Goldwin Inc. has a long history of exploring cutting–edge technologies to make products for skiing and outdoor activities. The “Goldwin” brand is continuing this legacy of research and investigation into the future potential of natural resources. Down is one of these resources. Goldwin is now working with new technologies to sustain its value and 100-year material lifespan.

Edited by PAPERSKY

“People can live better lives by utilizing the functionality of natural resources.” Goldwin is implementing this concept in its design and material development to create products that offer maximum performance in outdoor fields with minimum impact on the environment.

While there are numerous high–performance synthetic materials out there, natural resources are often ‘irreplaceable when it comes to material selection’. And down, which we use in our ski and outdoor products, is one of them.

“The fascinating thing about down is its low weight and outstanding heat–retention capacity. It’s an incredible material with superior moisture absorption/desorption properties that naturally adjusts to different humidity levels. Moreover, down feathers are made of beta keratin, a strong fibrous protein with outstanding durability that can last for 100 years. In addition to its lightness and durability, down packs away easily and has high compression recovery, which makes it the ideal material for use in harsh outdoor environment.”

From ski and outdoors to everyday use. “Down is irreplaceable in many situations,” says Yu Kuroda.

Yu Kuroda from Goldwin’s product development team, explains how down is used in many products designed for categories including ski, outdoor and lifestyle this season. Every single item makes use of leading technologies and expertise to optimize the ability of down.

The shaped baffle construction keeps the down in place. Eliminating cold spots and increasing overall heat retention.

“We apply the expertise we have accumulated through our long history in developing ski apparel. And select materials and create designs that optimize the characteristics of down. For example, we apply a shaped baffle construction to keep the down in place to maximize heat retention. There are also hidden details, such as inside down handwarmer pockets for additional protection against the cold and down volume adjustment options for better functionality.”

The Fly Air Down Jacket (left) and Down Cardigan (right) are designed with less down volume for better packability. Down volume is precisely controlled depending on the product.

We also use a hybrid material made of down combined with KODENSHI® in Goldwin products. This development is a result of advanced research into material functionality. “KODENSHI® is a high–tech material made with ceramic microparticles embedded into fibers, which warm your microclimate using far–infrared radiation (FIR) emitted by the human body. Combining KODENSHI® and down enables enhanced heat-retention with less volume. We tend to use KODENSHI® down for products made for less intense activities and lifestyle items and apply pure down in products for more active situations because of its excellent moisture/temperature control capability.”

A close up of KODENSHI® down made by combining KODENSHI® fibers and down. The mix gives superior heat–retention.

Down is a high–performance natural material. Yet it’s position today is a matter of concern. Toshikatsu Kawada, CEO of KAWADA Feather, a leading down expert manufacturer with a unique feather washing technology, is deeply concerned about the future of down.

“First of all, feathers are a by–product of poultry production. In the past, the growth periods for waterfowl was long enough for them to reach full maturity. Mature poultry means mature feathers, so strong and durable high–quality feathers were readily available. However, the focus has shifted to increase economic activity. As a result, many farms are now cutting the growth period to half of what it used to be. Consequently, collecting high–quality down is becoming increasingly difficult, as the feathers are immature. This is the issue down is facing today.”


Down collected from all over the country.

Given the difficult situation for sourcing down due to decreasing quality, KAWADA Feather initiated a down recycling project. The project collects down products from the 1980s and 1990s when high–quality down was used in large quantities. It then washes and restores the material to revive it to its high–quality state so that it can be recycled. KAWADA Feather’s advanced washing technology has made it possible to revive down to a level comparable to virgin down.

“Our base, Meiwa-city in Mie prefecture, is the place we found in our search for ultimate location to process feathers. Its dry climate and the soft water from the Odaigahara mountains enable the perfect washing process required for high–quality down.”

The KAWADA Feather washing process: “After removing any dust and residue in the dust extractor, the feathers go into a huge drum–type washing machine.

In this facility, all dust, dirt and residue is completely removed by the cutting–edge washing technology they developed over the years. The KAWADA Feather washing technique uses natural soft water and creates complex water currents that rub the feathers against each other, leaving them clean and polished. Clean feathers regain their shape and durability without dust or allergens, and are less likely to cause allergies. In addition, the alkalescent waters can reverse oxidation and so revive damaged parts of the feather. Washed feathers goes to the in–house lab for quality control. Only the feathers that meet very rigorous quality standards, which are stricter than the general requirements of the Japan Feather Product Association, are selected for recycling. In this way, used feathers are recycled to produce down quality equivalent to virgin down, or even better.

The sorting machine uses wind power to separate downs and feathers.

With the shared goal of “efficiently utilizing this irreplaceable resource,” Goldwin joined KAWADA Feather’s efforts and is actively incorporating recycled down into its products. The ski down jacket Kuroda referred earlier is one example of a product made using recycled down. Its down fill might be recycled, but it’s exceptionally comfortable and indistinguishable to virgin down. The product has a thought-through design and detailing that enhances the characteristics of down, such as an application of firmer outer fabric and a soft inner lining material to make the product more comfortable, and also reduce bulkiness.

Lightweight down ski jackets offer excellent heat retention and a soft feel. The products shown here use recycled down from KAWADA Feather.

Kuroda sees the future of down as follows: “Goldwin currently only uses two kinds of down; recycled and KODENSHI®. We are developing a new material with characteristics similar to down, but there is no high–performance material that can replace it yet. Mastering hybrid production of down and new materials, while actively recycling older down will help protect and sustain this unsurpassable resource. This is how we intend to move forward with down in the future.”

“We plan to facilitate an environment where people become more involved with recycling. For instance, by awareness activities through our recycled down products to promote longer use of down products. We also want to inspire the younger generation to play in the snow and recognize the brilliance of down material to increase their awareness for recycling. Because nature provides us with many resources, and we believe it is our duty to do our best to sustain them.”

Moving towards a sustainable future by recycling valuable resources. Sustainable products from Goldwin might inspire you to rethink your way with down.

Pre-recycled down (left) and recycled down (right) - it’s easy to see that volume increases during the washing/reviving process.

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