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Stories behind the gear: Craghoppers

Craghoppers is an award-winning outdoor brand devoted to adventure. Humble by nature, the global team, who operate like family, have spent the past 56 years producing outstanding garments and driving initiatives to help people and the planet to thrive.

Sustainability has been at the forefront of Craghoppers ever since they were founded in 1965. Inspired by the windswept dales and moorland tops surrounding Batley, West Yorkshire, Brian Gaskin and Roy Holmes set out to produce the ultimate clothing for the harshest outdoor adventures. The brand’s mission today is the same as it was all those decades ago – to create sustainable, comfortable, and practical clothing to help people to stay on the trail for as long as possible.

‘The most important thing is having a guarantee for life on all our products,’ says James McNamara, brand director at Craghoppers. ‘We’ve been doing it for many years, before anyone was really talking about sustainability. This product will last a lifetime, and if it doesn’t, we will repair it or replace it.’

James McNamara has been brand director at Craghoppers for five years – he took over from his father, who retired after 25 years with the brand. James works closely with Joanne Black, owner and buying director at The Regatta Group, the family-owned outdoor company that acquired Craghoppers in 1995.
‘The brand in its history was very much about climbing, alpinism and exploration,’ James says. The founders were picked to manufacture the expedition clothing needed for Chris Bonington’s Everest expedition in 1975 – the first successful climb of one of the mountain’s faces. ‘It went from being a technical mountaineering brand to a more accessible outdoor trekking and hiking proposition.’

 
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Every season, Craghoppers refine the technology they use in their garments – technology that has seen them win a Millennium Product Award for their rucksacks, and three ISPO Awards for footwear launches and fabric innovations including the Dynamic 12000 Technology, which helps reflect the body’s infrared rays to improve stamina and enhance recovery levels.

Another of the brand’s greatest successes is NosiLife, an unrivalled anti-insect treatment made from the active ingredient permethrin, a synthetic chemical that acts like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower. Permethrin is added during the manufacturing process to lock the treatment into the fibres, repelling biting insects and helping to stop the diseases they transmit. ‘We quickly became the world leaders in that technology,’ James says. ‘We have accessible price points, which I think is massively important – NosiLife garment prices start from £10. We believe it has made a real difference to hot-climate travel.’

As hiking-trouser specialists, Craghoppers are best known for their legendary Kiwi trouser, which has gone through many iterations since its launch in 1996. The newest in the collection is the Kiwi Pro Expedition, a survivor-style expedition trouser made from 250g of recycled materials and features the brand’s SolarShield and EcoShield technologies to protect against prevailing weather conditions. ‘Just using recycled fabric here or there is only scratching the surface,’ James says. ‘We leave no stone unturned from production to shipping. Every brand wants to be the most sustainable. But it’s not an arms race between brands for who can be the best anymore. It’s just the right thing to do.’

Ever since their launch, Craghoppers have been seeking out new ways to weave sustainable practice into every thread of the brand. Their commitment to sustainability was recognised in 2020, when they were named Sustainable Brand of the Year at the Drapers Sustainable Fashion Awards. This is in part down to the huge leap in their use of recycled materials: from 12 per cent of products in Winter 2019 to 70 per cent in Winter 2020 as part of their Mindfully Made collection, which uses recycled materials, repurposed yarn, and reduced packaging. ‘We’re constantly looking at how we can leave less of a footprint. We question everything and are always evolving, innovating, and looking at how we can improve,’ James says.

 
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One of the latest innovations is using by-products of food waste. Recycled coffee beans are used in the EVA midsoles of footwear collections, and wax derived from rice bark oil is used to coat some of the jackets in the Naturally Outdoors range. Craghoppers are using responsibly sourced oyster shells. Once crushed, the shells can be added to the extrusion process when making polyester.

From reducing their carbon footprint and energy usage to having zero waste landfill, Craghoppers take their commitment to the environment seriously. Transportation, road miles, efficiency, and usage of renewable energy and water in their own facilities are measured and targeted. On an individual level, staff are invited to make five pledges for ways they can do their bit to save the environment.
This is not the only way Craghoppers put people at the heart of the business. As members of the Ethical Trade Initiative, Craghoppers continue to improve working conditions and the well-being of workers in factories all over the world. They have mapped out all major material and component supply chains to ensure full visibility across the business. ‘Our customers are interested in the way we act as a business, how we work with our partners, how we work with anyone on the supply chain,’ James says. ‘The outdoor industry is just such a beautiful community and industry to work in because it’s supportive. Everyone’s on a journey in one way or another.’

The brand runs two Social Impact Programmes: the RHEP Programme, which educates female workers in Bangladesh on health, hygiene, nutrition, and finance; and the Savah Primary School Fund, a school located in the garment factory area Dhaka, which offers life-changing education to 262 students, including 58 children with learning and physical disabilities. Craghoppers are also closely affiliated with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which aims to transform young people’s lives by helping the community, environment, developing new skills, and training for and completing expeditions. To help the conservation of endangered animals and protect our oceans, Craghoppers work with a number of partners, including Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Galapagos Conservation Trust, and Saving the Survivors.

 
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‘We have so much to be confident about and so many stories to tell. But we’re really quite a humble brand. It’s not that we have anything to hide, we’re just not a shouty brand. But there’s so much going on behind the scenes. It’s a collective effort of an evolving team of young people who are ready to take Craghoppers into the next fifty years. It’s about getting people outdoors, having those adventures, and helping people as best we can.’


For more information, visit www.craghoppers.com and find them on Instagram @craghoppers.
Written by Harriet Osborne // @harrietosborne. Photography supplied courtesy of Craghoppers.
 

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