Finisterre and HD Wool: Innovative Materials for Biodegradable Outerwear

“This is the Holy Grail,” says Deborah Luffman, Product Director at Finisterre. “The speed of innovation has been fantastic.”

Finisterre’s new Biosmock represents a major shift in the outerwear sector. Stripping out every fastening and embellishment that is not biodegradable, it uses a unique combination of materials to create a high-performance garment than can be worn on its own or as a mid-layer, and which is biodegradable on land and in sea.

Finisterre Biosmock in navy
Image: Finisterre
Finisterre Biosmock in navy
Image: Finisterre

As the winner of a Gold ISPO Outstanding award in the Insulation Apparel category in February, the Biosmock is a testament to years of collaboration to innovate new sustainable solutions to a growing issue in the fashion industry, often using some of the oldest known materials.

“We have always had a love affair with wool,” Deborah explains. “It has an incredible balance system to keep you warm in winter and cool in summer – it’s a wondrous fibre.

“The performance of outerwear is even better if the wool is inside a synthetic, but if that isn’t also biodegradable, it detracts for one of the biggest advantages of using a natural fibre in the first place.”

Finisterre’s aim was to develop a high-performance garment that was completely biodegradable – not just on land, but at sea. That meant using a synthetic casing that would be water-repellent, but which would biodegrade at sea, alongside wool which is naturally biodegradable, but which would have to withstand repeated washing.

With a complex set of requirements, innovative solutions needed to be found.

The outer layer was found with Primaloft, which uses a novel finishing process on recycled polyester that allows bacteria to grow on and degrade the fabric at sea. For wool that would meet their exacting performance standards, Finisterre turned to another long-term partner.

HD® Wool insulation has been working with Finisterre for close to a decade since providing the insulation for the True North range, when Deborah says the heat retention and performance quality of the wool were already impressive.

Since then, HD® Wool insulation has continued to invest heavily in improving the durability of its materials to withstand repeated washing. Thanks to a grant from Innovate UK, the company was able to focus on improving the wash durability of the insulation for up to 20 washes – a significant achievement for products containing natural fibres.  

“We were early sellers of HD® Wool as an insulation material, and it can now compete with any synthetic on washability,” says Deborah.

Collaborating with Finisterre on such a uniquely sustainable product fits squarely with the HD® Wool insulation brand’s ethos. With investment from Sky Ocean Ventures and memberships in the European Conservation Agency and campaign group Surfers Against Sewage, the business is committed to driving change in the textile industry.

In fact, because of HD® Wool insulation’s commitment to sourcing raw materials from regenerative agriculture, the ISPO judges said the Biosmock had potential to be climate positive.

“Microfibres are a serious problem in the world’s marine environments. We want to drive the use of materials that will lessen that impact,” says Kaye Yeomans. “Although research is still in its infancy, wool currently looks very promising as a fibre that will fully biodegrade at sea. We see it as a crucial part of the solution.”

At a time when businesses across the fashion industry are voicing their commitment to reduce the environmental and social impact of their operations, and when consumer awareness of these challenges is growing, biodegradable materials will continue to be at the heart of the conversation.

“It’s an important time for our business as interest is growing in sustainable fabrics and materials. The next step is prioritising regenerative agriculture and practices in sourcing,” Kaye adds.

“But first and foremost, the product works and we can achieve the performance brands need and expect.”