We’re proud of the down clothing we make. The quality (fill-power or insulation value) of the down is excellent and appropriate to end use, as are the shell fabrics. The designs are beautiful; down clothing of all kinds has become an important part of our business. Their popularity helps pay the bills (and 1% of their sales contributes a significant hunk of change to environmental causes).
We also know the limits to our pride: that everything we do as a business results in some kind of environmental harm or waste. But one issue involved in down production has troubled us particularly for a while and, after deeper investigation, continues to do so.
Down clothes are tricky to make in two ways: special care has to be taken to safeguard workers who fill and sew the garments. Anyone who has worked with down knows that it is lighter even than feathers and resistant to gravity. Down rooms have to be sealed off from other areas and workers have to wear masks to keep from inhaling the fiber.
The second area of concern is treatment of the geese. We visit the sewing factory work floor fairly often and have additional help from the Fair Labor Association, which independently audits working conditions for us. It is harder to monitor conditions on farms. We contract directly with sewing factories, but you have to go deep into the supply chain from sewing factory to down vendor to processor before you finally get to a farm. And a single goose can spend its life on four different farms. This complexity is also true of other products involving animals, including shoes and wool underwear and sweaters.