Do No Harm with DWR: Our Sustainability-Focused Production Strategy

During the production process, there are countless decisions to be made regarding fabric, cut, and little details that give a piece its character.

While we love to experiment, one area in which we focus is sustainability, and this became especially prevalent when choosing our durable water-repellent (DWR) chemical coating. 

While we want our apparel to offer the best possible protection for wearers against moisture, there’s also the environmental impact—and personal health—to take into consideration as well. There’s a wide range of DWR treatment options available, and finding the best spray is just as important as the material itself.

“The cost-benefit analysis lands clearly on the side of avoiding forever chemicals,” says Andrew Gibbs-Dabney, Founder and CEO of LIVSN. “We now use only PFC-free DWR treatments across our product range. It makes us happy to know we can provide top-level performance without jeopardizing our audience’s health or environmental well-being.”

The Dirty Secrets of C8 & C6 DWR Spray

In the past DWR sprays like C8 and C6 were used throughout the outdoor apparel industry (and beyond) as a cheap and effective way to give a material water repellency.

These little designators refer to the long-chain fluorocarbon-based chemical carbons (PFC or PFOAs), specifically the number of carbons in each chain. While C8 is extremely effective at warding off water, the chemical is so stable it takes decades to break down in the environment. It's usage has also been linked to serious health detrimental effects on liver and reproductive health.

There have been several lawsuits centered on this issue, and the EU outright banned C8 usage beyond 2015. The development and use of the C6 spray was seen as a step in the right direction, but with the same root issues present for consumers and the environment alike.

The outdoor apparel industry’s desire for a durable yet sustainable DWR solution has persisted for almost a decade now. We knew we wanted to move away from C6 as soon as we could find a solution. Every apparel company must decide what spray best suits their needs, and for us, we believe we’ve found our answer.

Our Solution - Zelan C0 Spray

Our sourcing search has taken us far and wide, from our production partners in northern Vietnam to Swedish mills in the Alps for our new ventile-based jacket. This fabric has a long history in itself, and using PFC-laden DWR sprays strips the ventile fibers of their natural status, hindering their ability to swell and general longevity.

When taken in tandem with the detrimental health and environmental effects, we knew we had to use a spray that better serves our customers while still offering enhanced water protection for both our jacket and other products.

A brand-new PFC-free DWR spray, Zelan C0, was first proposed and recommended by our Swedish mill and its plant-based, non-fluoridated sourcing made it an ideal fit for our apparel. Benefits highlights include:

  • Bluesign-approved for ecological and toxicological requirements
  • High-level moisture production on natural and synthetic fibers
  • Maintain fabric breathability
  • Washable without losing protective elements

We’ve found the Zelan C0 spray suits our needs precisely by offering our end-customer reliable protection from moisture without incurring a high ecological cost or health risk. Since we discovered the spray, we’ve made Zelan our default DWR spray for everything from our Ecotrek pants, women's shorts, and our upcoming Century Jacket.

An Industry in Motion

While apparel technology might not move at the blazing speed of other sectors, advances do occur, and even incremental improvements to sustainability can have a massive impact upon the environment over time.

We’re always on the lookout to be aware of and implement all the newest, best options available to make our products safe, sustainable, and effective in the field. Whether it’s the material we source or the DWR coating layers, there’s always room to improve each year with each iteration of our products. 

Keeping pace with the industry—and a step ahead when we can—is a moving puzzle of a challenge we are happy to continually work for with our apparel design sourcing and design strategy.

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