ECO OUTDOOR RETAILER
A Current of Sustainability Runs through Outdoor Retailer
DENVER—At the Summer version of Outdoor Retailer, sustainability was the theme throughout the Colorado Convention Center, where one of the largest gatherings for the outdoor industry was held for the second year. For years, Outdoor Retailer took place in Salt Lake City.
More than 1,400 brands and 250 exhibitors featured products both new and old with recycled content, products that offered durability and products made with environmentally sound processes.
The industry also seemed to be at war with plastics as single-use water bottles were discouraged and replaced with thousands of reusable Nalgene bottles. And 4Ocean, a company dedicated to removing plastic from the ocean, provided an educational program encouraging people to reduce their overall use of plastics.
On the floor of the June 18–20 show, companies offered their individual concepts of sustainability. Cordura, which had one of the larger stands at the event, touted new product areas for its durable fabric. Cindy McNaull, Cordura’s global brand and marketing director, said sustainability begins with products that last.
“We are showing Cordura’s softer side,” McNaull said. “Cordura has traditionally been well-known in bags, packs and luggage. But in recent years we have come out with a really extensive collection of blends with natural fibers. We have a wide range of knits and knits blended with cotton. We have a really strong portfolio of not only mills but fabrics from those mills, focusing on the softer side of durability.”
John Holliday, senior product development manager for zipper manufacturer YKK, said the company’s big theme at the show was sustainability.
“As at previous shows, we have our Natalon products, which use recycled polyesters, but also our waterless zipper-dyeing technology, Eco-Dye.
YKK recently began selling GreenRise, its new zipper from plant-derived polyester made from molasses. The zipper has applications that include jackets, outdoor gear, women’s dresses and luggage. Holliday said the next step for YKK’s research-and-development department will likely be more plant-based products.
Jay Hertwig, global sales and marketing manager for Unifi, said Outdoor Retailer is Unifi’s primary trade show for North America.
“Sustainability has been driven by the outdoor market, and it’s been where we have built our brands,” he said. “Outdoor Retailer has been a great platform for us to launch new products.”
Hertwig said Unifi’s primary focus during the show is extending its Repreve brand, which makes performance yarns out of recycled plastic bottles. By 2020, Unifi expects to have recycled 20 billion bottles.
“We are also promoting our Repreve Our Ocean program, which is a product made of post-consumer bottles likely destined for the ocean,” Hertwig said.
This version of Repreve uses bottles collected from coastal areas around the world that do not have a recycling infrastructure or recycling programs and can result in bottles winding up in the seas.
Going the diversity route
Gehring-Tricot Corp., a familiar Outdoor Retailer presence known for its high-performance knit and woven fabrics, touts the company’s diverse capabilities to develop custom fabrics rather than a specific product.
The company’s Tweave division is by far the company’s most familiar brand at the show, said Bill Christmann, Gehring-Tricot’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Tweave’s line of stretch wovens has a lot of recognition throughout this entire industry,” Christmann said.
Gehring-Tricot was booked solid with appointments throughout the three-day run of the show. Most companies were in search of lighter-weight fabrics and multi-performing textiles, Christmann said.
Wigwam, the 114-year-old Wisconsin sock manufacturer, featured its new SynchroKnit sock, available to the public early next year, as being the “next generation” in sock construction. Wigwam says it has reduced bulk and excess yarn to achieve more support and a more comfortable sock.
Paige Boucher, who handles public relations for the sock company, said the new sock, which has been in development for about four years, has the company’s third patent in its history. She described it as a breakthrough development that differentiates the company in a crowded sock field.
“We are very excited about it,” Boucher said. “We have taken the basic sock and eliminated some of the stitches as you go from the top of the sock to the ankle. Fewer stitches around your ankle mean less bulk in the area of your leg, which is thinner, so you don’t have bulk to wrinkle up under your shoes.”