tested 100 recyclable techwear jacket main Houdini clean clothes outerwear
Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

Clean Clothes is a series examining the fashion industry’s impact on our planet, and the brands, technologies, and people helping us toward a cleaner, more environmentally conscious future.

Back in the day, Houdini founder Lotta Giornofelice was working as a climbing guide, bringing crews up some of Europe’s toughest routes. During a climb up the forboding Pyramide du Tacul mountain in Chamonix, France, the crew got stranded in a lethal spot. A member of the party called out “Save me, Houdini!” to invoke the spirit of the world-famous escape artist. The crew survived.

For Giornofelice, naming his Swedish label after one of the world’s most famous magician was an obvious choice. Just as it was to go green.

Between brushes with death and fighting pollution, the decision to name a performance shell “BFF” might seem trivial by comparison. But it was a choice all the same – and a significant one, at that.

Houdini’s BFF Jacket is an eco-friendly raincoat that just so happens to be a performance shell. It’s a pack-it-away commuter coat that could backpack the Andes if you asked it to. It’s described — and betrayed — by the word “sustainable,” because it’s really so much more.

Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna
Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna
Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

Force of nature

The BFF Jacket is Houdini’s most practical hardshell.

Cut from the brand’s 2.5L “Surpass” fabric, the jacket is rated waterproof to 20,000mm – meaning a 20-meter tower of water weighing 28.4 pounds could sit on a 1×1” square of the BFF and it still wouldn’t leak. If the above scenario happens to you, perhaps a practical anything is not to your lifestyle. For the rest of us, know that the BFF won’t give up even after hours in the rain.

It’s also quite comfortable.

The figure to know here is 15,000g/m^2. Without getting into the nonsense behind the numbers, the soft, stretchy Surpass fabric does a remarkable job letting vapor out. There are also zippers in high-sweat areas (read: underarms) should things really get steamy — say, during an ill-advised rainy run along Manhattan’s East River Park. It sucked. I got drenched. But after 5 miles in April showers, soaked hair and squishy shoes were my only complaints.

In short, wearing the BFF feels almost subversive: it is, quite literally, an eco-friendly jacket designed to sidestep nature.

So how the hell is it sustainable?

tested 100 recyclable techwear jacket Houdini clean clothes outerwear
Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

Return to roots

The BFF, like most Houdini products, is designed to be recycled. In 2006, the company became a partner in Eco-Circle, Japanese textile manufacturer Teijin’s closed-loop system for polyester recycling. Every fabric used in the BFF – from the recycled polyester outer to the PFC-free membrane – was made in Japan through this partnership.

As a result, the BFF is fully, completely, use-every-part-of-the-buffalo recyclable.

Wear the jacket to pieces, then simply return it to the brand. Houdini will make sure nothing goes to waste and that the raw material can be used for new products.

Sure, there are other bells and whistles – a Flourocarbon-free Durable Water Repellant coating, an audited supply chain with production in the EU – but it must be appreciated how big true circularity is.

Like it or not, it’s unrealistic that the apparel industry shifts from a consumption model. People like buying new clothes. Companies like people buying new clothes. The deck is stacked towards more and newer things.

At the same time, “new” doesn’t have to mean “new to the world.”

The itch is to buy and to be happy with buying. Vintage stores have known this for decades. Take the old, make it novel, and the consumption model driving apparel can chug along without using additional resources. However, for reasons both supply and demand, the secondhand market will always be a fraction of the clothing market as a whole.

People like buying new clothes. Imagine, then, if the “zero additional products” part of the resale space could meet the net novelty of popping tags and unworn garments.

It sounds easy enough for T-shirts. Just shred them up and spin new yarns. Now consider that Houdini has found a way to bring circular lifecycle recycling practices to advanced techwear. Does Houdini do magic? Possibly.

Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna
Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

Organic shapes

The BFF is a minimalist shell lined with hidden pockets. Styling-wise, it comes across as an uber-streamlined version of the typical tech jacket. I wear it layered on rainy spring days: a crewneck like Mission Workshop’s Gannet sweat makes for the right amount of insulation given the coat’s athletic cut.

Aggressive slash pockets and a bevy of adjustment options complete the look.

Compared to other upscale 2.5L coats – for example, Snow Peak’s Wanderlust series – the BFF’s minimalist ethos can leave something to be desired. The two perform similarly. The Houdini wins on sustainability. The Wanderlust, however, just looks damn special.

Sure, cutting out some niceties probably let Houdini make an eco-friendly shell into a performance beast. However, it’s still $400. Above a certain price, X-factors matter.

For lowkey technical fits, the BFF jacket makes a sleek, sustainable all-weather pick.

tested 100 recyclable techwear jacket Houdini clean clothes outerwear
Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

One for the planet

A minimalist tech jacket in Japanese fabrics. A backpacking shell that puts the planet first. A high-flying technical piece that just so happens to be recyclable.

Houdini’s BFF shell is all that, and more.

As far as spring jackets go, it’s hard to find one cleaner than this – let alone, anything that checks both performance and sustainability. Every label is a choice. If you’re looking for spring techwear, it’s hard to choose a better label than Houdini.

 

 

Alex Rakestraw is a writer, strategist, and creative based in New York. He covers fashion, footwear, sustainability, and tech.

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