Photos: Trailspace & Merrell
Unveiled at the US Outdoor Retailer show last month, the NADA (Not Any Dye Applied) jackets by Merrell are a fresh look at technical apparel because the fabric, zips and labels employed are all free of any dyestuffs. The development team were apparently "amazed by the staggering statistics of just how much water, energy and chemicals are used to create one jacket." Specifically a NADA shell "uses 59 percent less carbon dioxide, 86 percent less water, 63 percent fewer chemicals, and 59 percent less energy compared to a conventionally-dyed jacket."
Or to be more precise, manufacturing one women's small jacket (the Nanuk) via the NADA-style saves 1.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide, 115.2 liters of water, 0.18 kg of chemicals, and 2.47 kilowatt-hours of energy.
Although developed as concept product and partly as an educational tool, Mens and Womens versions of the jackets will be available for about $229 USD in time for next winter. They are insulated waterproof garments.
How well will they sell? Yes, there are climbing sacks that are undyed, because the super strong cloth resists dyeing. And undyed inflatable sleeping mats. But those are specialist pieces targeted to very select niche markets.
Most clothing is however worn more as adornment, as differentiation, to make us feel attractive, more so than for any purely utilitian function and weather protection.
Nau make outdoor apparel without any external logos and select muted colourways for a classic fad-free appearance, choosing dyestuffs that don't appear on their Restricted Substances List (RSL). Patagonia, who once switched their entire cotton line to organic, are renown for their vivid jewel coloured garments and as a member of bluesign (the independent environmental standard for the textile industry), also look to avoid use of toxic dyes. (Merrell is owned the same parent company, Wolverine, who handles the production of Patagonia Footwear.)
But dropping colour from an entire clothing line is a big ask, even for the most progressive and bold of vendors, and one I doubt we'll see anytime soon.
However, kudos to Merrell for at least undertaking the exercise. The lessons learnt will hopefully be applied in other ways (jacket and shoe linings, underwear??), even if off-white apparel doesn't suddenly become the norm. ::Merrell
More Merrell on TreeHugger
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• Patagonia Salt & Pepper: The Shoe Fits a More Examined Life