It's strangely ironic that so many brands selling outdoor clothing don't seem to care about their own impact on the environment. Thankfully, there are some game-changers who are committed to making high-performance clothing that looks great and takes care of the planet.
Personally, I'm not one to break out the high-vis, be constantly connected to a water supply through a straw in my backpack or get around in zip-off pants every time I go hiking or skiing (no judgement if you do, it's just not me). So we've discovered a few brands creating functional clothing that looks equally fabulous on the slopes and at the après-ski happy hour. To all the hikers, snow-bunnies and snow-hares* out there - meet your new faves.
ECOALF's goal is to create the first generation of recycled products with the same quality, design and technical properties as the best non-recycled products. Mission accomplished. Their clothing is beautiful - minimalist design, classic colours (and the models aren't bad either).
ECOALF is integrating breakthrough technology to create clothing and accessories made entirely from recycled materials, without actually looking like it. They're developing material from PET bottles, discarded fishing nets, used tyres, post-industrial cotton and wool, and even post-consumer coffee.
Their flagship store in Madrid (pictured above) is testament to ECOALF's ability to combine beautiful design with recycled material. And just to up the coolness factor, they've collaborated with some heavyweights including Barneys New York, will.i.am., the guy from Cool Hunting and even Gwyneth Paltrow's goop (but we won't hold that against them).
According to Founder Javier Goyeneche, "ECOALF symbolises what...the fabrics and products of the new generation should be". They've even started 'Upcycling the Oceans', working with fishermen across the Mediterranean to clear rubbish from the ocean and turn it into fabric. Check out the video and be inspired.
Images and video: ECOALF
Patagonia's mission is to 'build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis'. They were one of the first major outdoor clothing brands to consciously think about and reduce their environmental impact. Since 1996 every Patagonia garment made of cotton was organic, and has been ever since.
And they haven't stopped there. Other types of fabric also meet stringent criteria - from Traceable Down in their jackets to alternative materials like Tencel, made from the pulp of sustainable harvested trees. (Remember Tencel jeans in the '90s? Turns out they were good for the environment as well as looking amazing at the Year 8 dance).
But sometimes even the golden child makes mistakes. In 2011, Patagonia discovered slave labour in their supply chain in Taiwan. Instead of covering it up they went public and are working with factories and the government to fix it. While some consider their progress too slow, kudos to them for owning the problem instead of ignoring it/hiding behind their PR team like many others.
While it seems crazy to think that repairing clothes when they're ripped or damaged is 'cutting edge', in the age of fast fashion that's exactly what it is. Patagonia is leading the way in encouraging us to make our clothes last longer, offering free repairs and alterations through their Repair Hubs all over the world. They've repaired over 40,000 garments at their North American Repair Hub alone.
RIDGE MERINO: Finally - base layers that don't make you look like Where's Wally! Based in Mammoth Lakes, California, Ridge Merino makes stylish base layers from 100% Woolmark-certified Merino wool, sustainably sourced from sheep raised by certified non-mulesed woolgrowers in Australia. Find out more at www.ridgemerino.com.
NICHE SNOWBOARDS: Co-founded by two women, designed in Salt Lake City and crafted in Austria, Niche Snowboards are determined to deliver the best performance boards while also reducing their impact on the planet. Their boards are made from sustainably harvested wood cores, recycled steel and some use hemp instead of carbon for the stringers. Find out more at www.nichesnowboards.com.
GROWN SKIS: These beautiful skis have an environmental footprint that's up to 40% lower than conventional skis. They are the first to use 100% volcanic basalt rock fibre belts instead of glass and carbon fibres, use glues based on pine tree resin, have a recycled base and consist of more than 70% sustainably harvested wood. Find out more at www.grownskis.com.
PICTURE ORGANIC CLOTHING: Helmets are one of those items that are only 'essential' if you're like me and risk a head injury just by looking at snow, or if you actually know what you're doing and like testing the limits of gravity. If you do need one, the 'Hubber Helmet' is made from 100% recycled and bio-sourced materials. Find out more at www.picture-organic-clothing.com.
Images: Ridge Merino and Grown Skis
*It's a thing, we're going with it.