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A self-proclaimed “control freak”, Finlay possesses a clarity about himself that is equal parts inspiring and intimidating.

 

This is most evident in his collaboration with Doc Martens, for which he designed a 1460 boot that adapts into a 1460 shoe through a detachable tab on the back. “In collaboration, it’s always about finding that middle ground between you and them,” he says. In this case, doing away with Doc Martens’ signature yellow stitching was his “way of claiming it”, ensuring that his fledgling brand identity didn’t become subsumed by theirs. It’s a simple decision that pays off. As I look at the hybrid creation up-close, I forget that it’s not even part of Finlay’s original collection- the modular ethos and sleek, minimal exterior of both aligning so perfectly with each other.

 

Despite having recently been announced as one of four winners of the collaboration, the hard-headed designer doesn’t easily forget the path he took to get here. He recalls how previous winners told him that Doc Martens would never go for his design (“too intellectual”). Rather than heeding their advice, he doubled down and ultimately prevailed. “You have to just stick with it,” he insists. This slow, meticulous thinking speaks not just to his inherent self-assuredness as a designer, but also to his deep-rooted desire for longevity in the industry. For Finlay, what matters is that his designs stand up to questioning, that he finds a way to assert himself even amidst the things he can’t control, and most importantly that he can back himself against all odds.

 

“I think he’s extremely passionate about his vision. He would even be willing to give up certain things to fulfil said vision of his,” Jude tells me. “In the short run, it might read as a weakness but in the long run I think I’m going to see his name in a textbook somewhere.” I harbour the same hopes for Finlay but temper it with the knowledge that many practical concerns remain. Quickly running out of money with no sponsorships immediately presenting themselves, he’s sober to the fact that putting his collection into production and launching a fully operational business will be no straightforward task. Yet, as he acknowledges himself, part of being a designer (and indeed a human being) is to “leave space for the unknown”.

Written by SHIN HUI LEE @SHINHUILEE

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