New innovations in performance fabrics for the fashion lifestyle market – WWD

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The message is loud and clear from consumers: comfort and performance are what they demand in a post-pandemic world. And fabric producers have heard the call and are responding with a variety of materials and products to meet those demands.

For decades, performance fabrics have been a key ingredient in apparel for the athletic and outdoor markets, but now everything from men’s sports coats to women’s dresses uses fabrics that offer a range of features. techniques: moisture wicking, odor control, cooling properties and more. .

One of the leaders at this end of the market is Schoeller, a Swiss company with roots dating back to 1868. Stephen Kerns, president of Schoeller USA, said today that it is all about consumers looking for clothes that can meet many boxes.

“They want to present well and they also want versatility,” he said. “Outdoor brands went there some time ago, but now we see a demand for [more traditional apparel brands]. Although Schoeller has ‘always played an important role with cross brands’ like Bonobos, Theory, Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren, he said this brand new ‘suburban movement’, born out of athleisure, is creating more interest in fabrics with technical attributes that also look good.

In June, Schoeller introduced new versions of several products for spring 2023, including Dryskin, a two-way stretch fabric made from recycled polyester and Ecorepel Bio technology that wicks moisture and resists abrasion. and can be used in sports and lifestyle clothing.

The company updated its Schoeller Shape, a cotton blend made from recycled polyamide that works just as well on golf courses as it does on city streets, according to the company. It has a two-tone effect reminiscent of worn denim and 3XDry Bio technology. In addition, there is a Softight ripstop fabric created for pants in recycled polyamide and equipped with Ecorepel Bio technology that offers a high level of waterproofing and resistance to dirt, without PFCs and based on renewable raw materials.

Schoeller’s Drys fabric.

“You can use these fabrics in socks, tops and jackets,” Kerns said. “You can get caught in a dust storm and the particles won’t stick to it.”

With so many people undergoing size changes as the result of lifestyle changes brought on by a pandemic, Kerns said there is a “huge wardrobe opportunity” for clothes that stretch but don’t sacrifice. not the aesthetic appeal.

Alexa Raab, global brand and communications leader for Sorona, a high performance biobased polymer from DuPont made from 37% renewable plant ingredients, agrees. Fabrics made from Sorona provide long lasting elasticity and an alternative to spandex. They are blended with cotton, wool, silk and other fibers and also exhibit wrinkle resistance and shape recovery properties to reduce bagging and pilling so consumers can keep their clothes longer. long time.

It is also a testament to the company’s quest for sustainability. Sorona blended fabrics are certified through the company’s Common Thread certification program, which was introduced last year to ensure their partner factories meet their fabric’s key performance criteria: sustainable stretch, shape recovery. , ease of maintenance, softness and breathability. To date, some 350 factories have been certified.

“Fiber producers are able to create many unique constructions from the Sorona polymer allowing a wide variety of textiles with a variety of performance properties, from wrinkle-resistant outerwear fabrics to lightweight breathable insulation products, to permanent stretch and recovery and the newly launched Sorona faux fur, ”said Renee Henze, Director of Global Marketing, DuPont Biomaterials.

“We are seeing people who want more comfortable clothing, but who are also aligning themselves with companies with ethically and responsibly sourced fabrics,” Raab added. Already Sorona has made inroads in home products and is used in quilts. In February, the company teamed up with Thindown, the first and only 100% down fabric, on a blend material that offers warmth, lightness and breathability in addition to the softness, drape and stretch of Sorona. In August, Puma introduced the Future Z 1.2, the first laceless football boot that uses Sorona threads on the upper.

Puma football boot

Puma’s slip-on football boots feature Sorona fibers.

For Raab, the sky is the limit in terms of applications for the product. “The hope is that we will continue to see applications for Sorona in sportswear, costumes, swimwear and other products,” she said.

Steve Layton, president of Polartec, now owned by Milliken & Co., has also seen increased interest lately. “The good news is that comfort and performance are our fundamental reason for being,” he said of the brand, which in 1981 invented the synthetic PolarFleece fleece as an alternative to wool. “Before, we were confined to the outdoor market, but what we invented for the top of the mountain is now being used in different ways.

