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A New Day for Sustainability

Execs See Big Impacts On the Horizon
When a headline in USA Today proclaims, “This back to school season it’s cool to be eco-conscious,” you know that sustainability has reached a new tipping point. The article, which quotes high-level execs from J.C. Penney and Target talking about the increase in “eco-friendly options” and “sustainable clothing” on store shelves this fall, also includes comments from Greg Thomsen, managing director of adidas outdoor regarding the company’s latest footwear made from ocean waste. The takeaway: The outdoor industry is no longer alone fighting the good fight for environmental responsibility.

It’s a new day for sustainability as other industries begin to shoulder efforts to bring about a broader, more diverse future for eco-correctness.

Jeff Nash, a managing partner at Futuremade confirms that this is a time of transition. “Big companies are making big commitments with top down level support for goals,” says Nash, who has a deep background in sustainability leadership within the outdoor space. He is encouraged by what he describes as a modern goal-driven approach being adopted by big fashion brand retailers toward advancing sustainability initiatives.

Like Nash, Bob Buck of Chemours, has been a strong advocate for sustainability for decades. “There is no let up in energy commitment for sustainability. But now it’s going beyond the core outdoor (audience) and into new directions,” states Buck. He highlights Chemours’ innovative collaboration with British firm Tesco in launching a UK schoolwear program that features Chemours’ PFC-Free fabric protector Teflon EcoElite.

Joe Walkuski, Texbase CEO, believes a “rising tide of accountability” is contributing to this contemporary shift toward heightened sustainability awareness and action. “The consumer is driving this trend of accountability; Consumers want to understand what goes into textiles that come in contact with their skin, and hence brands need to be accountable, and this translates to supply chain transparency,” explains Walkuski.

According to a 2015 Cone Communications Global CSR Study, 84 percent of consumers say they seek out responsible products whenever possible, and 71 percent are willing to pay more for a socially or environmentally responsible product. Farla Efros, president of the strategic firm HRC Retail Advisory says that her research has found that 85 percent of Generation Z will choose eco-friendly products over those that are not.

As these surveys suggest, purchasing solely based on price is becoming an outdated model. Younger generations shop according to value, authenticity, and trust – all qualities that tie directly to sustainability.

“People are receptive to animal welfare, organic, social responsibility, and carbon footprint. In the hierarchy of decision-making evidence now points to healthy living,” comments John McKeon, CEO of Allergy Standards, owner of Asthma & Allergy Friendly Certification Program. His mantra, “Health for planet, health for people,” taps into the wellness megatrend that McKeon believes provides ideal crossover with sustainability.

Renee Henze, marketing director for Sorona, sees a future of more plant-based fibers used in everything from packing to personal care as well as apparel. “In new product development, you have to have performance, but it has to be done sustainably,” says Henze.

Others agree. Walkuski explains, “In the past, quality was about function -- waterproofness, shrinkage, etc., and it was straightforward. Today quality is concerned with multiple attributes. Building a quality product from the very beginning includes taking a pro-active approach to sustainability all along the supply chain.”

States Nash, “The Sustainable Working Group is 10 years old, the Higg Index is four years old, and industry collaboration is on the rise. There is harmonization in tools and methodologies. From heritage companies to start ups, there’s no need to re-create the wheel, the basic framework and best practices are in place. So when an issue arises now, for instance with down or wool, the industry rallies and change happens quickly.”

In other words, we have a new starting point for sustainability.

Read more in the full issue...

Feeling Energized

Perseverance Pays Off for Celliant with FDA Approval.
The Salewa Puez Half Zip alpine trekking jacket features an innovative blend TirolWool and Celliant insulation material designed to reflect the radiant heat that a body emits, thus protecting the body from cooling.
When asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 the significance of the recent determination by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), Seth Casden, CEO of Hologenix, the maker of Celliant, answered enthusiastically, “an 11!”  And when asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 the challenges endured to obtain FDA approval, Casden responded, “111!”

