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Outdoor Fashion: Good for the Great Outdoors (and Beyond)?

If there is one type of fashion that is obviously connected to nature, it is outdoor fashion. Think breathable jackets, windproof pants and protective base layers – the type of clothing you wear when you go hiking, trekking and mountain biking.

So are these clothes not only good for enjoying nature, but also good for nature itself? Without workers manufacturing this clothing being exploited, of course?

Outdoor brands certainly recognize their natural link with sustainability. Their stories often begin with a few outdoor enthusiasts being inspired by nature. And to their credit, outdoor brands stress durable over fashionable clothes, functionality over fast fashion. Almost all offer a repair service, for example. Patagonia and Norrøna even donate 1% of their revenue to environmental projects.

The outdoor sector does need to be more transparent, though. Especially climate reporting was limited. Except for VAUDE, few brands reported a climate footprint, let alone a smaller footprint than in the previous reporting year. Reporting about renewable energy was often also too limited to convince us that brands were really frontrunners in the energy transition.

Instead, brands often reported on their use of environmentally preferred raw materials and phasing out of suspect chemicals. Especially PYUA obtained a high score here. But it often remained unclear which materials exactly were used to what extent in the brands’ collections, and whether chemicals were eliminated during the manufacturing process, rather than only in the end product. Reporting on waste and packaging was also limited, VAUDE being an exception.

Good labour conditions, finally, were actually emphasized by brands as much as environmental protection. Many readily disclosed a list of direct suppliers, are a member of a multi-stakeholder initiative and reported on human rights in their supply chain. Still, even frontrunners could not yet guarantee that all their workers overseas actually receive living wages. A few brands, such as PYUA and Trigema, circumvented this problem: Their clothing is essentially made in countries where laws provide for living wages.

Altogether, VAUDE convinced us most to be good for the great outdoors and beyond, followed by PYUA . Useful knowledge, we hope, if you aim to preserve the very nature you set out to appreciate on your trips!

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