Down has been used for centuries as an insulation for garments and bedding where maximum warmth was required. Even then, down has always been a by-product from animals used for food. And in all this time nothing has been developed that comes close to the warmth or sustainability of down. It also has the unique ability to retain its loft and performance for many many years. In many ways, down is the antithesis of the plastic fast fashion so prevalent in the marketplace today.
Today, down is collected from farms and collectors following the raising of these birds for sustenance. The value of the down and feathers in this supply chain are estimated at between 2% and 5% of the value of the bird. An overwhelming amount of the value comes from the meat. This is why no birds are simply raised for their down alone.
Down is a very small part of the bird growing as an undercoat on the belly of the birds under a layer of feathers. It’s important to note that down is NOT the same as a feather. It has a completely different and unique structure that helps keep the birds warm.
The shape and construction of the down cluster is critical when it comes to providing the loft, warmth, compressibility and durability it is known for. And while many synthetic alternatives have tried to mimic the shape of the down cluster, nothing has yet to come close. The down cluster is three dimensional and contains thousands of filaments radiating from a central point. Each of these filaments has nodes that act to interlock with other clusters trapping large pockets of air.
The trapped air is what insulates and is why down has such a high performing warmth to weight ratio. And with no quill, the cluster has the unique ability to compress completely and the resiliency to regain its dimensionality.
Fill Power is simply a measurement of loft measuring the amount of air trapped in cubic inches per 30 grams of down.
Different lofts / fill powers are determined by the strength and size of the down clusters. Smaller down clusters will trap less air and thus, have a lower fill power.
Fill Power has traditionally been used as a qualitative number, however, the way a product is designed and filled will all be over-riding determining factors for overall performance. While different fill powers will have different warmth ratings, one can use a either create a warmer product using a higher loft down with the same amount of fill weight - or - use less of the higher fill power down for a product producing the same weight but increased compressibility.
Today, products are designed with a number of different fabrics and varying baffle sizes. For a small baffle, the bigger down cluster of a high fill power down may actually not be able to loft appropriately. In many cases now, fill power has nothing to do with performance. A small baffle will provide more consistency, warmth, durability and comfort.
Not all down is created equal
The larger the bird, the larger and stronger the down cluster will be. This is one reason why Goose down is normally referred to as the finest. There are supply chains now where larger duck can be sourced from providing extremely high fill power rivaling the finest Goose down.
The fat and oils in the Goose down cluster are different from the Duck and do provide more resiliency for products requiring extreme compressibility.
While most down (approximately 80%) comes from China, the birds in Europe tend to be larger species raised in colder climes. This allows the birds from those regions to grow slightly stronger down clusters. However, again, with our robust sourcing practices, we have been able to source almost equal quality from China as we can in Europe.
Sourcing is only one part of what makes down a quality insulation. The material can come from the best sources, but if it is mishandled during processing, it can lose the compressibility and durability it is known for.
Down is comprised of Keratin, the same protein as our hair. Similar care has to be taken to keep it from becoming brittle yet remaining clean.
While many processors can clean their down quickly, doing so with harsh chemicals, bleach and fast drying all not only harm the down, but the environment as well. ALLIED’s DURAWASH processing is incredibly complex and uses the most environmentally friendly detergent available. It allows all ALLIED down to not only be one of the best insulators on the planet, but also amongst the most sustainable.
The Down Allergy Myth
Many people claim they are allergic to down. While there is a real known allergy, it is extremely rare. Almost every person that exhibits allergic reactions to down are not reacting to the down itself, but on unclean down. That is why it is critical to care for your down products properly.Down Care Tips