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Barbour Celebrates a Century of Sustainability

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  • JWN

Originally called “re-oiling,” Barbour’s re-waxing services first appeared in the company’s catalogue in 1921 when Malcolm Barbour, a member of the second generation of the Barbour family, began offering customers the ability to send in jackets or purchase an at-home kit to re-oil them. Today, Malcolm Barbour’s vision remains an integral part of the company’s sustainability strategy.

Barbour’s re-waxing services keep a jacket’s color bold while restoration can keep the fabric from showing wear so that the garment will stay close to its original color and finish. At the same time, by maintaining the oil on the jacket to keep it weather-resistant, the wearer can extend the longevity and ensure continued use for years and even be handed down through generations.

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Now, celebrating 100 years of sustainable services, the company said it is a “testament to Malcolm’s legacy that he had the vision to understand the importance of re-oiling these jackets.” And the belief in making products that last continues to be passed down through generations of the Barbour family and as an important part of the Barbour company’s ethos.

“Our company mission is to build a long-term, sustainable business honoring our Barbour family values and rich British heritage providing excellent quality products and world-class customer service whilst minimizing our impact on the environment,” said Paul Wilkinson, managing director at USA, Barbour. “Sustainability and extending the life of your products has always been part of the brand’s history and heritage.”

Notably, Wilkinson told WWD, Barbour’s re-waxing is also one of the most effective ways to minimize a jacket’s impact on the environment.

Sustainability is one of our six overarching company values [that] every employee is introduced to when they join the business and they are part of our daily working life,” Wilkinson said. “Our Sustainability value focuses on us all acting responsibly and minimizing our impact on the environment so it can be enjoyed by future generations.”

Last year, roughly 60,000 jackets a year were re-waxed globally by Barbour’s specialist customer service teams, and over the last 12 months, more than 100,000 tins of wax were sold for consumers to re-wax at home — which Wilkinson told WWD was an increase in demand from previous years.

To raise awareness of the benefits of re-waxing and extending the life of their jackets to Barbour’s customers, the company launched the very first Wax for Life station in Selfridges in London in October 2020 as part of the retailer’s Project Earth campaign.

“The response to our Wax for Life program has been excellent and we have received many positive comments from our customers,” Wilkinson said. “They understand the proposition and the longevity message is an important part of their decision making in purchasing the brand.”

In fact, following the well-received response by customers, Barbour will be rolling out Wax for Life stations outside of the U.K. this year. Orvis and Nordstrom will house the stations in the U.S. and Hirmer will unveil a station in Germany. Wilkinson said more locations are planned for the future.

Called the Rewax Factory, Nordstrom will house the four-week installations beginning on Sept. 20 in six stores including Chicago, Seattle, D.C. Metro and Pennsylvania. At the Rewax Factory, customers can bring their Barbour jackets for re-waxing at no cost and learn about best practices when using Barbour’s at-home wax tin. Additionally, if a customer purchases a Barbour jacket at the Rewax Factory, they will receive a complementary re-wax at the company’s Rewax and Repair facility after one year of wear.

“We are keen to educate our customers that buying a Barbour wax jacket is a sustainable choice and an investment piece,” Wilkinson said. “If it is re-waxed at least once a year with regular use, it will last a long, long time making it excellent value for money. We have developed our Wax for Life program, which is the overarching name for all of our wax services; this includes re-waxing and repairs, Barbour Re-Loved, customization and in-store Wax for Life stations.”

Barbour’s Re-Loved program is the company’s upcycling/recycling program that takes jackets returned by customers who no longer require them. The jackets are restored and repaired so that they can be “re-loved” by a new owner.

“Quite often, when customers send their jackets back to us, they include stories, such as why and when they purchased the jacket, what it was used for, and how, in some cases, it’s been handed down through generations of the same family,” Wilkinson said. “It’s lovely to read these stories and to build up a picture of the history of their jacket.”

Wilkinson told WWD that Barbour has seen an escalation as interest in the outdoor category and sustainability continue to rise in the U.S.

“We have, through our social channels, particularly in the U.S., seen more people sharing images and embracing the ‘Barbour Way of Life’,” Wilkinson said. “[They’re] enjoying the simple things, such as spending time with family and friends, getting outdoors and connecting with nature. Through our Wax for Life program, we re-wax and repair approximately 20,000 jackets a year in the U.S., a figure that is growing.”

As a brand that has been successfully integrating sustainable practices for more than 100 years, Wilkinson said a key takeaway for other brands to follow is to “be authentic.”

“Our Wax for Life program is authentic and unique to Barbour,” he said. “Barbour is renowned for its wax products and through Wax for Life, we can demonstrate that owning a wax jacket and regularly re-waxing it and then recycling it through Barbour Re-Loved makes it a very sustainable choice.”