Fashion: augmented nature in our coats

From outdoors enthusiasts to lovers of luxurious fabrics, customers during the colder months hold the same appeal towards outerwear, whether it’s a coat or a puffer. While they are designed to keep us warm and protect us from harsh weather conditions, they are typically harmful to the environment or towards animals. Attractive alternatives are finally emerging. Find out why.

Morgane Nyfeler

By Morgane Nyfeler22 décembre 2020

A 2019 YouGov poll found that 80% of people interrogated are concerned about the welfare and treatment of animals (Pangaia)

The use of animal products in fashion has been a hot topic of debate in recent years, fueled not only by an increase of animal rights protesters but also by younger consumers, whom consulting firm Deloitte describes as more ethically minded than previous generations. A 2019 YouGov poll found that 80% of people interrogated are concerned about the welfare and treatment of animals. Brands from Gucci to Chanel who have banned fur and exotic skins from their products have seen their positive environmental image reinforced. And the ones that are still reluctant to make the switch often get bad press for their immoral and finger-pointing practices.

Italian brand Herno focuses on nylon that is biodegradable in just five years - compared to 50 years for regular nylon - or recycled from industrial waste (IR).

Outdoor products and clothes usually have a high negative environmental impact due to the toxic chemicals and controversial materials they are made of – an irony knowing they are created for people who love nature. To turn the tide, Greenpeace launched its Detox Outdoor, campaign asking brands to stop using hazardous PFC, a chemical widely used to waterproof products that is also very damaging for the environment. It provides a useful guide to navigate between the few brands that have banned chemicals and many others that are still falling short. Swiss start-up Dimpora, for example, already offers a solution by developing membranes for its partner brands that are fluorine-free and biodegradable without compromising on performance.

Rethinking nylon for the environment

This year, the Italian brand Herno launched a new green collection to continue its mission towards sustainability and traceability started in 2010. Entitled Herno Globe, the collection encompasses four projects, underlining the origin of the materials, the different kinds of manufacturing and their environmental features, all illustrated by efficiently designed jackets that last over time and can be completely recycled, reused or broken down. “We were pioneers in Italy and today we are really satisfied to be able to consider ourselves at the forefront,” says Claudio Marenzi, CEO of Herno. “Being transparent and verifiable is critical when it comes to green projects and Herno Globe represents a further step in our commitment to take care of the environment.”

The main focus is put on nylon, seen across utilitarian parkas and padded bombers, that is either biodegradable in only five years – compared to the 50 years of common nylon – or recycled from industrial waste. It is then dyed using natural elements such as onion peel, indigo leaves or olives. The collection also features regenerated Econyl nylon spun from abandoned fishing nets and recycled wool for sleek city coats, while all its padding is made with recycled down feathers.

The plant-based down designed by science

As a materials science company, PANGAIA, has been developing innovative and bio-engineered materials to create environmental-friendly products since its inception in 2018.

The Pangaia brand has developed FLWRDWN, a new fully biodegradable material created from natural wild flowers used for stuffing jackets and down jackets (DR).

One of its registered patent is FLWRDWN™, a fully biodegradable material created with natural wildflowers used for jacket and puffer padding. It is the warm, breathable, hypoallergenic and cruelty-free alternative to goose and duck down, a prized material for the outdoor industry that is plucked from millions of birds each year and very often in atrocious manners. “FLWRDWN™ exemplifies our overall brand philosophy of ‘high tech naturalism’ where the future of creating a responsible fashion industry involves using existing natural materials that are augmented by scientific and technology processes,” says Amanda Parks PhD, Chief Innovation Officer.

The future of creating a responsible fashion industry involves using existing natural materials that are augmented by scientific and technology processes

Amanda Parks PhD, Chief Innovation Officer at Pangaia

The flowers grown in US prairies without pesticides, fertilizers or irrigation are harvested by hand to ensure the highest quality before being mechanically cleaned and dried. By purchasing the wildflowers from regenerative farming, PANGAIA is supporting local species and protecting biodiversity against other modern agriculture practices. Once dried, the flowers are combined with a biopolymer and infused with aerogel – for the first time made of 85% recycled paper – which guarantees great insulation performance and durability while being non-toxic, ultra-light and biodegradable. And to keep the carbon footprint of the brand’s colourful puffers to a minimum, the outside shell is made of recycled nylon taken from the billions of garments that are destined to landfills, and that can be reused over and over again in a closed loop.

When plastic waste becomes desirable

Accustomed to extreme temperatures, it’s no surprise that Canadian brands have been dominating the outerwear market around the world with fashionable and functional coats and jackets.

The Norden brand focuses on recycled plastic from PET bottles. It creates products that have the smallest possible footprint (DR).

But Montreal-based label Norden fills a gap left by its competitors with high-quality outerwear products that are ethically produced and based on the circular economy. By focusing on recycled plastic from PET bottles, the brand is creating products that have the smallest footprint possible by consuming 45% less energy, 20% less water and giving off 30% less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional polyester. The recycled fabric developed by production company REPREVE is then printed with a digital serial number called FiberPrint® that calculates the number of bottles used in a single garment and analyses all the steps in the manufacturing process from the ethical factory in Hangzhou, China to the Montreal warehouse where products are sent in biodegradable bags made from corn starch.

“At Norden we are committed to reducing the existing plastic to create functional outerwear and we encourage our customers to make a difference for our environment and its future,” says Amelie Marcoux, Sales & Development VP. Via the Buy Back Program, customers can trade in a coat from another brand in exchange for a discount on a Norden purchase or return their garment after two years in order to be repaired, resold, donated or recycled by the brand’s partner, TerraCycle.

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