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Our Journal

Into The Sea: Textile Design graduate’s Finisterre Seasuit collab hits the shelves

Textiles graduate Ayesha King collaborated with the surfwear brand Finisterre to develop a wetsuit suitable for Muslim women.

Finisterre’s innovative new Seasuit gives women and girls the freedom to follow their cultural requirements of covering their bodies while still embracing their love for water sports.

Now available to the public and found in shops across the country, the Seasuit, which has been almost a decade in the making, looks very different from its traditional predecessors. Created specifically for surfing and open water swimming, it has been designed, developed and implemented by women, for women. As part of a live brief, BA (Hons) Textile Design graduate Ayesha King designed the winning multifunctional pattern.

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Easkey Britton in the Finisterre Seasuit

The idea for the wetsuit started after Irish surfer, Finisterre ambassador and marine social scientist Dr. Easkey Britton visited Iran to surf the waves of Baluchestan. Easkey soon realised the unique problems faced by female surfers in the region. Complying with cultural dress codes meant riding swells in leggings, baggy shorts, tunic and headscarf. Overheating and weighed down by water-logged material, Britton realised that for local women to continue to engage in the sport, a different solution needed to be found.

Ayesha King

Ayesha King at her Summer Show

This is where Ayesha’s clever use of pattern came into play. “The main goal was to mask the shape of the body through print in order to make surfing much more inclusive for different religions or personal preferences. Colour played an important part with the flicks of mustard yellow representing the light flickering on the ocean ripples. These techniques helped to distort and take the focus away from the contours of the body.”

It’s not only religious or cultural conventions that can stop women taking part in exercise. Female participation in all sports drops off in teenage years as anxieties around body image rises. Slipping into skin tight wetsuits can be exposing as Finisterre’s former product director, Debbie Luffman explains, “Female surfing is still often over-sexualised… There is also a lack of diversity for female surfers, again leading to mis- or under-representation to inspire younger surfers to grab a board and go and have fun in the ocean.”

The final design has an innovative cross-back strap system, making it easy for the wearer to step into and pull on over a wetsuit or leggings. It also features an adjustable elasticated hood that stays put when duck diving or during a wipe-out, and is made from quick-drying UPF 50+ ECONYL® recycled fabric. Tester suits were built by Makers HQ in Plymouth, another all female collective.

Debbie Luffman continues, “We told the students this was a function problem, and a sustainability challenge, but that they also had to make it look badass, individual and beautiful. When you are wearing sportswear, you have to feel strong and confident.”

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A close up of Ayesha King's pattern design

Ayesha describes incorporating this advice along with using the sea as inspiration for her final design, “I love the way that the sea leaves linear impressions in the sand, displaying the relationship of the land and sea. The sea is a way of connecting people from all backgrounds and beliefs, and the flowing lines in this print captures that idea.”

Jo Bury is a designer for Finisterre and was part of the judging panel, she was impressed by the students' approach to the project, “They came extremely prepared with all the pieces well thought out, we were so impressed by how clearly they presented their ideas and designs”. In fact they were so impressed that they decided to retain Ayesha’s design for the commercial release of The Seasuit, translating the pattern into the new season's colourway. Now on sale to the public, the commercial version of The Seasuit is modular with options to remove the head covering or to make the arms and legs longer. “Although we changed the design Ayesha’s pattern still worked!” said Jo “It was really great how she covered all aspects of the brief. It is so inspiring to work with students as they have totally different influences than many of our regular designers!”

The university’s facilities and mentoring from staff made this project come to life and allowed me to gain valuable industry experience. The opportunities of commercial live briefs at Arts University Plymouth are amazing and I can’t thank the Printed Textiles team and the Digital Print Bureau enough!
Ayesha King, Graduate of BA (Hons) Textile Design

One of the Seasuits testers, Shirin Gerami, is Iran’s first female Triathlete. Gerami had already fought – and won – a long battle with Iran’s Ministry of Sports to be allowed to represent Iran in the Triathlon World Championships, after agreeing to compete in head-to-toe coverage. ts inclusion. I think it can have an absolutely huge impact and be a door opener to women, especially girls, to be able to gain the approval, blessing and the personal confidence to be able to go into the ocean and surf, have fun and be a part of this movement.”

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For Ayesha, not only was the project meaningful, it also provided her with fantastic exposure, “I’ve spotted my work on various media outlets including the BBC, The Times, The Inertia, Surfer.com and the Finisterre website which has been a dream come true! I am excited to see how this project develops further and revolutionises surf apparel around the world.”

Ayesha added, “The university’s facilities and mentoring from staff made this project come to life and allowed me to gain valuable industry experience. The opportunities of commercial live briefs at Arts University Plymouth are amazing and I can’t thank the Printed Textiles team and the Digital Print Bureau enough!”

You can see more of Ayesha’s work on Instagram and purchase the Seasuit online on the Finisterre website.

Are you interested in textile design and would like to study a creative degree? Find out more about our BA (Hons) Textile Design degree by coming along to our Open Day on Saturday 2 July where you can tour our studios and meet our lecturers.