It’s been a long slog for Hologenix to be able to post hash-tags like #pumped and #FDAapproval on the Celliant twitter feed. The company completed nine clinical studies and four physical studies over the course of 15 years. Not to mention dealing with the skeptics. Consider this email Casden received from a NASA scientist: “I’m not interested in your voodoo science. What you’re saying is like me saying I can grow broccoli on the top of my hand.”

“That’s a favorite quote of mine,” said Casden, enjoying a laugh.

According to Casden the FDA approval represents a huge, seismic shift in how Celliant is perceived. “Now brands can basically ‘check the box,’ when reviewing our technology. It takes the burden of proof off, and as such allows us to focus on getting the tech adopted,” said Casden, adding, “We want to be the ‘Kleenex’ of IR tech; the best of the best of responsive textiles.”

The FDA Stamp of Approval 
This July the U.S. FDA determined Celliant products are medical devices and general wellness products, as defined in Section 201(h) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. According to the FDA, Celliant products were determined to be medical devices because they temporarily promote increased local blow flow at the site of application in healthy individuals.

Celliant-engineered products are the first of their kind that the FDA has designated as medical devices. The technology can be used in everyday products to create an increase in local blood flow thereby increasing energy, boosting performance and speeding muscle recovery, according to Casden.  Celliant-engineered products harness and recycle the natural heat emitted by human beings to boost performance and rebuild and recharge the human body after physical activity and while you sleep. Celliant is made of a patented blend of thermo-reactive minerals infused into the core of fiber used to create all types of textiles and fabrics so it does not wash or wear out. Products made with Celliant fabric absorb and convert body heat into infrared energy (IR) that is recycled back into skin and tissue in a safe, natural way. IR is a vasodilator, increasing blood flow to tissue and muscles throughout the body, which delivers vital nutrients and oxygen to the cells.

“We had a high bar to hurdle, but this is science based,” said Casden, who refers to Celliant technology as an “elegant use of science, that we are just on the precipice of.”  “With Celliant you can achieve results in loose-fit, comfortable clothes,” said Casden. “You can wrap yourself in Celliant with no side effects.”

Believing in the Science Celliant is currently used in a diverse range of textiles and applications – apparel, bedding, wetsuits and veterinary products – with brand partners and products including Xcel wetsuits, sportswear by Salewa and Montura, Titika yoga wear, PureCare Elements bed sheets and Bear Mattresses. Casden is excited to expand adoptions in these established markets as well as pursue opportunities in new markets.

Draper Knitting has been keen on Celliant for years and company execs are pleased by the FDA approval. After eleven years of producing and working with Celliant fabrics, Kristin Draper, president of Draper Knitting isn’t surprised. “When I was first introduced to Celliant I was a skeptic too,” said Draper in a prepared statement, “but after seeing the remarkable way it reduced inflammation on myself and my family, we knew this was a winner. We have been working with Seth since the beginning and made fabrics, then equestrian products, which lead to dog and human products.”  

“These firms have believed in our science,” explained Casden. “One company sent a bottle of champagne when the FDA news broke.”

Going forward Casden envisions Celliant gaining traction in a host of other markets such as workwear, textiles for furniture and transportation end use, as well as recovery wraps, braces and scrubs.

“There’s been an overwhelming positive response to the FDA approval,” said Casden, “We’ve stuck with this so long, and it’s just great.”
Read the latest issue of Textile Insight.
Includes Latest Trend Insight Survey on Sustainability
July / August 2017
May / June 2017
March / April 2017
January / February 2017
November / December 2016
IN THE MARKET | euro report

Techno Spirit

For S/S 19 Fashion & Functionality Take on a Higher Level of Creativity. By Louisa Smith
Anti-stink odor-control technology is essential for the running market, while mountain biking and extreme terrain sports require moisture management performance and UV protection.
For Spring/Summer 2019, the good news for the sports and outdoors sector is that the consumer continues to pursue health and wellbeing, on both a physical and spiritual direction. One mega trend that has been identified is “The Experience.”In today’s highly connected global community, the selfie and social media obsessed consumer is set to shift their allegiance from possessing to experiencing.

