OTS outdoor trade show 2023, showing new outdoor garments and gear for delivery into UK stores in Spring 2024.
The role of the show is to enable UK retailers and journalists to overview all outdoor garments, waterproofs and footwear and everything outdoors for delivery in Spring 2024.
My objective as OUTDOOR GEAR COACH is networking with brands and retailers and putting my hands on things I have been tracking in the specialist textile press. This enables me to understand the direction of the substantial but long overdue changes for reasons of environmental protection and all-round health issues. Garments and textiles are the third dirtiest industry in the world, so change is overdue. How this next generation of garments will perform is a crux issue, and for this, I have close contact with Chris Townsend (see his blog ), who is waiting for some of the new ePE garments for testing and review in TGO magazine. (see further notes on waterproofs below). Chris was a very valuable contributor to our book “Keeping Dry and Staying Warm, How to stay dry, warm or cool in the outdoors; You, the Environment, your garments and layering techniques”. It’s available on Amazon in print or ‘e’ version, and the book contents provide the core information for our PERFORMANCE LAYERING courses, rated as cpd by MTA and MTUK for outdoor leaders.
The technical issues around the broader trends, particularly in sustainability (that much-misused word), recycling and product durability are very complex. Besides doing the odd show or two, I need to read the sourcing journals that product managers use and visit (online) the textile innovation shows, which occur in Munich and USA several times yearly. Being both an all-around climber and outdoor person and a former manufacturer of gear, garments and footwear, Karrimor, K-SBs, and OMM is undoubtedly the key to understanding the issues underlying the information being put out. Additionally, the last three Innovation-for-Extremes conferences that Professor Mary B Rose and I (working at Lancaster University Management School ten years ago) focused on sustainability, corporate social responsibility and CO2 emissions. Mike Berners-Lee was a speaker at two of those three conferences. So this subject area is already familiar to us.
Footwear. My meeting with the new owner of Asolo, Luca Zanatta and his UK manager David Udberg (once my arch-competitor as Berghaus, now a friend!) was a fantastic journey back in time. They are launching a reproduction of my K-SB original, having found an original 1983 sample! So I related stories of how it all happened and changed the course of the footwear industry. ( sounds like an excellent future blog!) It was also a delight to chat with David Foster of GRUBS Boots in Bolton ( his Dad founded Reebok, and David worked for me in the 90s as footwear manager for the second generation of K-SBs, which was very successful after all David’s input.
Footwear is going in the same direction as garments, with durability and recyclability as key long-term goals. Leather tanning has always been a filthy, smelly process. Even the 16C Elizabethans banned it from London. Chrome, a white-coloured tannage using a dangerous heavy metal, was discontinued some time ago. The original method of vegetable or oak bark tanning is now called ORGANIC. New materials under consideration are Cork leather, wool, and hemp. These materials will probably emerge, if at all, in low-performance footwear first. Features and design. The rocker style sole, which has taken HokaOne to the number one worldwide position in hiking boots, is less dominant here in Europe than USA. The ‘rocker-style’ sole is a wrong trend in my view for the sort of trails we have in the UK and the underfoot conditions.
Anything with an ‘F” for Fluoro in the polymer name is being phased out. The last of the garments with a Fluoro DWR finish have probably been delivered, but Gore-tex is based on PTFE, of course, so must be replaced with something that has no eco issues and is recyclable. Waterproof laminates with 2 different polymers cannot be recycled, so there is a shift to creating laminates with the same fibre polymer as the coating or film. For example, Sympatex was always a polyester film but mixed with many types of woven textiles. Now it is 100% polyester.
The uncertainty surrounding the mega shift by WLGore away from the 50-year-long, all-winning, all-dominant ePTFE membrane for environmental and upcoming EU regulation reasons was all around ‘in the air’. The new laminate replacing ePTFE is called ePE and has already been launched in South Korea but has yet to appear in Europe. Chris Townsend says he is awaiting his first test sample with ePE Gore-Tex fabric, which Patagonia will supply, but no date is yet known. Gore-tex ‘Shake-Dry’ was discontinued 2 years ago but is much loved by the super light running and cycling garment users. Most Brands have developed their own branded replacement.
I was unable to attend this because it was fully booked. Unlike in my day, British-based textile producers, weavers, knitters, and coaters are almost nonexistent today, but I noticed former University of Leeds textile department students contributed excellently to this area. Sustainability is an overused word, and brands are inventing many ways to say they are ‘sustainable’. There will be UK government legislation shortly about the use of certain words in this area.
In reality, there is no such thing as sustainable; everything we do or make produces some emissions ( gaseous) or effluents ( liquid, usually dyestuffs), and it is questionable to say this is being offset. There will shortly be controls on the use of this expression. Sustainability is best thought of as a journey of improvement, not a destination. It is impossible to measure the different factors and their relative importance. However, CO2 emissions are very measurable. Mike Berners-Lee’s book ‘How bad are bananas’? does exactly that and gives the CO2 emissions for many different everyday things like a pair of jeans through to cars and aircraft. However, he did not touch the aspect of liquid effluents from textile processes such as dyeing. A few weeks ago, I gave a talk to a local group entitled Garments and Textiles are now the third dirtiest industry in the world. How and why did this happen? I will convert this into a blog as soon as I can.
I had a surprising and interesting chat recently with Rosanna, the founder of Snowdonia Gear Repair and she was appreciative of how easy it was to repair my Karrimor Hot Ice and Hot Rock packs from the 80s and commented that packs made in the last few years are much harder to fix. Her analysis of what sort of faults she was getting on garments was interesting. Seam widths on garments generally have decreased quite a lot (strength decrease?), and zips being used are lighter. (Like 3 mm coil). Bonded zips are coming in for repair but are very tricky to repair. Chapter 2.4 ‘Garment construction methods’ in our book KD&SW ( written 3 years ago) says, ……’ “Bonded zips are increasingly specified because they are lighter and more waterproof. However, repair companies are not yet clear on how repairs will be done.” After listening to Rosanna and a few off-the-record chats with Brands, the verdict is out. There will be a shift away from 3 mm zips and bonded seams (other than in super light competition clothing.) Even some pack makers will reduce or hide the number of zips a little. What’s coming is EU regulation. ( which will embrace everything made for the UK as well) on recyclability and repairability. Few are talking about it yet, but the first steps are being taken.
Thanks for reading, and please share with a friend or colleague in the outdoors or outdoor industry.
Mike Parsons and the OUTDOOR GEAR COACH Team