Down is an insulating material with a high warmth-to-weight ratio.

closeup of down feathers.

About

Down is the layer of fine feathers found under tougher exterior feathers, usually obtained from the breast area of geese and ducks. It’s extremely light, compressible, breathable, vapor permeable, and durable. It can also expand after having been stored or compressed. The quality of down is measured by fill rating or loft, and this is expressed in terms of the volume that one ounce of down occupies. Fluffier down has higher loft.

Challenges

There are concerns about animal welfare in down production.

Being both biodegradable and recyclable, down poses few environmental risks. However, there are concerns about the standard of animal welfare in the production of down. Down is often described as a by-product of waterfowl raised for meat, but animal rights groups have shown that some suppliers engage in live plucking in order to harvest more down from a single bird. There are also worries that down feathers can be taken from birds that have been force-fed to make foie gras.

down feather on the ground.
Solutions

We’re pushing for higher animal welfare standards across the industry.

Brands should commit to source virgin down from certified sources and explore the potential for recycled down. It isn’t usually possible to track recycled down back to its source, so there’s little visibility on animal welfare going back to production. But brands can reduce emissions, and so recycling is important. It’s also an effective way to increase the lifespan of a material and it contributes to circularity.

ducks on the bank of a body of water.
Resources

Dive deeper into down production

RDS

Our industry standard for down

Several years ago we pioneered the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) in collaboration with The North Face. It aims to make sure that down and feathers come from animals that have not been subjected to unnecessary harm. Education, through the RDS and other means, will encourage organizations to adopt progressive animal welfare practices. The standard also gives companies and consumers a way to know what’s in the products they buy.

down feathers.
MATERIALS PRODUCTION DASHBOARD

Get the latest data

You can access our latest data on production volume for down in our Materials Production Dashboard.

closeup of down feathers.

Find the answers to common questions about down

If you have a question, get in touch with us directly, and we’ll be happy to answer it for you.

Other Animal Fibers and Materials

Sheep wool is the most common animal fiber used in the fashion and textile industry.

Leather is made from the hide or skin of animals.

Other animal fibers used in the fashion and textile industry include mohair, cashmere, and alpaca.