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  /  Fashion   /  Working Class Heritage: Glasgow’s Finnieston puts a Fashion Spin on the ‘Clydebuilt’ philosophy

Working Class Heritage: Glasgow’s Finnieston puts a Fashion Spin on the ‘Clydebuilt’ philosophy

Interview by Will Halbert
Photography by Andrew Jackson

As far as marketing buzzwords go, ‘rugged’ and ‘workwear’ are up there with the worst of ‘em. They’re a feeble currency backed by a misplaced, vicarious nostalgia for the good old days. They’re hollow monikers at best, used to hike prices to the point of exclusivity and edging out the very people whose labour they so cynically romanticise in the process. Long story short; I don’t much care for their misuse.

Which makes Finnieston’s take on workwear all the more refreshing. Glasgow-born, Finnieston honours its bona fide industrial roots by creating true, workwear-inspired garments at a price that wouldn’t raise a workman’s eyebrow. There’s an authenticity here that set them apart. There are few places, after all, with a more genuine claim to the terms ‘rugged’ and ‘workwear’ than Glasgow. It’s a city born of graft, built on grit, and propelled by a dogged tenacity. But I would say that. I was born there.

Do you know who else was born there? Finnieston founder and creative director, Ross Geddes. Which makes him the perfect person to talk to about the brand’s homegrown, heritage-inflected philosophy.

First thing’s first; how’d you get here? How did Finnieston come to be?
After several years as a director of my family’s retail business, I decided to step out and use my experience to create something entirely new. Being a menswear buyer gave me a lot of insight into the industry and I felt there was a gap in the market for a good, honest heritage brand from Glasgow.

Glasgow is very much a working, industrial city. How has that provenance shaped Finnieston as a brand?
Glasgow is an incredible City – just voted friendliest in the world again too! Working-class heritage and a good sense of humour. You have to strike a balance between authenticity while not taking yourself too seriously. We wanted to create a brand Glasgow can be proud of and we think we’ve achieved that – we have tremendous home support, support that was even more apparent once we opened the doors of our Concept Store.

What drives Finnieston? What are the brand’s core philosophies? Quality, durability, and honesty are all very important. Buy less, wear more is a nice one too. We want to offer our customers a higher quality item for their money when compared to an item of the same price. With higher quality and a lower cost per wear, we want our apparel to become the favourite thing in your wardrobe.

The devil is in the detail, our outerwear especially but each garment is more than just a sum of its parts; there’s a story behind almost every design. In addition, we’re very transparent in how we do things, we’re a small team, so if you want an answer to anything – we’re on hand any time. We celebrate our wins, but we share the trickier parts of the journey, too. A lot of people have come to us for advice too, which is a good indicator that we’re a friendly bunch!

The Stobcross Field Coat

The ‘built to work’ mantra is a cool one. How does that impact your design principles?
Well, when you call something a Riveters jacket or a worker’s jacket, you’ve got to do it properly. These manual workers needed hard-wearing gear that would last years, and Finnieston Outerwear has to echo that. The last thing you want is something that looks or feels flimsy – we wouldn’t be happy but also it would be quite insulting. While we doubt anyone will be joining steel plates or heading down the mines in our workwear-derived collection, we designed them to perform for years to come.

The Riviters Jacket

What pushed you towards more workwear-inspired pieces?
When we began to explore the Clyde’s shipbuilding legacy, workwear just seemed like a no-brainer. We looked through decades of old archive images of guys in their work garb and loved different details of the uniforms and protective gear. We like details like the pocketing, the reinforced panels, the stipulation that durability be paramount. We already had a good relationship with world leaders in waxed cotton, Halley Stevensons, and traditionally these fabrics lend themselves very nicely to workwear, but Halley are pioneers in fabric innovation and their newer fabrics really bring the silhouettes into the modern age. 

Is it ever a challenge to create utilitarian goods with a more relaxed, everyday wearability?
I think what we are looking to do going forward is really introduce that more relaxed, day-to-day wearability. Historically, you’d maybe tend to categorize our outerwear as statement pieces. That being said, we wear our Riveters Jacket Workers Shirts on an almost daily basis. Our tees, sweats, and accessories have had an amazing reaction, with people returning for new colour options. 

We live in our tees, sweats, and beanies too. They’re just so easy to wear teamed with selvedge denim, work pants and a good pair of sneakers or boots. It’s good for customers to see this too – we absolutely stand by everything we design and make, and would never endorse anything that didn’t live up to our standards and expectations in terms of quality.

The Canadian Shawl Parka

Being ‘Clydebuilt’ has always meant being built better – is that the kind of standard to which you guys hold yourselves? How do you go about doing that?
Clydebuilt was the ultimate hallmark of quality within its industry. We want Finnieston to be associated with quality, and it’s especially important when paying tribute to an industry people are proud of.

Every single detail goes under the microscope: fabrics; trims; buttons; linings; fits; weights and colours. It’s hard to look at our jackets and not see them as the huge list of components that you’ve spent months agonising over. Only when you’re confident can you absolutely guarantee faith in the garment to do what it was made for.

Can you tell us a little about the concept store? How much of a challenge was it to get things up and running during a pandemic? What made you take the leap?
We’ve always been very pro bricks and mortar. The high street has been faltering for years and online discounters are killing brands who have been around for decades with merciless, year-round sales and instant reductions on brand new lines. We wanted to return to the old-fashioned principles of great service and a quality offering; a proper shopping experience that the people deserve! 

While we’ve had great success online so far, our outerwear really needs to be seen to be appreciated, and especially when you’re a new brand people may be reluctant to take that leap when a jacket costs them several hundred pounds. This is where the store comes in. It’s a chance for people to come in, see for themselves, and have that one-to-one experience. 

In addition, we have a selection of premium international brands we really admire and associate with quality like Filson, Danner Boots, Stutterheim, Pendleton and more as well as offering products from local brands, craftspeople, artists, homeware and even some reading material too – basically somewhere for a grown-up with pocket money.

What are the major lessons learned during your time in business so far?
The main thing I learned is that when I get really stressed out, my skin falls off my face. This actually happened [laughs]. I think anyone who has run their own brand will understand there are always so many things that can go wrong. The number of different people that are involved in making one jacket, whether its designers, zip & stud suppliers, manufacturers, etc.

Whether it’s delays or mistakes, they’re bound to happen. It’s how you deal with these things when they happen, which is a big thing to learn. Another thing is patience! If you want to do a brand properly there is no quick way up the mountain. In order to build a quality, loyal customer base, it takes time. Especially when the big marketing budgets are not there.

And finally, what’s next for Finnieston?
We’re developing our lines and filling in the gaps in our range. We’re taking our first foray into trouser options and shirting this year. In addition, we’re just desperate to get back into our brand new store, as we feel we haven’t had the chance to celebrate that – it’s a huge milestone for us and because of restrictions we had a modest launch because we were straight into the busiest and most important week of the year.

We’re hoping to continue to grow that local support, develop our offering and become the West End’s go-to independent outfitters while growing our online support further afield.

Check out the latest Finnieston collection here.