Where my clothes come from – No. 7

Paul Bell

“It’s not as easy as you’d think to find stylish, ethical men’s socks. Especially if you’ve got a particular colour in mind.”

My challenge was to find a pair of sustainably manufactured, mustard-yellow socks for my partner Paul. My first port of call was Conscious Step, who design and sell organic cotton socks for men and women, all knitted in India under Fairtrade conditions. Conscious Step donate a fixed amount to charity for each pair of socks sold. And each design is matched to a different charity partner to raise money for a specific cause, so you know where your money is going.

Paul was particularly taken with Conscious Step mustard-yellow and navy striped socks, which are matched to Room to Read, a project supporting literacy and girls’ education. Each donation by Conscious Step buys two schoolbooks. (Knowing how to read makes people safer, healthier and more self-sufficient; yet nearly 800 million people are illiterate, and two-thirds of this total are women and girls).

However, Conscious Step are based in America so the shipping costs for one pair of socks was somewhat prohibitive. (Less so if you want to buy a batch of socks in one go).  Conscious Step currently sell in a variety of stores in the US, Canada and Australia but not, sadly, in the UK as yet.

Fortunately, we then discovered Finisterre, a British company selling action sportswear. Finisterre have invested heavily in developing a UK fibre supply chain, which includes merino wool. When they discovered a farmer with British Bowmont Merino sheep in 2008, numbers had plummeted to twenty-eight. By providing a viable outlet for the wool, the flock has now increased to over two hundred and fifty sheep, reviving the British Merino industry.

Finisterre socks
Photographer: Sue Phillips

Although wool for Finisterre socks actually comes from Australia (presumably the flock isn’t big enough for the entire product range as yet). But the socks are designed and knitted in Loughborough in the UK. And the range includes mustard-yellow socks. Well, ‘dune yellow’ according to the Finisterre catalogue, but close enough!

As well as selling online Finisterre have a shop in Covent Garden, London; so we decided to go down and take a look. Paul loved their clothes so much he came home with three pairs of socks, and a green and black twill ‘Kepler’ shirt (cotton/merino wool blend), and a base layer t-shirt (80% merino wool/20% polyamide, fibre from fully traceable New Zealand farms, processed and knitted in Europe by eco-label certified spinners).

Grenson shoes and Finisterre socks
Photographer: Sue Phillips

There’s a list of all Finisterre’s UK stores on the Directory page.

Finisterre shop
Photographer: Sue Phillips

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