In our consumerist society it is clear we have reached “peak stuff,” and accumulating possessions is no longer prominent. Instead the concept of experiencing new activities – whether from travel or just maintaining an active lifestyle – is what gets posted on Instagram and Facebook. 

It is the millennials who are pushing this work/lifestyle balance, coming of age with their purchasing power. The kudos of posting the purchase of a new smart phone or car doesn’t get anywhere near the esteem as posting the weekend’s latest city break, the involvement in a new sport or reaching a particular goal. 

The need for new experiences in turn is allowing brands to pursue enhanced collections, which is where the textile industry comeFs into play, delivering multi-functional fabrics to deliver active lifestyle and specific sport collections.

Nourishing and energizing fabrics, including FIR (far infrared yarns) and micro encapsulated minerals, are gaining ground. The FIR yarns and fabrics in particular give the wearer a sense of wellbeing, as the body’s heat is released to the fabric and redirected back to the body, increasing circulation and enhancing the experience. This trend also pushes towards a softer touch to fabrics, much more delicate than previous textile offerings, giving enhanced tactility and wearability.

There is a growing tendency toward hybrid blends as we look to cotton, wool and Tencel teaming with performance synthetics in a synergetic approach. These new natural technical blends, brings the inherent performance of the natural fibers together with the performance of synthetic yarns.

Today’s consumer is conscious of the impact on the environment brought on through their lifestyles and is keen to embrace those brands that go that extra mile in delivering cleaner products. For the textile industry we are looking to cleaner processes, recycled polyester and nylon through to the reduction of water and energy use. Chip dyed polyester and recycled denim yarns deliver yarns that don’t require a dyeing process, thus saving water.

This also translates into garment production. There is an increase in seamless and also strategically positioned performance fibers in woven and warp knits that eliminates the need for seaming, thus reducing the production time, resulting in a cleaner, more efficient process. In addition, the reduction of seams enhances the wearability of the apparel. Clean-cut warp knits, for example, eliminate traditional finishing, and offers the wearer a smooth finish and anti-chaffing experience.

Fabrics that Target Running, Biking and Water Sports
Running, mountain and road biking are among the sports that continue to grow in popularity as year-round activities. Moisture management is still key, the development of anti-bacterial/anti-stink yarns and finishes are gaining ground. A complete fresh approach now enhances from yarns through to finishes.

Demand for cooling technologies is also on the increase. Specifically, fabrics that feel cool to the touch and keep the wearer cool. Achieved through permanent performance in innovative yarn technology to finishes applied at the padding process of the textile production, for Summer 2019 a cool and fresh selection is readily available.

Another growth area is water sports. From stand up paddle to kayaking and paddle board yoga, the shift from traditional terra firma sports is shifting to the buoyancy of the ocean, leading to demand for functional water-friendly fabrics. Savvy brands are starting to offer “gym to swim’” collections with collections that feature duality; sports bras in particular offer modern multi-functionality.

Rash vests are key, especially with built-in UV protection, compression, salt resistance and soft touch. This isn’t without the added detail of prints, pulled from the traditional swimwear market. Swimwear in turn is taking influence from the development of the athleisure market, shown in stronger sports-look inspired swimwear by the pool.

This contemporary lifestyle direction sees no bounds. This evolution of living-wear is the next generation of athleisure.
IN THE MARKET | voices

A System Built on Sustainability

Jill Dumain Provides a Vision for bluesign Looking from the Inside Out. By Emily Walzer
Anti-stink odor-control technology is essential for the running market, while mountain biking and extreme terrain sports require moisture management performance and UV protection.
Jill Dumain’s departure from Patagonia may have raised a few eyebrows, however her extensive industry experience and passion for environmental responsibility makes her new role as bluesign CEO a no-brainer. Her 27-year tenure at Patagonia included leadership positions, innovative project launches and the introduction of bluesign tools and systems at the Ventura, CA firm. Throughout her career Dumain has been involved with the Organic Exchange, Textile Exchange and the Sustainability Working Group at the Outdoor Industry Association, in addition to serving as Chairman of bluesign technologies’ Advisory Board from 2011 representing brands. Since 2000, when Peter Waeber debuted the input-based textile supply chain management system, bluesign has been instrumental in reducing harmful chemicals in textile production and raising eco-awareness from fiber to finished goods. Here, Dumain demystifies the bluesign process and offers her fresh perspective on what distinguishes the system and future objectives.

