Down standards taking flight

An update on the outdoor industry's efforts to improve down souring standards, plus a more environmental friendly water-resistant down.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2014 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 6 – 9. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Feather down is all about being warm and feeling cozy, and that comfort shouldn’t be undercut by worries about where that insulation has come from, said Daniel Uretsky, chief operating officer of Allied Feather & Down during an Aug. 8 educational seminar on the Responsible Down Standard at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.

Allied, The North Face, Control Union and Textile Exchange have spent years working to craft the Responsible Down Standard (RDS). At Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, Allied’s China and Europe supply chains presented it with their official certifications.

The standard works to eliminate the particularly offensive practices of force-feeding and live-plucking geese in addition to promoting general animal welfare on the farms that raise geese that see their feathers used in down products. Its goal is to craft a robust, scalable standard that companies throughout the industry can adopt, with an emphasis on traceability.

At the Allied booth, the company has a demonstration set up of its new website (trackmydown.com), which allows customers to log in with a lot number from their hang-tag and see the history of the life of that down, beginning with the country in which the hatchling was raised.

“We just felt it was extremely important that people felt comfortable with the product that they’re using,” Uretsky said. “At the end of the day if people don’t use down because they’re afraid it’s coming from bad sources, then what good is that going to do anybody?”

The standard that’s taken years to craft also will take years to implement.

The North Face’s Adam Mott said the brand is slowly adding certified responsible down, and expects 2015 products to use a blend of the insulation that includes 30 percent RDS down, increasing to 60 percent by 2016 and 100 percent by 2017.

“It doesn’t mean everything uncertified is bad,” Uretsky added. “It just means it hasn’t been certified yet.”

Water-resistant down, naturally
The environmental and sustainable focus on down at Outdoor Retailer wasn't limited to just the sourcing of the insulation, but the increasing water-resistant treatment to it as well.

In question is the use of fluorocarbons (one of the main ingredients in DWR coatings and water-resistant down), as brands scramble to find more earth-friendly alternatives.

At Summer Market, Down Décor announced the creation of DownTek Zero, a natural waterproofing for down. The Cincinnati-based company replaces the fluorocarbons used to add water resistance to down with natural lipids (triglycerides and fatty acids similar to those naturally found in the feathers of ducks and geese) in DownTek Zero.

The natural solution isn’t as waterproof as original DownTek, but offers an option for brands seeking to eliminate PFCs in their garments.

--Elizabeth Miller

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