In The Market

3 Top Technical Apparel Trends

Function meets fashion with a strong sustainability story.

Everyday styles are elevated with cooling textile technology by Brrr (Left). New looks in wool activewear on display from Designer Textiles (Right).

The latest textile innovations reflect what consumers want in their clothes these days: functionality that enhances comfort, eco-friendly features that align with personal values and some pops of fashion. Today’s textiles can offer all that and more in everything from technical t-shirts and trendy yoga pants to top-of-the line waterproof/breathable jackets.

Technology, sustainability and fashionable looks emerged as key talking points in textile discussions at the Functional Fabric Fair held recently in New York City. The trade-exclusive event showcases the latest trends in fabric development for the functional textile industry. At the Trend Forum, a main attraction at the event, more than 100 fabrications were on display that bought these three elements into focus. While the underlying science of performance technology remains a serious driver in textile development, new fabrications are alive with color, shine, and texture that bring a fun factor into play without sacrificing performance tech. And across the board execs in the textile community agree: planet-saving eco textile solutions are the future for the industry.

Today’s Tech & Eco Matters

Temperature regulating textile technology continues to advance. For example, cooling through yarn construction in next-to-skin fabrics takes humidity away from the body to increase comfort. “Cooling is comfort,” states Molly Kremidas, of Brrr, a firm specializing in cooling technology for textiles. Dirk Kuenan of Outlast Technologies, provider of phase change materials that adapt to temperature fluctuation, adds that in the age of climate change, “cooling comfort” is a priority.

Cooling tech is tops in tops for next season with classic shirt fabrics such as seersucker, stripes and tartans updated with contemporary material functionality with additional comfort gained through strech blends. For pants, lightweight durability is important for trekking as well as travel.

Growing consumer interest in wellness brings to market yarns infused with healthy benefits such as collagen and Cupro — a natural skin-enhancing copper ingredient. And smart engineering with elevated knitting techniques ushers in fresh takes on midlayer fabrics that are super-lightweight and comfortable yet warm.

Regardless of specific end-use, eco elements abound. Innovation takes shape in recycled synthetics such as recycled polyester, including Repreve brand recycled polyester, and newcomer Seaqual, a recycled polyester yarn made from post consumer plastic bottles and plastic captured from the sea.

Emphasis on sustainability is evident in the waterproof/breathable category with notable advances in the use of bio-based membranes on recycled synthetics as well as using bio-based membrane on cotton for high-level of water resistance. A good example is the introduction of the Scafe Airmen membrane described as the first bio-based coffee membrane using spent coffee grounds; the product is also said to reduce energy usage in production.

Emphasis on sustainability is evident in the waterproof / breathable category with notable advances in the use of bio-based membranes on recycled synthetics as well as using bio-based membrane on cotton for high-level of water resistance.

“Sustainability should be housekeeping, in terms of our responsibility to the upkeep of our planet,” states Alexa Dehmel, an active sports designer and consultant.

According to textile expert Charles Ross, with today’s greater demand for sustainability, there is a trend emerging of turning back to nature for inspiration and innovation in textile development. Use of wool, fabrics with Tencel (made from wood pulp) and blends that feature other natural fibers like cotton and cashmere are gaining traction in the performance textile arena.

Two textile firms well known for innovating anti-odor technologies — Polygiene and HeiQ are moving away from chemicals to natural solutions. HeiQ has now developed a silver-free version of its odor-control technology called HeiQ Fresh FFL that eliminates any exposure to heavy metals.

Fashion with Function and Vice Versa

Eco options are important, but so is fashion. For technical jackets, for instance, eye-catching fabrics are a welcome surprise with lots of iridescent surface looks and sheer and glossy visual effects. Downproof and windproof fabrications are not known for knockout looks but that is changing. Big strides are being made in aesthetics with a strong metallic story on the horizon for Spring/Summer 2021.

Even within base layer materials there are plenty of pretty pastel shades, great variety of soft to the touch fabrics, and an overall spirit of creativity. Further to the point, fabrics for accessory items have it going on fashion-wise; not to miss are extraordinary reflective textiles that show off color and/or prints.

The main takeaway is that functional fabrics are finding a new identity, one that is more expressive and eco-oriented yet retain critical performance properties.

Parley Plays a Part in McCartney’s Fall Line

Garments from the Adidas by Stella McCartney line for Fall and Winter 2019 include recycled polyester made with Parley Ocean Plastic, and regenerated ECONYL yarn, along with Adidas technologies Boost, Climachill and Climalite.

Taking style cues from the Stella McCartney FW19 runway, graphic prints and bold mesh structures are contrasted with a blush color palette and earth tones.

This season’s highlights include the new Warpknit Long Sleeve, a high-performance knitted garment with a second skin feel and open hole structure and a new Light Jacket and Run M20 for a complete versatile training look, both constructed with light, recycled polyester to bring ultimate comfort to any training routine.

Canadian musician Grimes is the star of the collection campaign.

Avocado + Sensil Team Up

California-based activewear brand Avocado is using Sensil, a premium nylon by Nilit, in its new Fall collection. Avocado specializes in seamless core elements, offering what it calls “cross-cultural, versatile apparel.” Avocado garments are designed and made in Los Angeles.

View the full print issue here.

Get your insight early.

Sign up for Sports Insights' mailing list to get our publication delivered to your inbox bi-monthly, as well as our newsletter for more frequent updates.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.