Flowers have more to offer than just looking pretty, you know. The "direct-to-consumer materials science company" PANGAIA knows this, as they've stuffed their latest product—a puffer jacket—full of them. In lieu of the cruelty-prone goose or duck down, that is distributed by the many clothing brands that have capitalized on this popular style of high-end outerwear, the newly patented FLWRDWN™ jacket is stuffed with common wildflowers. While the use of flower down is remarkable on its own, the jacket doesn't stop there, as the shell is 100% recycled polyester, and even the packaging that the jacket comes in is biodegradable and ethically sourced.
Which is evidence to the claim that PANGAIA is chiefly concerned with the content of its products and ensuring that the supply chains they build to produce them meet elevated ethical standards of industrial practice. While their products are hardly affordable (and they acknowledge this, for what that's worth), their advertised intention is to create a path for other producers, and to create new material markets that are more conscious of an ecological world. FLWRDWN™ is cruelty-free, 100% biodegradable, and 100% vegan but otherwise appears quite commonplace as far as its function, design, and price-point go. This begs the question, if you're going to wear a very expensive down jacket, why not leave the geese alone and wear one thats stuffed with wildflowers?
For PANGAIA, arriving at this alternative has been no small task, as the technology required to produce these jackets has necessitated 10 years of in-lab research. In particular, it is the development of the aerogel, a biopolymer made from cellulose that is sourced from vegetable waste, that has been key to enabling the wildflowers to provide the necessary levels of thermal insulation for a down jacket. The wildflowers that are shredded and combined with the aerogel are common species, and growing them requires little agricultural impact - as it is regenerative and does not require external irrigation. Beneficially, the flowers grown for the jackets have helped to restore habitat and conserve a species of butterfly.
Beyond these ethical perks from the production, PANGAIA claims that the down jacket is really not that different from what their competitors are offering. The jackets are "as warm as most high-end feather down jackets with the standard 90/10 down-feather ratio" offering thermal equilibrium at temperatures as low as -20°C. The wild flowers are of a similar microstructure to goose or duck down, and the jackets are similarly lightweight in comparison as it is 98.2% air and filled with between 400 and 550 grams of plant matter. Making its comparative "Fill Power" 750.
Indeed it does appear that the differences in performance and aesthetic between FLWRDWN™ and other expensive puffer jackets on the market are pretty negligible. Whether one likes the puffer jacket trend or not, the work put into this production serves as something of a case study to show the great amount of time and effort it can take to make an object of a very popular fashion trend more ecological and ethical. The aesthetic that PANGAIA has created around the jacket, and their brand more broadly, certainly fits comfortably among the so-called ethical fashion brands that are often targeted at wealthy millennials. Which means it really is only accessible to a limited group of consumers but one can hope that they will be successful in their goal of creating better standards overall.
Do we need more high-end puffer jackets? I don't think so, and I can't help but feel a bit of sadness when PANGAIA says that they spent 10 years developing this puffer jacket (I pray they find other uses for this technology). Alas as more consumers inevitably indulge themselves in the trend, let's hope that they opt for wildflowers, so that at least they might help out some geese and butterflies.