Charles Finch, James Barshall Take to the High Seas with a Shoe Meant for Serious Sailors

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Charles Finch and James Barshall, two serial entrepreneurs with a passion for the open sea, fly-fishing, and fashion, are launching a new, performance footwear brand aimed at serious sailors.

The brand, Équipement De Vie, or EDV, currently offers a single lace-up style in variety of colors and textures. It also has various patent-pending features, high-grip, anti-slip soles, and a drainage hole system for when waves start to crash onto the deck.

The plan is to launch a slip-on style later this summer, and there is a “tremendous pipeline” of product ready to be rolled out in the coming years, said Barshall in a joint telephone interview with Finch.

The two were speaking from Italy, where they are soft-launching the brand as sponsors and participants in the Argentario Classic Regatta, part of Argentario Sailing Week in Porto Santo Stefano on the Tuscan coast.

They’re racing two boats: Finch’s classic yacht “Gael,” and “Java,” which belongs to Finch’s captain Nat Lemieux, the inspiration behind the brand.

“We want to be a specialist, and we’ve been laser-focused on making the best possible sailing shoe,” said Barshall, a distribution veteran who brought Vans to the U.K. and Europe in the early ‘90s. He’s also the former owner of the American outerwear company Penfield, and founder of its sister brand, Cape Heights.

The shoes’ design and materials, Barshall added, “came from understanding the real needs of sailors. There is a very high level of technical ability built into them, but we’ve also tried to make these shoes elegant, and wearable.”

Barshall and Finch started working on the brand two years ago after Lemieux, an accomplished American racer, bemoaned the lack of sailing shoes with the grip and durability to withstand the toughest conditions.

The Equipment de Vie shoes have high-grip, anti-slip soles and special drainage channels.
The Equipment de Vie shoes have high-grip, anti-slip soles and special drainage channels.

The result was the Lemieux Elite style for men and women, which has features such as high-grip, anti-slip soles and special drainage channels “for optimal traction and water displacement on all marine surfaces,” according to the website.

The style also has a fast-lacing system, rubber toe protection, and a dual-layer breathable upper. The company said the shoe also provides “precise contact” with the boat’s winch buttons through a specialized engagement pad on the sole that’s meant to promote stability.

The shoes come in a technical fabric, leather, or suede in a neutral palette of white, gray, black, navy and chestnut. They’re priced at 185 pounds.

Finch described them as “quite sturdy,” and said they are meant to get better with age. “Over time, they become more glued to your foot, and more glued to the deck. They’re sustainable in the old-fashioned way” because they last, he said.

Finch, whose businesses range from film to lifestyle to publishing, and who founded the Chucs Dive & Mountain brand and restaurant franchise, funded the initial development stage.

Last year the partners also raised funds through a friends and family investment round. Investors include Jonathan Newhouse, the Givenchy family, and film producers P.J. van Sandwijk, Eric Fellner, Jeremy Thomas, and Ginevra Elkann.

Finch and Barshall worked with a freelance designer to create the shoe, and Barshall used his supply chain contacts to secure a Taiwanese-owned factory that works with high-end brands and also has technical expertise.

They’ve spend the past few weeks testing the shoe on sailors and crew members during races and trials, and will be soft launching this weekend during the regatta.

Finch argued the Lemieux Elite works on land – and at cocktail parties – while Barshall said he’s been testing his shoes onshore, offshore, and in every single environment – successfully – for the last nine months.

EDV sailing shoes are aimed at serious sailors.
EDV sailing shoes are aimed at serious sailors.

The shoes have sustainable elements, too. The suede and leather are vegetable-tanned and chrome-free, while the midsoles are made from 30 percent sugarcane. Laces and other components are made from recycled materials, while the box comes from 100 percent post-consumer cardboard.

The brand will hold trunk shows with friends and family throughout the summer, while sales are currently direct-to-consumer.

Barshall said he has already started setting up wholesale distribution, which will start in spring 2025, in countries including Japan.

“It’s baby steps at this point, and we really want to establish the brand through the right channels in the sailing community,” he said. “We’re taking things slowly, and want to do them the right way. We want this to be a tremendous business” in the medium-term he added.

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