German trade publication Outdoor.markt held its annual Trophy Awards in Munich this month at the new Outdoor by ISPO trade fair. The ‘Outdoor Oscar’ for Personality of the Year was presented to Nick Brown, owner and founder of Nikwax and Páramo, for over 40 years of pioneering and driving change within the industry.
I met him over 40 years ago at the UK’s annual outdoor trade show in Harrogate as he wandered through the subterranean halls trailing a shopping trolley of footwear care product; he was weird but authentic. It was evident he would be a disruptive force to be reckoned with and probably be regarded with suspicion. So it proved to be.
At a later press event, I was the only journalist to show up but such was his focus that he made his presentation with energy and passion. It was no surprise to see Nikwax product prominent in Beijing outdoor retailers over 30 years later.
Nick’s actions and own company development was decades ahead of the industries as he shared academic rigour on product development and challenged brands to consider sustainability in their business models long before CSR became a key part of outdoor brands’ strategies.
Before presenting Nick’s award, Vitus Wuhrer, son of Vaude founder Albrecht von Dewitz, gave an impassioned and heartfelt speech. He described Nick as a ‘maverick’ in the industry, for being “non-conformist, a trendsetter, free spirit and a brave hero.”
He noted, “Nick built Nikwax with an extraordinarily high level of social and ecological consideration at its core. His range of products are water-based, instead of using harmful and flammable solvents. He also never used PFCs in his treatments, which is amazing.
“Today, the list of what he has achieved is impressive with lots of firsts and onlys. He started Páramo Outdoor Clothing in the ‘90s, again built on high social standards, in South America. This brand was the first to sign the Greenpeace Detox commitment. These are two very successful brands driven by his pioneering spirit and are two leading lights in, and inspiration for, the global outdoor industries.
“Not only that, he is also a driving force in other environmentally engaged organisations. He is one of the founding members of European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) and is one of the ambassadors of the World Land Trust.”
On accepting the award Nick said, “I feel immensely honoured to be receiving the award, in particular as I am known in the industry as a true troublemaker for challenging each and every brand to become green and transparent in their actions. I am overwhelmed, but particularly overwhelmed to hear Vitus’ speech, that could not have been better. Thank you all so much.”