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A few weeks ago, we peeked into Portland clothing company, Nau’s, process for creating recycled down—the first recycled down to ever be used in their clothing. It’s actually a pretty big deal. There’s nothing more cozy than a down jacket on a snowy day, but thinking about whether that jacket was actually ethically produced usually doesn’t feel quite so cozy. So to get a warm fuzzy feeling about where your clothing comes from is a pretty awesome thing. But the technological side of recycled down is just part of the equation. The design has to really bring it as well. So we sat down with Nau designer Peter Kallen to learn a little more about the thought process behind the Fall Recycled Down collection.
Peter explained that his process always starts with understanding the characteristics of the material. For recycled down, this means thinking about how the feathers are going to be distributed in the garment. If you miss this step, all your feathers will fall to the bottom of the jacket. This is why most down jackets have quilting or some sort of exoskeleton—to make sure those feathers are distributed evenly throughout. Peter further explained,” The designs for these styles were meant to marry the thermal diaphanous qualities of down with a weatherproof fully seam sealed outer protective shell. The goal,” he said, “is to have the design feel like it’s perfectly balanced with features.” The perfection of the subtle details, like pocket placement, will only become evident when you use them.
I’ve now spent a few weeks understanding the properties of down, learning about recycled down and then pouring over the designs, and what stood is that in this collection of warm jackets (ethically produced), not one of which is designed to make you feel like a marshmallow—and when it comes to warm winter coats, that’s a pretty big win.
According to Peter, the challenge of designing with down is to “make a go-to outdoor staple feel both chic and flattering on the wearer.” This jacket is a great example of how the designers were able to work within the confines of the material, making sure that the feathers were distributed around the body. So in order to achieve the stated goal of creating a Recycled down hoody jacket that was chic and flattering (and didn’t give one that dreaded marshmallow effect), they worked on playing with the styling of the quilting—creating an insulation that contours the body.
When asked to describe the design intention behind the Cocoon Recycled Down Trench, designer Peter said it was “akin to being enveloped in a diaphanous cloud that contours around the body.” It’s a cold weather coat that makes the most of the recycled down and the design was intended to explore the form, volume and shape of down—taking the traditional puffy down coat and simplifying it.
The Allee Recycled Down Pullover was designed to be a bit like a light wearable duvet that doesn’t that isn’t overly puffy. Recycled down has enabled Nau designers to be a little more experimental and explore different silhouettes. This one came about by playing with the idea of pairing a classic DIOR shape with everyone’s closet favorite—a cable knit sweater.
The Copenhagen Recycled Down Trench was inspired by the life lived in a vibrant cold creative city like Copenhagen. It’s a great example of Nau’s overall design philosophy, which is to try and take away elements until the design is absolutely in its simplest form. Rather than use the recycled down as a design feature, the down is contained inside the jacket so that entire piece has a more minimal and classic style.
The idea behind this Copenhagen Recycled Down Trench for women was similar to the men’s design. Again, it’s about simplicity—rather than making the down a design statement, the warmth of the down is just a functional feature of the jacket.
The Blazing Recycled Jacket was inspired by old field jackets that embody an utilitarian sensibility. Peter said, “I wanted to reinterpret that style of jacket, apply our waterproof recycled down technology and add designer considerations for modern living.” He spent a significant about of the design time thinking about the placements of the pockets, what would be carried in them and how they might be accessed. For example, he included an interior audio pocket with a headphone cord route—a detail not likely to be included in a vintage field jacket.
Shop Nau’s Recycled Down collection here.