People wear clothes. That's not going to change. But what has to change is how we create them.
Our fabrics are created out of a need and a desire to transcend the traditional offerings of an unsustainable marketplace. For us, this means pioneering new fabrics-sometimes up to 35 a season-which reflect our commitment to beauty, performance and sustainability. For you, it means challenging the misguided assumption that renewable and recycled fabrics are anything but luxurious.
Ultimately, we develop our fabrics for their ability to move and perform, for their surprising beauty and unexpected utility, for their durability and drape, for their freedom and function. They are designed to offer a new experience-one that appeals to every sense and sensation. But most of all, our fabrics are created with the hope that maybe, just maybe, they'll challenge an industry-one fiber at a time.
Currently, recycled polyester is the most sustainable fiber used to produce weather-resistant outerwear. It also happens to be our most versatile fiber.
Polyester has a long history in the outdoor industry for being the go-to fiber for weather-resistant outerwear. However, it's also a synthetic material derived from oil, a non-renewable resource.
Enter recycled polyester. This recycled polymer uses post-consumer PET bottles and post industrial waste which requires less energy to produce than virgin polyester. It also diverts waste out of the landfills, lessens environmental degradation caused by conventional polyester processing, and, ultimately, helps us-and, eventually, an entire industry-create long-lasting garments that would normally end up as waste. On average, 95% of the polyester we use in our collection is crafted from recycled polyester or Teijin recycled polyester. The small fraction of virgin polyester that we allow in our line is to give the fabric performance qualities, like stretch in the Dose Jacket. Our goal is to use 100% recycled polyester. While recycled poly is not the answer to cradle-to-cradle outerwear-yet, it is the most sustainable fiber that exists in the outerwear industry today.
But contrary to belief, not all recycled poly is down-cycled into a lesser fabric. We work hard to transform this recycled fiber into a collection of high-quality, premium performance fabrics. We liken our process to using a pasta maker. For example, a pasta maker can transform dough into different shapes and textures with varying characteristics much like we transform recycled polyester fibers into the stretchable, soft shell fabric used in our Riding Blazer, or the ultralight ripstop fabric in our Down Shirt and our soft, woven recycled poly in our new Uptown Down Jacket.
It's an extremely versatile, sustainable fiber that we use to create a collection of premium fabrics.
TEIJIN® Recycled Polyester
Some of our outerwear garments use recycled polyester that was developed in partnership with Teijin, the fabric supplier behind ECOCIRCLE® technology. Teijin® recycled polyester is a blend of post-consumer and post-industrial polyester waste.
According to Teijin®, "Collected polyester products are disintegrated to the molecular level, and then recycled into fibers of the same quality as ones made of oil. Because of this processing, we can avoid degrading quality which has been an issue of conventional recycling technology based on physical processing. In addition, because our technology allows us to use the same material as many times as we want, this reduces the consumption of oil resources and waste materials. Moreover, compared to manufacturing raw polyester materials from oil, it is possible to reduce both energy consumption and CO2 emission by about 80%."
What separates Teijin® polyester from other recycled polymers is that their proprietary process allows for garments produced with their fibers to be returned and recycled for reuse.Organic Cotton
For us, there was never a question on whether to use 100% organic versus conventional cotton throughout our line. The question was: how can we use it to improve other fibers?
As a natural fiber, nothing beats cotton; its soft, breathable characteristics work with the body's natural environment to create the most comfortable fiber there is. That's why we blended this fine fiber with recycled polyester as well as Tencel® to craft high performance fabrics with a more natural hand.
However, there's a dark side of cotton called conventional cotton. Research shows that the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers used to grow conventional cotton pollute rivers, streams, and air, as well as cause irreparable damage to our most vital resources-water and soil.
To understand the impact this has on a micro and macro scale, we have to take a closer at the numbers: Currently, 9.4 billion pounds of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are used annually in the US alone. This breaks down to using roughly 1/3 pound of synthetic fertilizers to grow one pound of raw cotton in the US, and it takes just under one pound of raw cotton to make one t-shirt. Peer into any closet or department store and you can see the how this impacts the environment.
We have never used, and never will use, conventional cotton in our line. We only use 100% organically grown cotton, which does not use pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers or defoliants at any point in its growth and development. We hope the use of organic cotton across all of our garments will reduce, in a small way, the detrimental impact pesticides and fertilizers have on our environment, and create superior, long-lasting garments.
To learn more:
Global Organic Textile Standard: http://www.global-standard.org/
Waxed Organic Cotton
We never stopped loving traditional waxed cotton. But let's be honest: there's nothing sustainable about applying an oil-based wax to conventionally grown cotton.
However, there's a reason why this fabric is still around-because it works. The paraffin wax coating allows a soft, natural fiber to become highly water resistant while still maintaining its warmth, resilience and breathability.