He cited Dudley Stephens, a women’s essentials brand focused on recycled fabrics, as an example. Polartec also works with Moncler, Stone Island, Reigning Champ, Veilance and other fashion brands.

With these brands, aesthetics play a major role, Layton said, as they seek weightless warmth, elasticity, moisture wicking and softness for their designer clothing offerings. life. One of the most popular is Power Air, a knitted fabric that encapsulates air to retain heat and reduce microfiber loss, which he says “has taken off.” While PowerAir was initially offered with a flat finish on the outside and bubble construction on the inside, some lifestyle brands wanted the bubbles on the outside as a design element. “So for our next generation, we’ll build it with different geometries,” he said.

Sustainability is also an ongoing initiative for Polartec. In July, the company said it had eliminated PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in its DWR (durable water repellency) treatments across its entire range of performance fabrics. PFAS are human-made chemicals that do not break down and can remain and cause damage to the environment and the human body.

“Going forward, we’ll be putting a lot of effort into maintaining peak performance, but rethinking the fibers we use to be more bio-based,” Layton said. “Achieving PFAS-free treatments within our product line is an important step in our commitment to sustainably manufactured performance fabrics. “

Chad Bolick, vice president of global key accounts at Unifi, said the company’s Repreve recycled polyester fiber meets the demand for comfort, performance and durability and can be used in a variety of products, from apparel and footwear to home furnishings. It is also an “instant replacement for standard virgin polyester,” he said.

“Products made with Repreve offer the same quality and performance characteristics as products made with non-recycled polyester – they are just as soft and comfortable, and can be made with the same performance additions such as elasticity, moisture management, thermal regulation, water resistance and more, “explained Bolick. In addition, it reduces energy consumption by 45%, water consumption by almost 20% and greenhouse gas emissions of more than 30%.

Repress

Repreve is used in different sportswear applications.
Courtesy of Headsweats

Unifi also offers other products aimed at the performance market, including ChillSense, a new technology that, when integrated into the fiber, allows tissues to transfer body heat faster, creating a feeling of freshness. Another is TruTemp365, which works on hot days to draw moisture away from the body and also provides insulating properties for cold days.

In addition to performance, Bolick said sustainability will continue to gain in importance.

“Consumers continue to demand more performance attributes in the products they buy, while maintaining comfort,” he said. “But they also demand that durability comes with increased performance. Consumers are part of a highly connected world. Increasingly, they understand that we have large plastic swirls in our oceans, they understand that our natural resources are being depleted and, as a result, they have a heightened awareness of the importance of protecting our environment for future generations. . Our customers understand that consumers expect them to be part of this solution.

But it’s not just synthetic fabrics that are evolving to meet growing consumer demand and sustainability. Stuart McCullough, Managing Director of The Woolmark Company, highlighted the “inherent benefits” of merino wool for providing comfort and performance.

“Today’s consumers are looking for brands with integrity and concern for the environment. Merino wool is not only a luxury ingredient for designer fashion, it is an innovative and eco-friendly solution for versatile everyday fashion and sportswear and since the onset of COVID-19, consumer demand for lounge wear and commute clothing increased. McCullough said.

At the start of the pandemic, he added, merino wool loungewear saw its popularity rise as people worked from home. Now that they are back, woolen commuter clothing, which allows them to bypass public transport and walk, run or cycle to work, has also proven to be popular.

To capitalize on this, Woolmark’s tech team is working with leading footwear and apparel brands to extend the reach of fiber in performance footwear such as the APL tech knit runner, he said. . Knitwear design company Studio Eva x Carola recently presented a prototype collection of women’s cycling clothing in seamless technical merino wool using merino wool yarns from the Südwolle Group made on a Santoni knitting machine.

Looking ahead, McCullough said he believes demand for a more sustainable system will be the driving force going forward.

“There are a lot of pressures for the textile and fashion industry to switch to a more sustainable system,” he said. “These pressures are forcing brands and manufacturers to rethink their material strategies and choose fibers that have less impact on the environment. Australian wool is inherently circular and provides a solution for sustainable textile development.

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