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MILAN – Is the down industry facing an existential crisis? In recent years, a number of down insulation alternatives have entered the market, many of then boasting very strong environmental credentials. While performance has previously been an issue compared to down, that picture is steadily changing, with several businesses now offering down alternatives which tick all the right sustainability boxes, while holding their own against down on the performance front.

A new solution from Italian recycled insulation business Thermore is a case in point. The company has recently released a new solution which sees up to ten bottles recycled for each jacket insulated with its fibres. The company’s new Eco-down fibres are animal-free, and made from 100 per cent PET bottles.

In-house tests have demonstrated that Thermore’s Ecodown fibres achieve the same loft as high quality 90/10 feathers and can likewise be “blown into a garment.”

Said the company in a statement: “The loft of down products is calculated with the ‘fill power test,’ fibres are blown through a cylinder and their volume is measured. The higher the ‘fill power,’ the puffier the jacket. Tests performed on Ecodown Fibres have reported an outstanding fill power of over 600, which is how the product is able to guarantee that ‘puffy’ look. Moreover, this insulation is incredibly durable: its one-of-a-kind multi-shape structure allows high resistance and prevents it from clumping when washed.

“Every jacket insulated with Thermore’s fibres allows recycling up to 10 post consumer bottles. Along with a warm feel, the insulation achieves a soft touch without the use of microfibres, which would contaminate oceans and, ultimately, our own food.”

Are products such as this a serious threat to the down industry? Not just yet, we would say. Thermore itself acknowledges that 80 per cent of cold weather clothing is still insulated with duck feather, mainly due to a lack of a synthetic solutions which provides the same look and loft as down.

However, this picture is changing fast. We expect more high quality down alternatives from Thermore – and other businesses in this space – in the coming months and years.

Moreover, we also expect more targeted action by Peta against the down sector. As we have seen with the mohair sector, which has recently lost the business of many international brands following a Peta investigation which found evidence of cruelty in South African goat farms, things can move very fast in industries where animals are concerned – and where brands are keener than ever to protect their reputation.

We will be watching this space with interest.

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