago and immediately noting a gap in the market for lightweight, performance clothing designed especially for female riders – which has whizzed off the shelves since launching late last year.
Alexandra, nee Finnegan, told the Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser: “I quickly got keen on mountain biking after taking it up and thought I’d buy some kit, but was really disappointed in what was available.
“I could see that the clothing suffered from ‘shrink it and pink it’, where a men’s product is just scaled down, and felt compelled to do something.
“When I researched my ideas with focus groups, I got fantastic feedback – women valued the idea of special clothing, and I developed prototypes with Heriot Watt University and the Sporting Chance Initiative.
“I also wanted to create a system of layering that’s lightweight, because having enough warm layers can end up being very bulky and when people later take them off, you have a big bulky bag to carry. My designs use Merino wool, are designed for performance and are all manufactured in Scotland.
“It’s taken off really quickly, with products having sold out a few times since we launched in December; knowing that people really like what I’m doing is really positive, and it’s been a fantastic experience.”
The former pupil of St James’ Primary and Columba High has worked with many major international brands and is currently head of knitwear at Hawick firm Peter Scott in addition to her new venture.
She won the Sporting Chance Initiative award by beating four rivals in the entrepreneur category, and was “honoured” to meet sports bra founder Hinda Miller at the Glasgow ceremony.
Alexandra, who now lives in Innerleithen, now hopes that her products will encourage more women to take up sport.
She said: “Hinda Miller was very inspirational; she’s also someone who wanted to help women who were running and adapt things so that they had the right equipment and would be more confident.
“She’s amazing and I felt pretty honoured to receive that from her as I’m at the start of that journey.
“I love mountain biking, getting out in the fresh air and having time and freedom to gather your thoughts; it’s important that people should just be able to go out there and do the sport they love with the right clothing and equipment to be able to enjoy it.
“Ever since I was quite young I’ve been creative and really enjoyed drawing, painting and designing clothes; it’s something I always wanted to do and I’ve always had great support, and I’m delighted to win this special award.”