Outdoor Fashon, The Gear We Wear
It doesn’t take much digging online to discover how unsustainable outdoor wear can be. We are suckers for fashion whether we like to admit it or not.. Fashion that often finds its way to the attic, on a hanger at the back of some long forgotten rail or indeed neatly stored away in the gear shed. This gear is notoriously difficult to recycle and can sometimes find its way to landfill.
Fast fashion changed the way we looked at clothing from designer-led seasons to relentlessly adapting fashion to sync with consumer demand. Pioneered by reclusive entrepreneur Amancio Ortega Gaona and his companies Zara and Inditex.
The cost of low cost fashion
So according to the Labfresh study in Ireland (https://labfresh.eu/pages/fashion-waste-index?locale=en) we send 22,944 tonnes of textiles - more than 60 percent of fabric fibers which are synthetics, derived from fossil fuels - to landfill (4.7kg per person). So if and when our clothing ends up in a landfill it will not decay! Neither will synthetic microfibers that end up in the sea or freshwater. Future generations exploring the ocean depths may discover evidence of your goretex jacket in years to come.
Outerwear containing polyester is made using polyethylene terephthalate, this is the same material used to make plastic bottles. More outdoor companies are switching their packaging material from virgin plastic made from petroleum to sustainable materials made from post-consumer bottles.
Synthetic fibres are used throughout the outdoor gear world. They create moisture repelling barriers, sweat-moving layers and non-absorbent fibres which are all very useful to the average outdoors person.
Since plastic waste is a serious social issue, fashion companies are attempting to develop sustainable apparel made from “post-consumer” plastic bottles. In a nutshell the bottles are gathered, compressed, stretching into fibres and made into material.
Creating the fibres from recycled PET plastics instead of virgin plastics uses fewer resources to create fabrics by recycling clear plastic bottles. The North Face claim there is 51 plastic bottles in their men’s medium Denali jacket.
Down is a layer of fine plumage found under a bird's tougher feathers. There is an increasing awareness of the suffering involved for the animal in the retrieval of their soft feathers. Conscious manufacturers like Columbia are increasingly stepping away from traditionally sourced down and signing up to a global standard for Responsibly Sourced Down (RSD). This standard follows a chain of custody from the goose to your jacket. Rab have taken this a step further with recycled down - this is goose or duck down that has been recycled from post-consumer sources; down duvets and pillows.
A special mention has to be given here to Nikwax, Ireland and the UK’s leading provider of cleaning and waterproofing for outdoor apparel. In response to the 2020 pandemic have come up with a way to launder single use PPE and maintain their protective properties.
Other brands who have truly committed to sustainability;
- Ayacucho are an outdoor clothing company who demand that all suppliers fair trade and environmental standards and conditions.
-Tentree who are on a mission to plant a billion trees by 2030.
-Patagonia of course who are a registered B-Corporation and pioneers in the “if it’s broke, fix it!” mentality.
Outdoor gear however, is in most cases more durable than fast fashion and with proper care and some maintenance can last a lifetime or two. Cyclical trends and styles return to outdoor shops and many outdoor enthusiasts are a dab hand with a needle these days. In the words of WILL.I.AM - " Waste isn’t waste until we waste it ".
Researched and composed by Darran and Kathryn, the Two Rock Team