the new frontier of sustainable fashion

The warm chests of down jacket owners may still swell with pride as the unofficial uniforms of hikers, walkers and parents engaged in morning classes zip up to fight climate change.

Outdoor clothing giant Kathmandu has launched the BioDown jacket, a biodegradable version of its most iconic product, as more fashion brands take responsibility for their designs beyond the cash register and payment in line.

Australian model Jarrod Scott wears the BioDown biodegradable down jacket from Kathmandu.Credit:Jason South

“Down jackets are our best-selling category, so they give us the best opportunity to make a difference,” says Kathmandu General Manager Reuben Casey. “We consciously chose to make a beautiful product in a style that we are known for.”

Thanks to an additive introduced in the manufacturing process, the components of the jackets complete the biodegradation process in three to five years, including the zipper, if they end up in an appropriate landfill.

“A zipper has to meet durability standards, requires more engineering than fabric, and so was the hardest part of turning this dream jacket into a reality,” Casey says.

The BioDown jacket was launched in Melbourne, where smaller brands such as Hew, Arnsdorf and A.Bch have seen growing interest in clothing made from biodegradable materials. An installation in Fed Square by sustainability campaigner Joost Baker, containing 6,000 kilograms of landfill clothing from the Upparel clothing recycling program, provided the backdrop for Kathmandu executives and Australian model Jarrod Scott.

Kathmandu chief executive Reuben Casey with Jarrod Scott wearing the biodegradable BioDown jacket in a pop-up installation by Joost Baker made from clothes destined for landfill.

Kathmandu chief executive Reuben Casey with Jarrod Scott wearing the biodegradable BioDown jacket in a pop-up installation by Joost Baker made from clothes destined for landfill.Credit:Jason South

“Every 10 minutes, 6,000 kilograms of textile waste ends up in Australian landfills,” Casey says. “Creating the BioDown jacket is one way we are helping to solve this societal problem. By creating a very durable jacket, we hope that a recycling infrastructure has been put in place to deal with end-of-life products when it comes time to dispose of the jacket. If not, we know it will degrade in three to five years.

Sydney-based fashion brand bassike, which has eight stores nationwide and is supplied by David Jones, Net-a-porter and Goop, has focused on sustainability since its launch in 2006. Last month, the jersey of organic cotton used in more than 60 percent of units produced by bassike have been certified 100% carbon neutral under the Climate Active standard, “and its end products are biodegradable,” says co-founder Deborah Sams.