Surfer, artist, sea-swimmer, Design and Production Director – Deborah Luffman is at the beating heart of the Finisterre team. We caught up with her as the cold water surf company celebrates ten years by opening the doors on their very first London pop-up shop.
Interview by Demi Taylor
I was always drawing and making things and generally making a mess with PVA and paints. My mum made our clothes when we were small and my grandma was a dressmaker and tailor – she used to make wedding dresses out of old parachutes – so I think design was kind of in the blood.
Brighton is a great place to come from. I was growing up just as the gay scene kicked off there and worked in the clubs on the beach front while at art college, you'd see cross dressers on stilts and general dressing up galore, I loved it and lived to dance! I can't remember any pressure to conform, it was more about doing your own thing and had an arty vibe and an amazing music scene.
I'm not into fashion, as in trend following, and to be honest the word has negative connotations for me. After working in London for about 5 years for high street fashion brands, it was not for me, it just seemed soulless and synthetic, how what you worked on for one season was in the bin the next. I much prefer sportswear, which has a function and a purpose beyond the aesthetic and I think there is more room for self-expression.
The best design often involves the simplest solutions and the key has to be always thinking about the needs of the end user
For me a good designer looks to improve on what has gone before, to evolve, innovate and seek to problem solve, but not for their ego's sake. The best design often involves the simplest solutions and the key has to be always thinking about the needs of the end user.
I get inspiration from people watching. From speaking to people, travelling, getting involved and looking to solve problems – like trying to improve the experience of getting changed out of a wetsuit in a freezing cold carpark.
I'd say of all the products, I’m most proud of this year’s insulation jackets, now in their 5th year of evolution. They are the warmest, most durable range we have put out and look the business. The Etobicoke, Sastruga and Pipistral all have soft microfibre lined sleeves, which means they are a dream to get on over clammy wet skin when you get out the sea. They all zip pack away small and travel perfect.
I got into surfing in Peru, about 6 years ago when I met my other half - a Peruvian short boarding nut. Being around him surfing is kind of infectious. We both have a passion for the outdoors and get twitchy when we're sat still indoors for too long. My down time is about surfing, running, sea-swimming, cycling, yoga, painting and wine!
The hardest part about surfing in the UK is duck-diving in February – the ice cream headaches…
I ended up working for Finisterre through one of my best friends from Uni who worked at the brand. He said they were looking for a womenswear designer, so invited me down to St Agnes. I left London, portfolio in hand, and got picked up from the station and given a wetsuit, we then went jumping off of rocks. Needless to say that was my interview and the portfolio stayed in the boot! I got the job and started 2 weeks later. I came on board as the womenswear designer about 5 years ago, now I'm the design and production director. I design the mens and women's ranges, working with the factories and managing the supply chain. I am so lucky, Finisterre is such an incredible place to work, we are all super young and passionate, carving out a brand and a product that we really believe in, that kind of opportunity doesn't knock on your door every day so I thank my lucky stars!
I loved Brighton and living in London, but I wouldn't swap my Cornwall life now. Brighton pier always looked a tad sad in the rainy winter, but Cornwall looks beautiful to me no matter what the weather. There is so much to do outside, whether in the sea or in jacket and wellies taking the coastal path on.
Check out her work on finisterreuk.com