At the beginning of my culthread™ journey, I thought very hard about the values I wanted my fashion brand to be associated with. Being in the industry, I was well aware that all the best-known brands insulated their jackets with natural down, which is the chest region plumage of geese and ducks. Touted as an eco-friendly by-product of the food industry, down is warm, light and soft to the touch; a luxury product for luxury brands. Having already decided that culthread™ would be a fur-free brand on the grounds of animal cruelty, I began to research all the other animal derived products commonly used to create fashion items. This research led me to three important conclusions. First, there are no animal derived products that can truthfully be labelled ‘cruelty-free’. Second, there are quality, high performance alternatives available, though these can be expensive. And last, but not least, luxury fashion that is both cruelty free and sustainable can be a reality.
Natural down is a product much revered by manufacturers and consumers alike, so I wondered, do people know the real deal with down? Several years ago, it became apparent that birds in the down supply chain had been force fed in order to massively inflate their livers for foie gras. We also learned that it was common industry practice to pluck down feathers from birds while they were alive, a practice that was exacerbated by the fact that the quality of down improves as a bird ages. Sometimes birds are left with gaping wounds, or die as a result of this process (warning: this video is graphic). Peta took undercover video footage showing large scale down farms live-plucking birds inhumanely, causing considerable injury and distress to the birds.
As a result, some of the better-known brands have joined the ‘Responsible Down Standard’ which aims to conduct an annual audit of affiliated down suppliers to avoid “unnecessary harm”. Peta insists that it is impossible to know whether the down that you buy has been taken from live-plucked birds and that the only way to stop this process is by consciously choosing cruelty free materials. They visited a number of farms (often multiple times) to investigate live-plucking and estimated that nearly half of Chinese suppliers admitted to selling live-plucked down wholesale. China is the worlds leading supplier of down, producing about 80% of global supply.
Nina Jamal from Four Paws says, “only a few brands have taken full responsibility for their supply chains. Most of the fashion and sports brands have not started going back to the farms, they depend upon certificates from slaughterhouses. It’s a way for brands to wash away their responsibility, basically saying that they don’t care about the welfare of animals before they are slaughtered”. The entire process of raising, transporting, live-plucking, force-feeding, and slaughtering birds is cruel, and it is hard to have any confidence in a statement claiming an ‘ethically sourced down jacket’.
So, what is the alternative? Synthetic down doesn’t get mouldy and is allergen free; the latest technology has produced light and warm eco-down that closely resembles the animal kind. Thermore Ecodown® is a high quality, durable thermal insulation made from recycled fibres from post-consumer plastic water bottles. Like animal derived down, it is soft, light and warm, as well as being the 100% recycled sustainable alternative, allowing the reuse of plastic water bottles that would have ended their lives in landfill or the oceans. All culthread™ jackets are insulated with Thermore Ecodown®, each one removing around 10 used PET bottles from the ocean or landfill.
Globally we buy around one million plastic bottles per minute and what we know is that 91% of all plastic is not recycled. It is estimated that this year over half a trillion plastic bottles will be sold (warning: this video is SCARY).Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) takes 4 centuries to decompose, which, given the fact that our use is increasing and a lot of it will end up in our oceans, is a massive problem. By 2050, oceans will have more plastic by weight than fish, posing an ingestion problem by sea birds, fish and marine mammals, not to mention people, who may already be ingesting 11,000 pieces of plastic yearly.
Not purchasing clothing or other items that contain down and switching to brands and products that exclusively use high quality recycled plastic fibres for insulation, is the responsible way forward. At culthread™ we believe that fashion should not only be beautiful and luxurious, but also cruelty free and sustainable, which is why all our products are insulated with Thermore EcoDown®.