On 30 June to 3 July 2019, the European Outdoor Group organised its international OutDoor fair together with the ISPO fair organizers. OutDoor by ISPO is the annual exhibition for brands selling products catered to hiking, trail running, climbing, water sports or camping. This year the fair registered 1.018 exhibitors from 35 countries and more than 22.000 visitors from around 90 different countries. OutDoor by ISPO is smaller compared to the International Sports and Outdoor fair held at the beginning of each year but has some overlap of brands. Therefore, the Outdoor fair also had a lot of wool on display, more specifically merino wool as next to skin garments.
Sustainability is a must
One topic that was permanent within the whole fair was sustainability which has been recognised as a “must have” for the outdoor industry. There were many podium discussions and exhibitions about sustainability, but also many brands showcased their products made of recycled materials or natural fibres.
Individual brands within the outdoor industry have been leading the sustainability discussion on a wide array of topics for a long time but the topic seems to have now hit the mainstream. The reason for the outdoor industry to actively engage in sustainability is to their point of view pure common sense. If the outdoor environment is no longer enjoyable due to pollution and climate change, consumers will no longer have the desire to spend their time outdoors and therefore have no need for outdoor products.
Wool education is key
During the 4-day fair, the European Outdoor Group also organised educational talks and time for discussion on various topics including a full-day forum on wool. Different representatives from across the wool industry were invited to provide the latest updates on wool. The goal of the session was to educate brand representatives from the outdoor sector about wool for them to make more informed purchasing and design decisions when it comes to wool.
Dalena White from the International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) for example spoke about the severe drought situation across various wool growing countries and Elisabeth van Delden provided details about the latest research on wool Life Cycle Assessment. Company representatives from The Schneider Group, Fox & Lillie, Chargeurs, Ovis 21 and The Südwolle Group discussed their approach to more sustainability, traceability and transparency within their supply chains.
Questions from the brands during the discussion were detailed and well-informed showing that brands are devoted to understanding the complex issues and finding solutions jointly together with the wool industry. Topics on top of the brand’s minds concerned animal welfare, traceability, microfibres, superwash treatments as well as low wool prices for coarse wools. The discussions felt sincere and highly engaged. Brand representatives seemed eager to communicate and collaborate with the wool industry on driving change rather than only demanding change.
Wool has an active and important role to play for outdoor brands to reach their sustainability goals and it continues to be vital to actively engage, inform, communicate the collaborate with this part of the textile industry.