“We are the product of our environment” – How the Italian Alps inspire Salewa’s dedication to natural mountain performance
The Italian outdoor brand Salewa doesn’t need to look far for inspiration. The company’s headquarter lies in the city of Bolzano, the gateway to the spectacular Dolomites mountain range in the Alps. It is here the brand tests its latest mountain clothing innovations and draws ideas from the surrounding natural landscapes and peaks.
We spoke with Thomas Aichner, Marketing Director Salewa, about how the Dolomites continue to influence the brand’s mission, values and product development.
Polygiene: Please describe your brand’s mission and values.
Salewa’s vision is to enable future generations of mountaineers to enjoy their personal pure mountain experience. Our mission is to develop the most advanced and aesthetic mountain equipment for our customers. Our main values are intrinsically linked – the responsibility for nature and ourselves, and our love for the mountains.
Polygiene: What makes Salewa unique?
We are the product of our environment. Our home is the gateway to the Dolomites. Everything we do is influenced by their beauty, the opportunities they present and the values they inspire. The Dolomites have shaped generations of alpinists, climbers and mountain lovers. We stand in the tradition of this holistic experience and seek to pass it on to future generations. This is what makes our brand unique.
Polygiene: What are the main elements you pay attention to when designing a new Salewa product?
There are three main elements: first is the fit of the product for the activity that it is made for; second is the quality of the materials, which guarantee a high functionality and long life of the product; third is an aesthetic which combines technical needs with an outstanding design.
Polygiene: What are your most important recent product innovations?
Our most important innovations concern design topics such as our punched products for better transpiration and fabrics like our new Dryton quality, which combines natural fibres with recycled polyester. Both innovations are part of our new speed hiking collection which aims to provide light, breathable and quick-drying products.
Polygiene: What are the main global markets for your products?
Traditionally it is Central Europe, as we are based in the middle of the Alps. Currently, we’re growing in Eastern and Northern Europe as well as in the US and some Asian countries like South Korea.
Polygiene: What are your sustainability goals and what are you doing to become a more eco-friendly brand?
Our sustainability goals touch on social and ecological topics. They are strongly connected because ecological problems are the main driver for social problems and also the other way round.
Salewa has been awarded Leader status by Fair Wear Foundation, confirming that we are making an outstanding commitment to ensuring fair working conditions at our suppliers. Our brand only uses factories where social rights are monitored regularly.
On the ecological side, we have completely eliminated the use of PFCs from all our own fabrics. We are using natural and recycled fabrics wherever possible, and taking the same approach to our packaging and hangtags. Currently we’re building a major care and repair program, as we are convinced that long-living products make an important contribution to reducing energy and waste. Finally, we are pursuing various circular economy projects, such as using locally sourced wool for our TirolWool insulation for jackets.
The most sustainable Salewa products are marked with the ‘Salewa Committed’ icon, acting as a guide for the consumer.
Polygiene: Where did the idea of adding anti-odor technology to your products come from? Why did you choose to partner with Polygiene?
The idea came from our own experience that strong odors affect the quality of a product negatively. We and our customers spend long days outside and do multi-day hikes, and in these circumstances you want to feel fresh, even after sweating. It’s about more wearing and less washing.
A growing range of our products, including hoodies, vests, jackets, shorts, T-shirts, caps and hats, are being treated with Polygiene Stays Fresh BioStatic™ technology.
Polygiene: How is your partnership with Polygiene helping you meet your sustainability goals?
We really appreciate Polygiene’s vision to change the way we look at clothes: from fast consumables to durables. We also share their view that everybody has to contribute a part in order to stop climate change: suppliers, producers and the final consumer.
Specifically, Polygiene supports us to create products that can be washed less, saving energy and water and helping them last for a longer time.
Polygiene: What future plans do you have for your brand as a whole, and for your partnership with Polygiene in particular?
Generally speaking, we follow our vision to enable future generations to enjoy the mountains. We’ll continue to develop technical products with a high-quality standard, which are durable, versatile and have the minimum possible ecological impact. Of course we need partners with similar visions and goals to achieve these aims and Polygiene is one of them. Therefore, our plan is to continue the cooperation and maybe go in deeper on important aspects like communication.
Polygiene: Are you planning to use more recycled materials in your future collections?
We’re always searching for recycled materials, that are still recyclable at their end of life and meet our technical expectations. It is very important to look closely at all aspects like the energy consumption of the recycling process, the durability of the material and its technical performance. Only this way can we satisfy the users’ expectations, guarantee a long product life and reduce a product’s impact in a significant way.