Even within the outdoor industry, a marketplace fairly well educated about supply chain certifications, bluesign is still something of a mystery.  What is the easiest way to understand the value of bluesign?
“One of my colleagues calls bluesign the ‘easy’ button for the industry yet we all know the complexity when dealing with chemicals in a complicated supply chain.

We begin at the chemical supplier’s manufacturing site with an audit to ensure they can manufacture the chemicals properly. This is looking at the control of air emissions, water discharge, and protection for the workers in addition to the manufacturing process of the chemical products. We want to ensure the chemical producer has the required know-how that they can produce without harm to people or their surroundings. After their site is approved, they become a bluesign system partner and can move onto submitting their chemical products for assessment. We run it through our tool that looks at environmental and health considerations (end points in toxicology jargon) and either approve or reject it. The chemicals that make it through the assessment are then put onto our positive list of chemicals that we call the bluefinder. This enables the chemical supplier to label their chemical products as bluesign approved. The bluefinder is the sourcing tool for safe chemistry for the textile mills.

Next, the textile mill has two choices. They can buy the bluefinder to help them source better chemistry or they can become a bluesign system partner. The bluefinder helps them to replace chemicals that are forbidden by MRSLs (Manufacturers Restricted Substances Lists) and RSLs (Restricted Substance Lists). When I was working for a brand I always wanted my mills to avoid ‘regrettable substitutions’ when working with chemistry. The bluefinder helps a textile mill to choose a wise replacement when one of their chemicals in use contains substances that can be found on one of the restrictive lists. If they choose to become a system partner then they will also go through a site audit with similar criteria to the chemical supplier to ensure the same protections move along the supply chain. If their site is approved and they become a system partner using bluefinder chemistry, they are also able to label their products as bluesign approved.

The last step moving this direction in the supply chain is the brand selling to consumers. They are the front facing business that has to answer the questions of many inquiring minds. We have put in place a new tool for brands in the last year and that is a brand assessment. This is designed to give them an evaluation, gap analysis and action plan on their current environmental, health and safety (EHS) program with a focus on the evaluation of mostly textile mills to help them to understand and manage the riskier aspects of their existing supply chains. In addition to the brand assessment, brand system partners also have access to the deep knowledge that bluesign has in textile chemistry, the community of likeminded companies and a tool to implement deep in their supply chains. And if implemented to our criteria, they can also label their products as a bluesign product.”

The “cost of compliance” has become an industry talking point. How do you engage in that conversation and is bluesign designed to cater to small companies as well as large firms?
“Cost is always part of the discussion and it has to be. We know the challenges in our industry but I am a firm believer that we have to figure out the economic piece of all the environmental work if we are going to be attractive to the full textile industry. When a smaller brand comes to us, our first encouragement is to start by asking their mills for bluesign-approved fabrics. This is easy for them if the mill is already a system partner. We have had very small brands source almost their entire collection from bluesign system partners without paying us anything. For the mill, they can also buy access to the bluefinder at a very affordable price and start the process of changing their chemicals. They can do this without becoming a bluesign system partner and start the process this way. For a chemical supplier, they can begin with a certain range of chemicals to assess but they do have to go through the onsite audit before this can happen. As a result, they probably have the least flexibility on the process and cost but we are constantly trying to determine ways for interested companies to begin the process in a way they can handle considering the investment needed in both time and cost.”

