Undoubtedly, one of the biggest trends for the FW 12/13 season is water repellent down, available from several outdoor industry manufacturers. Sierra Designs just released their full line of DriDown apparel to match the sleeping bags launched earlier this summer, while competing water repellent down supplier DownTek is showing up in gear from numerous big name outdoor brands such as Big Agnes, Brooks Range, and Mountain Hardwear.
Normally not one to follow the crowd, Patagonia has chosen to instead partner with advanced materials company AeonClad Coatings to develop a patented, environmentally sustainable, plasma-based coating to create their own water repellent down. To ensure the technology remains proprietary to Patagonia, the company took a 15% equity stake in AeonClad, sealing the deal. The two companies have gone so far as to establish an R&D laboratory in Austin, Texas, where they will explore what else can be done with the technology.
Called Encapsil, Patagonia's water repellent down is based on a plasma nanotechnology that uses safe, silicone-based chemistry free of fluorocarbons. Patagonia's Encapsil technology can not only make down water repellent, but can also deliver a 1000-fill power down, something normally unheard of due to price and shortage of ethically sourced down supply.
Encapsil technology uses a proprietary process and equipment that safely and dramatically increases the down feather's loft, warmth-to-weight-ratio, strength, and water repellency. The unique pulse-plasma treatment modifies the molecular structure of the down fiber to make it more hydrophobic, but also strengthens its structure, boosting the down lofting power by more than a third.
Patagonia's first Encapsil water repellent down garments will debut March 1, 2013 in limited, special-edition quantities online and in select Patagonia retail stores across the US, Europe and Japan.