FoamLife: Live Less OrdinaryGear
Stories Behind the Gear: FoamLife
Challenging conventions in launching a new brand
Written by Harriet Osborne // Photography by Amanda Beenen and Adam Simms
‘It doesn’t get more authentic than what we are doing.
This is grassroots again.’ —Timo
Inspired by the laid-back living of the UK’s south-west coast, three industry veterans put pen to paper after years of thinking about starting their own brand. Lockdown slowed down their busy lives in marketing, sales, and design to a pace enabling them to create a product that challenged a conventional way of life. In keeping with their mantra ‘Live Less Ordinary’, FoamLife flip flops have had an impact on the market even before launching. We caught up with founders Daniel Macaulay, Timo Mullen, and Karl Read to find out why some of the most influential voices in the industry have tipped the brand to be the next big thing.
FoamLife founders Daniel and Timo grew up on the south-west coast of Ireland surrounded by some of the best windsurfing conditions in the world. Daniel coached and competed in the sport and became European Marketing Director for leading action sports brands. Timo is a professional windsurfer who competed in the Windsurfing World Tour and won several National titles. He worked in sales for a number of surf brands, which is where he met Karl, a street artist, Creative Director, and product designer from Poole, Dorset – where surfing was, and still is, an integral part of his life.
Authentic, cool, and ambitious, the trio have worked and surfed together throughout their careers. When the world descended into lockdown, they saw an opportunity to shake up the market and build a brand inspired by surfing subcultures who dared to do things differently.
Timo explains, ‘When I was growing up, my dad ran one of the biggest water sports shops in Ireland. Back then, if you saw someone wearing flip flops, you would assume they were a part of a tribe – they were a surfer and had an alternative lifestyle. With boardsports becoming more mainstream, that tribe has been lost. FoamLife is bringing back the idea of following a different path, which is why our mantra is “Live Less Ordinary”.’
Authenticity is what sets the brand apart from its competitors. In addition to investing their own money in the first six months of product development, they live and breathe the lifestyle. Timo adds, ‘We’ve grown up wearing the products of big players and we love them. They were started by guys just like us. By circumstance they’ve become more successful and corporate. It doesn’t get more authentic than what we are doing. This is grassroots again.’
The risk averse would be wary about starting a business during a pandemic. But with more people working from home, there has been a surge in sales of comfortable apparel. People are wearing the clothes they want to wear, not the clothes they have to wear. And with searches for this kind of footwear up by 53 per cent, it’s suggested that people want to wear flip flops.
‘Everyone is changing their lifestyles in some way or another. People are moving out of cities, having virtual meetings, and dressing differently. FoamLife is a natural fit if you’re on the beach and you put your flip flops on. But it’s just as cool if you’re in an office and you’ve finished work for the day. It’s more than an item of clothing. It’s a change of mental state,’ says Dan.
Flip flops allow your feet to breathe, offering freedom of movement, escapism, and relaxation. Karl prioritised comfort and simplicity when designing the collections, drawing inspiration from the ocean and dramatic backdrops of beaches along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.
‘We looked at colours and patterns that were on trend, but sometimes it was as simple as being out on the water, seeing a texture or a colour, and thinking, “that’s cool”. Our offices are based on the marina in Poole, which puts us in the right mindset. Our biggest inspiration is our surroundings,’ Karl says.
FoamLife is focusing on elements of sustainability and will introduce more into the range as time goes on. They will also soon be releasing an influencer campaign called #SoleMates in collaboration with artists, musicians and athletes who personify the brand’s ‘live less ordinary’ mantra
All of the flip flops are 100 per cent vegan friendly, PVC-free, and made with a recycled EVA or recyclable TPE foam footbed and outsole. Raised arch support, a padded upper, and soft webbing toe post offer ultimate comfort while a textured non-slip footbed provides grip when walking. ‘They’re super light and super comfortable. They quite literally make you feel better,’ Karl says.
Having sold flip flops for over 20 years, Timo has developed a keen sense of what sells and what doesn’t. The team settled on 10 styles split between men and women with a considered mix of core styles in evergreen colourways (25 in total), ocean-inspired blues, and spearmint greens, and patterned uppers in keeping with the narrative of doing things differently.
The FoamLife founders are self-titled perfectionists with an attention to detail achieved thanks to years in the industry. Hangers and tags are made from recycled card, with woven string made from recycled paper. A foam square that would normally support the toe post in transit has been replaced with recycled tissue paper. The shipping bags are made from biodegradable cornstarch. Plastic tape on factory boxes has been replaced with adhesive paper. The list goes on. But they are casual about what they have achieved and insist there is more to be done.
‘We’re not perfect, but we are laying good foundations,’ Karl says. ‘As time moves on, we can start building more sustainability solutions into the range. We don’t want to greenwash; we want to state the facts and be transparent with our consumer.’
Karl is also conscious of the contradictions of sustainability in surfing. Globally, 350,000 tonnes of old neoprene lie unused every year, generally made from non-renewable sources that are very difficult to recycle.
‘We know surfers aren’t the most sustainable people – wearing neoprene, buying boards, travelling to different places around the planet, and driving to go surfing. But they are also very aware of their carbon footprint. So where they can make sustainable purchases they will,’ he says.
FoamLife is a global brand built on grassroots principles. It’s an honest approach by hard-working professionals who share a love for the ocean, doing things differently and bringing people together from all walks of life.