The playing field for certifications has gotten crowded in recent years. What specifically differentiates bluesign?
“There are a few unique distinctions. First we are a complete system. As described in the first question, a full supply chain can work in the system with confidence. I have made the analogy before of playing in a sandbox knowing that all of your toys are safe. This frees up all the product development people to focus on the fun part of their jobs around innovation and not worry about the environmental work so much. The next point that has always impressed me about bluesign, and even more now looking from the inside out, is the attention to detail. There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t hear a conversation between colleagues that are discussing the finer points of a particular chemical at a specific supplier and what this might mean for everyday use. For example, one conversation I heard last week was around a softener and if it should be allowed for clothes that are meant to be used next to skin or if it was better to be used on outer layer clothes. There is no way a brand can look at this level of detail with the chemicals in their supply chain. An additional big differentiator is the onsite audits that we perform. In addition to assessing the toxicological aspects of the chemicals, we are actually making sure the production of the chemicals is done in a responsible way. If you think of eating in a restaurant that is serving great food, you also want to know that the kitchen is clean where it is being prepared. It wouldn’t taste nearly as good if you saw a dirty kitchen sending out a beautiful plate of food.”

As you’ve taken the reins as CEO these past six months, what have you learned about bluesign that surprised you?
“There are two things that have surprised me. The first is the depth of knowledge that sits in bluesign. We have nearly 80 employees now with deep expertise from the chemical industry, the textile manufacturing industry and brand experience. I started to try to count the years that we have cumulatively and got to several hundred before we all starting feeling old! The other pleasant surprise is to learn how supported bluesign is in the industry. We have system partners that are really committed to seeing bluesign succeed.”
At this point in your new post, can you elaborate on some of your near term goals for bluesign as well as any future objectives?
For example, gaining traction in new/different markets? And/or plans for global expansion?  “We are constantly looking at new markets and this is an active part of the strategy we are building. In my short time here, I have had many conversations with people that want us to expand into new markets. We are looking at them all strategically and will have a plan in place by the end of the year.  As far as global expansion, we are building up a hub in Asia with employees based there to service the markets better. As our business evolves into different geographic areas, we will definitely find the best way to support those markets as well.”
IN THE market | DENIM

A ‘Boulder’ Brand

Denim that Delivers for Climbers, Travelers & Every Day Pursuits. By Emily Walzer
Boulder Denim co-founder Brad Spence, shown here scaling Skaha Bluffs, brings his climbing expertise to fabric development.
Bradley Spence never really cared for denim, preferring cords or chinos. “I found jeans uncomfortable, or they stretched out,” says Spence, who has since changed his tune having co-founded Boulder Denim with business partner Taz Barrett. These days the duo find themselves behind the wheel of a vintage 1975 Airstream touring North America in a mobile showroom/pop up shop selling and promoting Boulder Denim brand functionally versatile jeans.

The journey began two years ago when Spence and Barrett decided they wanted to upgrade their usual climbing attire of gym shorts and non-durable yoga pants. Baggy, bright-colored climbing pants were not a stylish option.

“We wanted a pant that you put on in the morning, cycle to work in, wear all day, climb in after work, and then wear to grab a beer in the evening,” explains Spence, who is based in Vancouver, Canada.

Textiles were the number one factor in the hunt for a better climbing pant. Research led them to a manufacturer located outside of Quebec City that had developed a sophisticated denim weave allowing for stretch, flex and excellent shape retention, and no bagging! According to Spence, “Most stretch denim tends to bag out as you wear them and lose that perfect fit that you tried on in the store.” The denim used in Boulder Denim is a patented cross-woven fabric that has 92 percent stretch retainment — the highest in the industry — compared to an industry average of only 64 percent, states Spence.

Boulder Denim is a 10-ounce dual-FX blend of 93 percent cotton/5 percent polyester, and contains only two percent Lycra.

Boulder Denim also features Nanosphere, a Schoeller treatment that repels stains, liquids and dirt. “Nanosphere had never been done before on denim and Schoeller was keen on giving it a try,” says Spence.

Sustainability is also part of the Boulder Denim ethos. “Being made in North America is a plus, and the fact that Nanosphere keeps the denim clean and stink-free means you can wash the jeans less often,” Spence explains, adding “You can wear them for a year without having to wash them — although we encourage a cold water wash and hang dry.”

The denim is also billed as cruelty-free per a suggestion from Spence’s brother. “He’s vegan – as are many in the climbing community – and he said to us ‘why harm an animal to make jeans?’” The partners agreed and decided against using any leather patches on Boulder Denim jeans. An organic cotton option is a future consideration.

