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How Lycra’s Evolution Has Reshaped Performance Textiles

The original Lycra spandex has evolved to suit modern performance demands in the 60 years since the fiber was first introduced by Dupont.

Jean Hegedus, Apparel & Advanced Textiles’ global segment leader for denim at Invista, the successor company to Dupont Textiles & Apparel, detailed Lycra’s path and its latest incarnations at a seminar dubbed “High Stretch, Low Stretch, Bi-Stretch, Go Stretch” at the Kingpins New York show on Wednesday.

A key point in Lycra’s evolution came in 2001 with the introduction of Lycra T400, multi-component yarn in which different polymers are joined together within each filament to form a stretch fiber with enhanced recovery and less shrinkage.

The original Lycra T400 fiber has been the building block for a number of the brand’s top stretch denim concepts, including Lycra dualFX, XFIT, Beauty Tough Max technologies. The T400 was developed using a comprehensive study that gave insight into the amount of stretch wearer’s preferred and how the body reacts to prolonged wearing of a fabric, since fabric tends to slip and grow as it is worn.

“We found that 35 percent stretch was the sweet spot,” Hegedus said, “It was all aimed at how do we improve performance and fool Mother Nature.”

Lycra dualFx was developed to offer high stretch and lower growth, with high recovery. Lycra Beauty “took comfort and fit further” with a flattering shaping effect, Hegedus said.

The next big move was the development of bi-stretch, with Lycra in the warp and weft of the fabric. This led to the creation of Lycra XFIT, which uses patented technologies for producing denim with stretch in the fabric length which, when combined with the traditional weft-stretch process, provides a “360-degree” fabric flexibility. T400 fiber is woven into the fabric warp in a way that hides and protects it within the fabric, giving the fabric a flat, authentic denim look and feel, according to Hegedus.

The company recently developed Easy Set Lycra, which uses core-spun yarn that has moderate stretch and can be easier for mills to knit into fabric or garments. Then there was Lycra dualFX T400, which is a “high-stretch, bi-stretch for peak performance,” Hegedus said.

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The latest generation of the fiber is Lycra T400 EcoMade, which offers the same benefits of lasting comfort, fit and performance as the original, but with the value-added offer of sustainability. LYCRA T400 fiber with EcoMade technology is made in part from a combination of recycled materials such as PET bottles diverted from landfills and renewable plant-based materials. This innovation is meant to appeal to the aspect of the apparel value chain interested in developing more sustainable denim and woven collections.

To better brand the products and give consumers an understanding of the benefits, Hegedus said new hangtags have been created ahead of the fall retail launch of Lycra T400 with EcoMade. Invista is also working with stores to provide point-of-sale promotional materials.

“We’re excited to introduce Lycra T400 EcoMade technology to show visitors,” Hegedus said. “It can be paired with sustainable rigid fiber offerings such as BCI cotton, Tencel lyocell, or others, so brands and retailers can amplify their eco-friendly message to consumers.”