Down FAQs | A Conversation with Jo-Anne Christmas

We sat down with Jo-Anne Christmas, Down Product Manager at St Geneve, and asked her some of our most frequently asked questions about down, feathers, duvets, and staying cozy!

Q: First of all, tell us a little about what you do at St. Geneve:
J: I am the Down Product Manager and what that means is that I am in charge of all things fluffy! I’ve been working at St.Geneve for 28 years.

I love down because I am passionate about natural products and down is such a tactile experience. Working at St.Geneve is great because I like to make things to best they can be. It’s great to work for a company that doesn’t scrimp on quality and where I have their full support in doing making the best down products in the world.

Q: Let’s start with an easy question – what is down?
J: Down is soft under plumage of waterfowl. It is a soft insulating layer underneath the feathers. Unlike feathers, it doesn’t have a quill running through it and it looks more like a dandelion puff, with thousands of little filaments coming off of a center point. These filaments interlock and capture warm air, which is what makes down such a great insulator!

Q: Where should a person start when shopping for a down product?
J: There are a lot of factors that go into a good quality down but, for most people, the most important factors are loft and reputation.

Loft – also known as fill power – is a good indicator of quality. Typically, the higher the loft, the higher the quality. When looking for a good product that’s going to last you a while, we recommend a minimum of 600 and 800+ will be absolutely delightful.

Loft is the physical measure of how many cubic inches one ounce of down fills. The higher quality downs are much fluffier, which means we need less weight to fill a duvet. A down that is light and fluffy is generally what we look for when evaluating quality duvets. In addition, higher loft usually means that the down clusters are more mature and will last longer.

Exceptions to the “higher is better” rule of thumb for loft are James Bay (Wild Canada Goose) and Eiderdown. They each have a loft of around 700, but because they have an amazing cling, they insulate like a down with a 900-1000 loft.

Second, I think finding a company with a good reputation is essential. Do research and look into the history of the company, ensure they are authentic. If they are a member of a quality association, like the Down Association of Canada, that is a good indication that they have a good reputation. Associations, like the Down Association of Canada, audit their members and make sure that they are fulfilling their promise to the customers.

So, once you have found a company that you can trust, my best advice is to buy the best quality you can afford. More mature, higher quality down will last longer and insulate better.

If you can, don’t forget to feel the down product before purchasing. Quality down should be light, fluffy, and warm. Feel it. Scrunch it. Hug it. Pinch it. It should feel heavenly as you sink your weight into it, but should bounce back. It should be soft, without any crunchy or itchy sensations (you’re looking for down, not feathers!). You should also remember: if the price sounds to good to be true, it usually is.

Q: What is your personal favourite product in the St. Geneve down line?
J: I love Eiderdown. It has such an amazing story behind it: it is hand-collected from the nests of wild Canadian Eider ducks and is an amazing example of sustainability. The harvest of eider down actually supports conservation efforts. It’s also fun to touch, an amazing tactile experience.
My favorite product to use, however, is the Embassy duvet. It is 1000 loft Polish White Goose Down and it is incredibly fluffy and unbelievably light.
It settles around you and it’s like being cocooned in a cloud of warmth.

Q: What duvet do you recommend to shoppers who are looking for the best, but can’t justify the price of a premium down like Eider, James Bay, or Embassy?
J: My friends and family ask this all the time! And my first question is ‘what’s your budget?’ The two I recommend most often are the Ziegler and the Lajord.

Our Ziegler duvet is still on the higher end for price, but it’s a beautiful 850 loft Polish White Goose down in a lovely cotton ticking that uses Vital Finish and is OEKO-TEX certified.

If they want to work in their budget and still get something wonderful, I recommend the Lajord. It is an 850 loft White Goose Down. The down is Canadian, from community-operated Hutterite farms. The ticking is still a lovely OEKO-TEX certified cotton.

For pillows, though, it’s impossible to make a recommendation without determining your needs. It’s such a personal choice and body size, sleeping position, mattress type, and personal preference all factor in. You can always reach out to one of our fabulous retailers for help choosing your next pillow!

Q: What about for designers/decorators who are looking to order bulk duvets for building or hospitality industries.
J: Well, assuming that the project requires good quality but has a tight budget, I would suggest looking at our entry-level duvets, like Laroche or Montreaux. They are entry-level meaning the loft is on the lower side (600 and 675, respectively), but still meets our stringent standards with the quality of the fill and the ticking. It’s going to be a really nice duvet!

Q: Are people really allergic to down and feather products?
J: A genuine down and feather allergy is extremely rare. Many people think they are allergic to down or feathers, but the truth is they are allergic to the dust, pollen, dust mite leavings, etc.  Independent product testing conducting by the Down Association of Canada has actually found a several commercial products that are being sold with uncleaned feathers and down. YUCK. All St.Geneve down and feathers have been treated according to the Zurguard standard, which renders them hypoallergenic.

Q: How do I care for and wash my new duvet?
J: First, care for your duvet by taking care not to set heavy items on it, by laying on it, or letting your dog lay on it (sorry, Rover!). This will help prevent the down from flattening out over time.
Second, the best way to wash your duvet is to not have to wash it and by keeping it clean! Always use a duvet cover and wash the cover often!
When it’s time to wash it, we strongly recommend taking it to a dry cleaner. Washing and drying such a large item at home can be extremely cumbersome. But, if you need to wash it at home, we have great information on our website and a video that walks you through everything you need to know.

Q: Aside from a good duvet, what is your favourite way to stay cozy? 
J: A good cup of tea and snuggles on the sofa, watching cheesy holiday movies with my kids. My favourite tea right now is a fantastic cream Earl Grey tea that I picked up at a craft fair from a local Vancouver maker called Tea Lani. It is flavoured with lavender and marigold and is absolutely magical.