Boulder Denim offers styles for men and women, and has found a niche not only with climbers and adventure travelers but also consumers looking for a jean that balances function and fashion for everyday wear.

Design details include a hidden zip-pocket ideal for a passport or smartphone, and a unique fit. The jeans feature a special waistband construction so jeans comfortably stay put without gapping – with no belt required and no underwear showing.

“There was one brand of denim that I liked, Genetic Denim,” recalls Spence. “But when the company dropped men’s styles, that was it for jeans for me. I never wore another brand until we created Boulder Denim.”

An Active Approach

Denim Gets a Leg Up in Versatility & Durability with Textile Tech.
Call it performance denim, technical denim or smart denim, but the fact of the matter is that textile technologies are infusing the latest styles with new and improved functionality without sacrificing the look or feel of that favorite pair of jeans. Material suppliers see the category as a growth area, particularly with interest in performance features like durability, year-round wearability and comfort high on consumers’ must-have list for lifestyle apparel. Thermo-regulation, moisture management, strength with stretch, abrasion resistance, and water repellence are properties increasingly found in the latest denim developments as active/outdoor and athleisure/fashion crossover.

Textile specialists lending performance innovation to denim include Nilit, Cordura, Invista, Schoeller, Dyneema, Unifi, Sorona, Lenzing and PrimaLoft among others. All report making strides in the category.

Nilit, for example, is launching its latest yarn innovation to the denim market. Sensil is a new premium Nylon 6.6 brand that pairs well with cotton and lends wicking and odor-resistance performance features as well as drape and softness. “Consumers are raising their expectations for denim just as they are for everything else that they buy,” says Pierluigi Berardi, Nilit global marketing director.

Another example of denim’s versatilty comes from Schoeller’s Winter 2018/19 fabric collection with a focus on lifestyle. The new denim incorporates reflective yarn, which looks elegant during the day but, according to the company, “reveals its true color in the dark, creating a safety feature on the roads for the evening or morning commute.”

Sustainability is another key trend in denim this season. This is evident in the outdoor space with brands like Toad&Co and Patagonia forging ahead with organic cotton denim blends. Similarly mainstream brands like Levi’s are carving out an environmentally-responsibility identity with promotions around waterless dyeing technology. Retailers, too, see the value in eco efforts. A prime example is Madewell’s recently launched “Blue Jeans Go Green” take back program. This fall, select Madewell stores will have recycling stations where consumers can turn in old jeans to be used for housing insulation for communities in need.

The buzz surrounding denim is spurring inspiration on the footwear front, too. Saucony, for instance, has a Denim Collection debuting for Spring ’18. Company creative director Chris Mahoney explains the thinking behind the Collection: “From a running perspective, materials are typically technical and performance driven, but recent material improvements have allowed designers to incorporate more trend and lifestyle looks into these silhouettes, without sacrificing performance. Inspired by a classic material like denim, our collection combines iconic visual elements with our technical running background. We utilized some of the different saturated tones found in denim fabrics along with the metallic copper accents found on rivets, stitching, and zippers to capture the look and feel of classic denim products.”

He adds, “From a trend perspective, we’ve been following the improvements in denim through the past few seasons. The incorporation of different performance features into the fabric, like cooling and stretch, were intriguing to us, but, even with all the improvements, the material still wasn’t as runnable as we needed it to be. However, it definitely sparked our curiosity to try and capture its look and vibe in our products. Of course, denim will have its peak trend moments, but even if it’s not the foremost trend of the season, it never really goes away. Denim’s been described as the fabric that built America and it’ll always have a home in our daily lives. This collection is just a fun way to pay homage to the look, to the heritage, and do it in a fashionable/functional way.”

