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Arc'teryx makes all-weather capes for homeless

by Alicia MacLeay
December 27, 2011

Arc’teryx is known for its high-end outdoor apparel, but the company doesn't believe staying warm and dry should be a luxury.

For the third year, the North Vancouver, B.C., company has turned its end-of-roll and discontinued Gore-Tex fabrics into outdoor necessities: all-weather capes for the homeless and disadvantaged.

The Birds Nest Project is a collection of Arc’teryx employees who donate their time over three weekends to sew and assemble the capes at the company’s Burnaby, B.C., factory. The 65 to 70 volunteers come from all areas of the company and are led by a core of volunteer in-house professional sewers. Over three Sundays, team members produce more than 700 Gore-Tex capes.

In December, the windproof, waterproof capes were given to Harvest Project in North Vancouver and Salvation Army Harbour Light in Vancouver for distribution to the homeless and disadvantaged.

The cape idea originated with Arc'teryx's Green Committee as a way to deal with excess fabric and prevent it from ending up in a landfill. In 2009, the Birds Nest Project produced about 300 capes. In 2010, the number increased to 560. This December, more than 705 capes were distributed.

The cape originally was designed by Tara Latham and Sean Wood of Arc'teryx and has seen some small improvements to make it as simple and weatherproof as possible.

"It was designed to drape over backpacks and belongings specifically with our end user in mind," said Joanne Mayzes, one of three Birds Nest Project leaders, along with Nancy Fedoruk and Kristi Birnie. "It was also made as a one-size-fits all to accommodate more people. We have had very good feedback on how it has performed precisely for what we had hoped it would."

The capes come in both a non-insulated and an insulated style and a variety of colors, but otherwise are essentially the same with minor changes during the assembly process to include all levels of sewers, says Mayzes. Each cape fastens with a drawstring and Velcro and can be rolled out into a blanket and packed up into a bundle for easy carrying.

Arc'teryx employees also benefit from collaborating on the Birds Nest Project, says Mayzes. "A couple of comments that stuck out for me were one by a head office employee about how much they enjoyed having an opportunity to work with coworkers from the factory whom they would not normally have the opportunity to work with.

"And the second from an employee who made the comment that would like to continue to stay at the factory longer to finish up more capes after having worked almost eight hours on a Sunday already."


(All images courtesy of Arc'teryx)