But what if we could create a non-petroleum-based alternative? A natural fiber that is equally water-resistant but requires less chemicals to process? That's the question we posed to the British Millerain Company, the oldest manufacturer of waxed cotton in the world. Together, we collaborated and helped develop a water-based polyurethane coating that, when applied to organic cotton, not only created a water-resistant barrier, but allowed the cotton fibers to maintain their soft, breathable and pliant hand just like traditional waxed cotton. But unlike its conventional counterpart, this resilient fabric didn't require constant upkeep. It simply required a slight shift in tradition.
We love merino wool for its exceptional quality and renewable nature, but we're careful to make sure that the sheep shorn for us are treated with the utmost care and consideration.
As a renewable resource, wool's ability to keep you dry, warm and comfortable across a wide range of environments makes it one of the most versatile materials around. This natural fiber is naturally odor resistant, helps regulate body temperature, move moisture away from the skin, and is incredibly soft next to the skin. Not to mention, all of our merino wool is machine washable.
We also work hard to ensure that all of our merino wool is 100% traceable and of 18.5 micron fineness. It comes from non-mulesed sheep raised on sustainable farms verified through independent audits to maintain the highest standards of animal health and welfare, as well as land and water use.
Most of our merino wool comes from New Merino certified farms in Australia and ZQUE-certified farms in New Zealand which are required to provide the proper health and welfare of their sheep, maintain a healthy, viable ecosystem, provide social and economic welfare for their employees and communities including a sustainable pricing structure, and maintain traceability standards while producing the highest quality wools.
Our current collection offers three merino wool fabrics:
M1 is our lightest weight merino wool and is worn as a baselayer for outdoor pursuits.
M2 is our midweight merino wool and is perfect, dynamic mid layer for a wide range of activites.
M3 is our heaviest weight merino wool for the coldest conditions.
On its own, wool is a incredibly versatile. But add another layer, like a waterproof, breathable laminate, and suddenly you add another dimension to an already superior natural fiber.
That was our intention when creating this technical, two-layer fabric: to add weather-resistance to traditional wool. We worked directly with one of the oldest woolen mills in Prato, Italy to source both the fiber and the polyester laminate, as well as develop a process to create a dual-layer fabric. The result? A naturally insulating, breathable, and completely waterproof wool that stays dry, comfortable and warm across multiple environments.
To learn more about how we source wool, visit our Working with Wool section.
We're always looking for sustainable fibers which offer a fine hand and superb performance characteristics while making as small an environmental footprint as possible. So far, Tencel® delivers on all three.
We discovered Tencel® in our quest to create a technical base layer that was as soft (if not softer than) cotton, wicked moisture, dried quickly, was comfortable next to the skin and fit our sustainable materials criteria.
Made from the pulp of sustainably grown eucalyptus trees, Tencel® is a regenerating, cellulose fiber that is manufactured using an extremely efficient, closed-loop system. It is processed using a non-toxic organic solvent solution of which 98% of the materials used are recovered and reused. This not only makes Tencel® the most eco-friendly, renewable fiber, but it also creates a fabric that's soft and comfortable with neutral electric properties.
We blended the soft fibers of Tencel® with organic cotton to create a fabric with a luxurious drape, soft feel and beautiful, visual heathered effect.
We discovered Cocona® insulation while looking for an alternative to goose down, and, so far, we're impressed.
This is how it works: activated carbon derived from coconut husks is blended with recycled polyester. This, in turn, increases the surface area of the insulation allowing it to dry faster and resist odors. (You can imagine a pool of water takes longer to evaporate than if you spread the same liquid across a counter). And carbon, being dark in color, is able to absorb more heat.
In the end, you have a garment that retains heat, dries faster, resists odors and provides a higher warmth-to-weight ratio than other synthetic insulations-and it's created from a renewable resource. So what's the problem? We haven't found one yet. But the lingering question remains: Is Cocona® insulation as effective as goose down? Is it more sustainable? Both are still up for discussion.
Goose down offers the highest warmth-to-weight ratio than any other natural or synthetic insulation. However, it also presents an ethical challenge in traceability.
There's a reason why goose down is the preferred source of insulation in the outdoor industry. It's a renewable resource which offers high-loft warmth without the bulk and weight of alternative natural and synthetic insulation. It's also highly compressible.
But the biggest challenge of goose down is tracing the material back to the farm level. Currently, we source only the highest grades of down-800-fill and 650-fill- for their premium performance benefits. We can only trace the Down we use to Eastern Europe and China at this time. Since traceability is an integral part of our commitment to sustainability, we buy our down from a reputable processor who is working with Nau as well as the rest of the outdoor industry to build more transparency into the supply chain.