Shoe Style

Outdoor Retailer Show Diary: Footwear’s Visual Story. By Jennifer Ernst Beaudry
The most obvious footwear trends at summer’s Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City weren’t grippy compounds, techy new fabrics or midsole innovations (although there were plenty of high-performance features on offer.) With performance a given in the outdoor world, the story for the season ahead was on the things that catch the eye — not as much the things that function for the foot. Bigger-is-better strappy uppers, aggressive colorblocking and more knits than ever are bringing visual appeal to their high-functioning styles. Here, Textile Insight’s show floor diary on the styles to watch.

As the sport-sandal renaissance has matured and settled in, new variations keep the look fresh and modern — and Chaco’s extra-thick webbing on the Mega Z Classic style is a perfect example. Birkenstock, too, went big for a new spin on their classics including the iconic Gizeh and Madrid styles. Contrasting black and grey make the hook-and-loop closure on Topo’s Cor training style pop, and Ecco uses contrast stitching and colorful logo pops to put the focus on a multi-strap style.

Color Block Party
It’s no secret that the outdoor and athletic footwear markets cross-pollinate; this season, outdoor and run styles are borrowing heavily from athletic’s classic retro color-blocked look. Clean, distinct lines and a classic outdoor color palette keep the look right at home on boot styles from Wolverine 1000 Miles and Forsake. A more subtle ombre effect and brighter colors suit fast-looking run styles from Salomon and Saucony.

Dream Weave
The comfort and sleek looks of knit uppers has meant an explosion of woven— and knit-like meshes — in the outdoor market. Adidas’ Parley partnership continues with the Terrex Voyager CC Parley trail style, which showcases the recycled yarn made from reclaimed ocean plastic. Merrell takes advantage of its stretch knit materials sock-like fit on close-to-the-foot trail modes. OluKai puts a dressier spin on knit comfort, and Altra and Keen embrace the sporty look on new spring models. l
TrendSetter | Brooks Brothers

High-Tech Heritage

Grant McClelland Creates Classic American Looks with a Techy Twist. By Suzanne Blecher
Going from the sales floor to becoming global brand manager of men’s sportswear is no easy feat. In fact, it hadn’t been done in 30 years at Brooks Brothers. That is, until Grant McClelland came along. “I did it the old-fashioned way,” said the exec about giving an elevator pitch to a VP of stores who happened to visit his outlet store one day. She took his resume and corporate gave him a chance in 2006. Fast-forward through jobs in planning, e-commerce buying, merchandising, and even as a fit model, McClelland is now looking to build his own American legacy for the Brooks Brothers brand. Textile Insight asks the exec about his learnings and tenure.

One of your first jobs in merchandising was with the luxe editorial line, Black Fleece. What a great way to learn about fabric.
“Yes. I was working with designer Thom Browne himself. I loved it. I realized quickly that fabric was something I really had a passion for. I was always going out of my way to meet with every mill I could and see who was pushing boundaries. Although Thom’s not a talker, I observed him a lot. By the end, he had almost turned over the reins to me and approved of my taste level. When our partnership came to a close, human resources wanted someone to bring up the mainline in sportswear. We were re-launching Golden Fleece, an ultra-luxe line, and they gave me that, too.”

Which technologies currently catch your eye?
“eVent is one of the things I’m most excited about. When I started at Brooks Brothers, you’d see a polyurethane or membrane fabric that was waterproof or windproof, but the downfall was breathability. eVent is so permeable that it removes vapor through the membrane, even under water, and that blew my mind. Back then it was only used for high-tech outdoor stuff. But I thought, why not put it into lifestyle? It’s so much lighter and more breathable. You want the comfort of athleisure, but not sacrifice the aesthetic.  The first style (Waterproof Walking Coat) ran this Spring. We’re taking the dichotomy of classic and technical and making it into something that this guy can wear, stand underneath a waterfall and not get wet. But you can see someone wearing it in the city on any given day. It had a great response when we presented it to our international markets. It had high sell-through and gave us some data that if you’re able to deliver, the customer is willing to pay a premium for the comfort. People don’t want to bother with layers. You want garments that can thermo-regulate. Brooks Brothers isn’t known as an extremely high-tech brand, although we’ve been pushing the boundaries on that.”

