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One of the latest trends to come out of the fall 2016 fashion season is a coat that is stuffed back in almost every closet, the puff jacket.
For those who remember, the puff jacket was a major cold weather trend back in the mid-1990s. The oversized, padded coat came in colors that ranged from neon yellow to black and popularized designer names like Tommy Hilfiger to a more casual and urban demographic. Everyone from Sarah Jessica Parker to Biggie Smalls sported the style, and the jacket had a specially liking by rappers, who used the style to accentuate their baggy jeans and enlarge their overall silhouette. Since the puff jacket was first embraced by metropolitan youths, it was one of the most popular fashion trends inspired by young black men during that decade. The emergence of the style also coincided with the development of water repellent textiles, making it a coat that not only gave style but also a more unique function than its wool peer.
After years of large padded coats, a natural evolution to slimmer silhouettes developed in fashion. Although the puff jacket style never went away, it was reserved for frigid winter days where style was secondary. However, with the rise of normcore, styles have shifted.
At the latest fashion week, Balenciaga used a red Helly Hansen-like coat that was placed off the shoulders of a crystal embedded turtleneck, while DKNY went for a slick trash bag style and Burberry added lux to the trend with fur details.
Just as the rise of these trends begin to fill retail stores, there’s another factor to consider. A number of groups and publications have questioned the safety of the fabrics used on outerwear due to perfluorocarbons (PFCs), a component used to make water repel. During production, PFCs can enter into the atmosphere, which then can lead into water and eventually on the clothing. The carcinogen perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is released from PFC, has been linked to a number of diseases like cancer and reproductive problems in test lab rats.
A study from Greenpeace tested 40 pieces of outdoor clothing and found traces of PFOA in all. One of the brands tested, Patagonia, stated that the Greenpeace study was, “not accurate.” After the study was released, the company has made a public campaign in ending manufacturing that causes PFOA.
Although not at the same availability as its big name competitors, there is a non-PFC alternative for outerwear. The small brand Páramo has become the first company to offer outdoor wear that “completely eliminates PFCs from its manufacturing process.” As of today, Páramo hasn’t made a puff jacket. It appears fashionistas will have to wait or take a chance.