Sustainability

2017-12-07

Urban Outdoor: functional clothing for city dwellers can also be sustainable

The reality of the asphalt meets the romanticism of adventure. From New York via Tokyo to Berlin: all over the world, clothing made of functional materials and accessories with outdoor appeal are shown off in style by a fashion-loving target group. Urban Outdoor is the name of this global fashion trend. From 16-18 January 2018 at the Kraftwerk Berlin, Greenshowroom and the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin as well as the new Messe Frankfurt conference, FashionSustain and its motto “Run for Circularity”, will show that it can also be sustainable.

Green urban jungle

The rain jacket becomes a companion while riding the racing bike on the daily journey to the office, just as the windbreaker can be combined with a business suit and high heels. It is a young and above all metropolitan target group in particular that has fuelled the hype around outfits that were once reserved for true sports enthusiasts. It is always about playing around with the stylistic rupture: instead of covering themselves from head to toe in functional fabrics, wearers create a harmonious outfit in one place as if by chance, integrating a feeling of closeness to nature and freedom into urban everyday life.

‘Over the past 10 to 15 years, the outdoor and fashion sectors have grown much closer together, and have also inspired each other to a certain extent. This can be seen in the overlapping product ranges of both industries and, of course, in our everyday cityscape. In recent years, this has definitely been a segment exhibiting strong growth’, says Antje von Dewitz, Managing Director of Vaude Sport GmbH Co. KG. ‘People outside mountaineering have also realised that the functionality and comfort of outdoor clothing can also provide added value in everyday life. We're also seeing an increasing convergence of our professional and private lives’.

In addition to the performance aspects of the clothing, one factor is playing an increasingly important role: environmentally friendly and fair production. Innovative materials that are consistently produced sustainably on the one hand but are also suitable for functional urban outdoor fashion on the other hand are currently attracting a great deal of attention.

Green pioneer

German labels such as Vaude, bleed, Langer Chen and Nat-2, which will be exhibiting at Greenshowroom and the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin, undertake constant research in this field. They produce PFC-free products and work with self-developed membrane alternatives that do not use PTFE. In some cases, they are pioneers in the realisation of future-oriented concepts for a circular economy and recycling. At the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin, for example, Vaude will be presenting a new collection for the first time that is around 90% biobased, recycled or made of purely natural materials.

Photo: Langer Chen
Photo: Langer Chen


For years, we have been developing sustainable and natural functional fabrics and improving them continuously. For our latest collection we have developed an all-natural jacket – an outdoor parka made entirely of natural fibres. It consists of our new high density organic cotton poplin and pure wool padding. Our goal is to reduce the use of synthetic fibres even more in the future and minimise the impact of microplastics on the oceans’, says Philipp Langer, Managing Director of Langer Chen.

bleed has announced that they will present a collection consisting of new editions of their best-sellers and new styles for the 10th anniversary of the 2018/19 season. Further styles and accessories include climate- compensated, recycled, single-origin and environmentally friendly functional jackets for all kinds of winter weather, warm knitwear made of organic cotton and functional base layers made of Tencel.

‘Timeless designs, high-quality and environmentally friendly materials, processed under fair conditions at high quality without animal cruelty – these are the most important aspects of bleed's sports and streetwear styles. With our products that are suitable for urban and outdoor use, we want to show that there is another way’, says Lena Grimm, responsible for Design & Product Management at bleed.

The development of innovative, sustainable materials, membranes and components is becoming increasingly important for outdoor brands. The segment, and with it some of the classic brands, have long since distanced themselves from outdoor shops and have also grown closer to the fashion trade. Sustainable urban outerwear is a booming segment. This reflects a trend that the market research institute GfK1 forecast back in a 2014 study. According to the survey, only 35% of respondents stated that the brand name is the deciding factor when buying outdoor clothing, while the purchasing decision for the majority of respondents is determined by the textiles or ingredient brands used by the labels.

From performance dogma to sustainable production

Where has this development come from? The rise of today's successful outdoor and sportswear brands in the late 1970s and early 1980s is primarily associated with the term “performance”. For a long time, measurable product properties such as water column and breathability were the deciding factors for a purchase. In most cases, however, these properties have been achieved with the help of processes that are controversial from an environmental perspective. Many outdoor products are made of petroleum-based synthetic fibres such as polyester, polyamide or acrylic. In turn, the best results in terms of waterproofing and breathability could only be achieved with controversial membrane technologies and equipment, such as the use of PFCs.

Ever since Greenpeace entered the arena with its Detox campaign, microplastics in the oceans has been a topic that has been discussed in the media and given that bioaccumulative PFCs in polar bears – i. e. accumulating via the food chain – have now been proven, many outdoor brands have committed themselves to a paradigm shift and to turning away from their performance dogma.

Sustainable Urban Outdoor at the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin and Greenshowroom

For many years now, quite a number of functional labels have deliberately dispensed with the last millimetres of water column or have even anchored the development and improvement of environmentally friendly membrane technologies and equipment in their corporate objectives. A selection of sustainable urban outdoor labels will be presented to trade visitors at the Kraftwerk Berlin from 16-18 January 2018 as part of the upcoming Berlin Fashion Week. The selection of materials, production methods and brand philosophies of the brands shown there are in line with the high environmental and social standards that Ethical Fashion Show Berlin and Greenshowroom deem obligatory for participation. The highlight of both fairs is the catwalk show on the evening of Wednesday 17 January.

On Wednesday, the publicly accessible and high-calibre conference FashionSustain Berlin, which runs in parallel to the fairs at the Kraftwerk and will be attended by international decision-makers from the fashion and sportswear industry, will also focus on sustainability in the outdoor sector. Under the motto “Run for Circularity”, brands, developers, innovators, manufacturers and researchers will present and discuss how sustainable fashion techniques are changing the fields of athletic, outdoor, sports and functional clothing.

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