Photo courtesy of Cotopaxi.

Close on the heels of Outdoor Retailer Snow Show, sustainability, performance and a healthy dose of “conscious consumerism” have emerged as focuses among apparel brands and solution-oriented technologies within the outdoor industry-at-large. The event took place from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 in Denver.

The show is a perennial launchpad for new products and material innovations, such as the debut of “Frost Jeans” by ReDew8, made with European-grown wood fibers from Lenzing and woven by Isko, a denim and textiles manufacturer. To help mitigate the effects of tremendous water and cotton use when manufacturing denim, each pair of Frost jeans saves nearly 2,000 gallons of water and is produced without the environmental impacts of cotton, the company said, adding that it donates 25 percent of its profits to international wildlife conservation.

Anders Haglund, ReDew8 cofounder, said “According to the United Nations, there are only 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, yet last year the United States saw a flurry of efforts to roll back environmental regulations. A warmer climate with extreme floods and droughts not only brings huge challenges for snow sports, but also fresh water is crucial for drinking, farming and other industries.” And Peter Lantz, ReDew8 cofounder, added that “ReDew8 seeks to create a paradigm shift from the traditional linear economy — make, use, dispose — toward a circular economy, which values reduction, reuse and recycling or regenerating products and materials. ‘Zero Cotton’ represents an important step toward a more sustainable outdoor industry.”

Isko told WWD, “We are really excited about the collaboration with ReDew8, as both companies are committed to responsible innovation and sustainability in the denim industry. [It is] a fulfilling project that paves the way for a better future in a more eco-friendly fashion.”

Also unveiled at Outdoor Retailer Snow Show is the collaborative effort between DuPont Industrial Biosciences and Thindown: Its powers combined will create a “new category” of insulation by way of the firm’s Sorona fiber made from renewable plant-based ingredients and Thindown’s streamlined proprietary down insulation process that offers the market’s first and only down fabric, which takes form as a seamless sheet of material. The partnership marks the beginning of the companies’ joint exploration to manufacture a blended down insulation fabric that will maintain warmth while simultaneously adding drape and stretch for more flexible movement. And performance aside, the Sorona fiber “yields a more sustainable insulated material option versus traditional down, which comes from animal plumage, or nylon, which requires 40 percent more energy to produce,” the company said, while Thindown is praised for its breathable, lightweight warmth and versatility as compared to its quilted down counterparts, and can be used in apparel and footwear applications.

“Frost Jeans,” by ReDew8. Photo courtesy of Isko and ReDew8 

Renee Henze, global marketing director, DuPont Biomaterials, said that the firm is “constantly exploring new opportunities to develop and market innovative solutions across industries, and this unique collaboration underscores that commitment to delivering on both high performance and sustainability in apparel. The breakthrough technology of Thindown — coupled with the textile innovation of Sorona fibers — can further revolutionize down applications and create a new category of insulation,” Henze told WWD. “To truly make an impact when it comes to sustainability — from outdoor wear to high fashion — performance must be part of the foundation. Products need to perform first and foremost, particularly in the outdoor market where comfort, warmth, moisture wicking ability, and other attributes are critically important.”

She added, “The combination of Thindown and Sorona are leading the way for performance and sustainability in apparel, delivering the next evolution of insulation without the drawbacks associated with the production of real down. Our partnership enhances each other’s properties and explores the boundaries of fabric innovation, meeting the demands of consumers today while also growing our application use to positively create new options for high-performance, eco-efficient materials.”

And the emphasis on sustainability is largely due to the growth of the conscious consumerism movement, according to Marisa Nicholson, Outdoor Retailer vice president and show director. Nicholson told WWD, “Sustainability remains a key focus for outdoor apparel. It’s part of the ethos of our industry and is driven by the conscious consumer. Brands continue to take action — they are going beyond nonprofit partnerships and evaluating the whole product lifecycle, considering the source, production, and future of the gear they create.” Nicholson said that brands and textile manufacturers are becoming more efficient at using recycled materials, noting that “recycled plastic bottles are becoming insulation, fleece pullovers or performance jackets. And, our whole industry is doing more to educate consumers about these products.”

A retro-style shirt by Cotopaxi. Photo courtesy of Cotopaxi  Chris Brinlee

Younger, value-driven companies such as Cotopaxi, the sustainable and charitable outdoor apparel brand whose strikingly colorful, retro-style products could be spotted a mile away, said that sustainability is simply inherent within its brand’s identity. Davis Smith, founder and ceo, Cotopaxi, told WWD, “Our focus on sustainability runs deep and weaves its way through our design ethos and materials choices. We are using remnant pack fabrics in our “Del Día” product line that would most likely otherwise end up in a landfill or be burned, and we give complete creative control to sewers in the Philippines who create each piece and no two packs are alike. We leverage repurposed fabric for our best-selling “Teca” windbreaker, and when a colorway is sold out, there is no re-creating it.”

Smith continued, “We are actively working on additional uses for remnant or upcycled materials across our lines in different fabrications that will be brought to market next year. In addition, we are bringing on a Fair Trade Certified factory partner online for our organic cotton/recycled polyester tees due out this spring. For new products, we are working to use recycled fabrics and insulation, versus virgin materials.”

Noah Robertson, cofounder and director of product, Mountain Khakis, told WWD that the commitment to sustainable fabrication is “unwavering” in the outdoor category. “As [outdoor brands] continue to learn about sustainable practices protecting their connection to the natural world, buyers and customers are demanding, and have come to expect added value and reduced environmental impact. Outdoor is addressing these demands through attractive designs and versatility of use. Customers look to the outdoor market in both casual and performance to get them through their daily life demands, in addition to the adventure they aspire to take, or in fact, plan.”

And Robertson said that the growth outdoor apparel market is also due to consumers’ increased need to disconnect and recharge from the stresses of daily life. “As everything changes so quickly through technology these days, people’s connection to the outdoors remains a consistent draw to simplify and reboot whenever possible, and because of this, outdoor apparel, both casual and performance, remains a connection to the growth in the industry over the last few years.”

For more Business news from WWD, see:

PrimaLoft Rolls Out First Fully Recycled Bio Performance Fabric

Fashion Industry’s ‘War for Talent,’ Demand for Vocational Skills

Field Notes: Fashion’s Making Waves

Fashion Brand Nicholas K Cites ‘Longevity’ as Key to Sustainability

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