Features | From Pivot Magazine

Are flower-filled jackets the latest eco trend? 

American fashion brand Pangaia has developed a green substitute for down-filled parkas

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Pangaia's Flwrdwn jacketEach of Pangaia’s Flwrdwn jackets is filled with approximately one pound of dried biodegradable wildflowers (Photograph by Getty/Alamy)

Puffy bombers and parkas may have all the benign contours of a marshmallow, but their stuffing—typically sourced from feathers ripped from captive ducks and geese, or from petroleum-based synthetic fills that take centuries to biodegrade—has a harsh environmental impact.

To appease eco-lovers in cold climates, American fashion brand Pangaia has developed a green, cruelty-free substitute called Flwrdwn. Each of its jackets is filled with approximately one pound of dried biodegradable wildflowers preserved in a polymer shell and held together using aerogel, a flexible, non-toxic webbing. The product took Amanda Parkes, Pangaia’s chief innovation officer, 10 years to engineer. It embodies her brand’s philosophy of “high-tech naturalism,” she says, “where the future of creating a sustainable fashion industry involves using existing natural materials, like agricultural waste, augmented by scientific and technology processes.”

The jacket arrives at a time when corporate investment in sustainable initiatives is flat-lining, according to a 2019 Pulse of the Fashion Industry update. “The reality is that higher-quality materials, more eco-friendly packaging and socially responsible manufacturing all typically have higher price tags,” says Selina Ho, founder and CEO of Recloseted, a Vancouver-based fashion consultancy. Although 75 per cent of shoppers say sustainability is very or extremely important to them, “most consumers still aren’t willing to pay for it, which can disincentivize businesses,” says Marilyn McNeil-Morin, director of the Fashion Exchange at George Brown College in Toronto.

Here, Pangaia has a critical advantage. The initial Flwrdwn jackets are priced between US$550 and $750. That’s expensive compared to low-cost options from fast-fashion retailers but in line with offerings from luxury brands like Canada Goose, Moose Knuckles or Moncler. Pricing its jackets competitively in that tier—along with celebrity buzz generated by Jaden Smith and Pharrell Williams, who showed support—helped the initial run of coats nearly sell out within a week of launching in December 2019. 

Now Pangaia has bigger plans. 

“We want to bring an entirely new material library into commercial reality,” says Parkes, who hopes to license the technology to other companies to pivot the industry away from its traditional sources of down. Becoming an industry supplier, however, could be difficult. “To enact change, established companies have to go through approval processes, policy reviews, legal vetting, profitability analysis, and so on,” says Ho. “That takes time, and sustainable fashion is still in the relatively early days.”