Who purchased the coat and why should customers buy tech garments from you (as opposed to an outdoor brand)?
“We originally thought it would be a Millennial, but there were also guys 50 and up (our core age demographic is 40s-50s). The coat was a little slim, so we skewed slightly young. For Spring 18’s eVent jacket, we’ve made it more of general fit for a slightly wider customer base. We put a hangtag on it and taught our sales staff about it. For that first coat, we used a brushed fabric that looked tailored, but really, it came down to styling. It’s a coat you’d want to have in your closet anyway, with some added value. The challenge for us is that we’re the oldest retailer in the U.S., but we also want to change with the times. We’re a heritage brand.”

Everyone wants a piece of the Millennial customer. What are you doing to wrangle this guy?
“Well, he’s a fickle one. We have lines that target him like Red Fleece, which has lower pricing. Mainline has a generous fit and is classic American, but wasn’t designed for me. When I was in my early 30s (I’m 35), I was making great product that I couldn’t wear because it wouldn’t fit me. It’s like they were asking me not to shop here. I love our aesthetic, but we’ve looked at our fits. It’s not about making it slim fit, but a better-balanced garment. It’s about raising the armholes for better range of motion. Your sweater is going to wear better and not hike up. There’s technology in the make of garments. We’re also embracing social media and our website (which does up to 40 percent of my entire business). The big misconception is that Millennials don’t have money, which is untrue. They are selective in where they spend it and they like brand stories. We outfitted Abraham Lincoln, but that doesn’t mean that we’re stodgy. It makes us an authority on a lot of things. The button-down collar shirt was invented by us. We created something that’s an American icon.”

Denver’s Designers, Dogs and Makers

It is starting to dawn on the Denver creative community that Outdoor Retailer will arrive next winter and bring with it a biannual opportunity to connect with like minded businesses and professionals.

There is a shared feeling among locals that Denver’s turn as host will bring attention to the area’s outdoor scene, much like the Salt Lake City gathering highlighted the outdoor businesses in that basin.

The Mile High City is much bigger than SLC, with a larger population of product people surrounded by established resources, both in terms of designers, developers, and patternmakers as well as the industrial and manufacturing capacity required to support healthy, small batch factories and workshops.

With Colorado as an ideal backdrop, Denver is uniquely situated to take advantage of OR from a made-in-USA point of view like Salt Lake never could.

The Outdoor Retailer tribe is beginning to realize that they can’t make all product overseas and continue to look the consumer in the eye for another generation. Their ongoing balancing act of touting sustainability while sourcing from countries that lack human, political, sexual or information rights, is wearing thin with the public’s conscience.

The time is coming when suppliers will have to make their goods closer to home.

The problem is, making current product in this hemisphere is not just difficult, it is more or less impossible; there just isn’t the expertise in the USA anywhere near the scale needed to supply even a tiny percentage of the outdoor market.

One group in Denver is taking the first steps to bridge this divide by having a little get together. “Designers, Dogs and Makers” is an upcoming event this October where the local creative minds from the outdoor, bike and ski industries will meet with Front Range sewing factories. The affair will focus on sharing ideas about what is currently being manufactured, and what can and will be made in Colorado in the future.

It is slated as an all Blue Sky evening, with conversation centered on the possibilities and direction of American-made sewn goods. The designers and product developers can learn about the capabilities, constructions, and specialties of the local manufacturers while the factories can hear in detail about what the product creators are looking for. 

Price takes a back seat to discussions of quality and the engineering of successful product.

This meeting is movement in the right direction. If it works, perhaps Designers, Dogs and Makers morphs into a satellite of Outdoor Retailer as a way for American outdoor companies to connect with made in USA factories. The first step is for the designers to get to know the physical details of manufacturing in this country and for the factories to learn what expertise they’ll need to chase.

The end goal of an American made outdoor industry is admittedly way, way off in the distance, however, having the designers and factories get together could forge the beginnings of a shared vision, where the sustainability of the sewing is as important as the design and the materials used in the style.

Disclaimer: Mr. Gray lives with cats, a fact all dogs know and usually forgive him for. His opinions are his own and are not necessarily shared by the publisher or the dog’s owners.
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September / October 2017