Spirit of Sustainability Unites Outdoor Industry

Keen’s footwear vending machine sets the stage for sustainability at OR+SS trade show.

For all its divisions under the big top of the Colorado Convention Center — gear, apparel, fabric sourcing, footwear, camping, ski, wellness, snowboard, Venture Out, pet food (!) — the outdoor industry is united in its commitment to sustainability. Eco was pervasive at the recent Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show trade show with climate-positive messaging rampant throughout the exhibit halls and planet-saving innovation top of mind. This is certainly the case in the textile arena where environmental responsibility carries the day from fiber to finished product, in addition to increasingly serving as a platform for brand positioning direct to consumers.

While a commitment to achieving eco-first goals binds what has become an increasingly diverse, and borderline chaotic Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show, sustainability is offered in many flavors. Patagonia asks, “How clean are your clothes?” while apparel brand 686 advertises “From Plastic Bottles to Warmth.” Keen sells “consciously created” shoes sold in a manner designed to “Detox Your Planet.”

On the textile front, a less sexy side of sustainability has become a focus. States PrimaLoft CEO Mike Joyce, “Now it’s about the process more than the product. Consumer expectations regarding transparency, sustainability and high performance are rising.” In other words, execs see value in advancing eco supply chains to level up environmental initiatives. In conversation with Chemours’ Lisa Hardy and Bob Buck the execs point out new models of circularity and longevity taking shape. So popular is closing the loop development that a category of “circular” product is emerging. Debuted at the Denver show:  a “circular garment” from Houdini, “circular backpack” by Bergan’s and MiiR’s “circular drinkware.”

A few eco-centric textile product intros trending at the January 28 – 31st fair include Life-Materials antimicrobial technology based on peppermint oil, bringing a next-gen eco element to next-to-skin apparel. Allied Feather & Down unveiled a transparency program in the form of the Optix iMirror for retail. The high-tech mirror display provides shoppers with details about the down in a garment, and as such, “elevating the branded experience.” Sorona’s Faux Fur is made with 70 to 100 percent bio-based Sorona polymer fibers becoming one of the first commercially available faux furs using plant-based ingredients. Materials used in footwear also take on a greener hue. The North Face showed a $200 Archive Glacier Point lifestyle boot, with ISA lower-impact leathers and recycled nylon laces.