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10 Textile Innovations Reshaping the Sector

Consumer demand for high performance features in apparel has increased, and brands have innovated in turn.

The athleisure trend that flooded the scene this year as activewear merged with lifestyle, meant more than just a new lines of workout gear—consumers now want that gear to enhance their performance and keep them operating at optimum levels no matter the activity.

From new ways to insulate, to finishes designed for function, and garments that wick, warm, cool and adjust to the climate, savvy textiles are regularly hitting the market.

Here’s a look at the textile innovations that entered the scene in 2014, and the outlook for smarter textiles to come.


Featherless Insulation

Sporting goods trade show organizer, ISPO, announced the winners of its 2015 “Top 10 Fiber and Insulations” awards in December, and among the winners is global innovation company, 3M, for its featherless insulation, Thinsulate.

3M’s Thinsulate was launched in January 2014 as a new loose fill insulation alternative to natural down, designed to function similarly to natural down, but without allergens and with two times the loft when wet. Described as lightweight and highly breathable, the insulation provides extreme warmth for extreme conditions and is equal to 600-fill power.

Erik Iverson, 3M Thinsulate marketing supervisor, said, “3M Thinsulate Featherless Insulation brings real value by providing an effective and cost-effective alternative to natural down.” He added, “This innovation though is just the beginning as the 3M Thinsulate Insulation brand continues to innovate bringing newer and better products to the marketplace.”

TurboDown Wave Technology

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Columbia Sportswear’s level of commitment to innovation is scaling new heights. In November, the company unveiled its Fall ’15 collection, including the re-launch of its new and improved high-end Titanium line of clothing and outerwear. Focused on performance, style and comfort, the Titanium collection of premium outerwear, sportswear, footwear and accessories will serve as an ongoing technology and innovation platform for the brand, including Columbia’s brand new TurboDown Wave Technology.

As a spin-off from Columbia’s popular TurboDown Performance Enhanced Down, the new patent-pending construction was designed to eliminate the cold spots where body heat escapes in conventionally constructed insulated jackets. Rather than creating a traditional seam by sewing the lining and shell together to create the baffle, Columbia developed a unique method of jacket construction by combining 900 fill water-resistant down with Omni-Heat Thermal synthetic insulation. The insulation runs through the jacket in a ‘wave-like’ pattern with the down on both sides throughout the baffles.

An independent third-party tested the new technology. Using a computer-controlled environmental chamber to regulate variables, Columbia’s Heatzone jacket—a piece from the Titanium collection equipped with TurboDown Wave Technology—took on several jackets including The North Face Super Diez Jacket, Arc’teryx Cerium SV, and the Patagonia Fitz Roy. In each case, the Heatzone jacket performed better, beating competitors by margins ranging from 3.1F to 9.9F warmer.

Down Alternative

Thermore, an Italian thermal insulation company, is releasing a new development in its version of EVOdown to the active sportswear and outdoor market.

The company showcased the product at outdoor apparel trade show, ISPO, in Munich, Germany, quickly to be billed as an alternative to traditional duck and goose down without the various limitations of machine washing and fiber clumping.

EVOdown has two encapsulating layers in order to stabilize the free fibers in the middle, making it a “rolled free-fiber composite.” Thermore’s research and development team has advanced the performance EVOdown further for its global introductions at tradeshows including ISPO in Munich and Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The company said in its report, “EVOdown offers virtually the same volume and softness as the best natural down, and since it is supplied in a traditional roll form, it can be used in the most cost competitive manner. And like every other product in the Thermore range, these savings along with consistence of availability and the security of being hypoallergenic come as part of the guaranteed service that Thermore offers all customers today.

Water-Repellent Denim Finish

Functional denims are quickly becoming a new trend in the urban lifestyle. Levi Strauss selected the fluorocarbon-free durable water repellent (DWR) coating, called Ecorepel, from Schoeller Technologies for its new Commuter Collection. With the urban cyclist in mind, Levi’s selected the technology for its water and dirt repelling properties.

Schoeller Technologies explained in a report, “As the lines between sports and fashion continue to blur, textile technologies that deliver performance properties are becoming common in lifestyle and urban products. In particular, denim fabrics are becoming more functional through treatments that repel water and mud so that consumers have the opportunity to wear fashionable denim jeans, in any weather conditions, or while participating in most day-to-day activities.”

Ecorepel biomimics the protective function found on waterfowl feathers. The environmentally defiant finish is based on paraffin that resembles honeycomb-like chains by wrapping around the fibers. This process reduces the surface tension of the textile, causing mud and water to merely slip off the fabric. It is completely free from fluorocarbons, is biodegradable, and sustains a wash and abrasion resistance so as not to affect the hand or breathability of the fabric.

Cold Denim Bleaching

Global biotechnology company Novozymes introduced a new cold bleaching solution, DeniLite Cold, last month. Aimed at replacing chemicals with enzymatic technology for more gentle denim processing, the cold bleaching method offers improved fabric durability, and unlike harsh bleaching chemicals, ensures the strength and elasticity of the fabric remains intact.

According to Novozymes, current enzymatic bleaching methods are usually based on enzymes called laccases, which alter the indigo through oxidation. This method of bleaching can be time consuming, as it requires oxygen from the water or air. It may also require repetition. DeniLite Cold is based on a different kind of enzyme called peroxidases, designed to work without extra oxygen from the air or water. It also has a fast reaction speed—90 percent of the reaction finishes within 10 minutes.

Business development manager for Novozymes’ textile division, Ole Bill Jorgensen, said, “Our cold bleaching solution is effective at tap water temperature. Other bleaching technologies require the use of more energy or water, and in some cases more process steps, to achieve the same bleaching effect.”

Fiber Whitener

Chemicals and dyes innovator, Huntsman Textile Effects introduced a fluorescent whitening agent that will help textile mills achieve brilliant white shades on cellulosic fibers.

Hunstman said the UVITEX BHA LIQ. high-affinity stilbene whitener has unparalleled acid stability and acid fastness. The whitener also offers zero risk of greening-off and protection against phenolic yellowing during storage and shipment.

The new agent was made to help mills meet brands’ high white standards for towels, knitted apparel, T-shirts and underwear, along with any other garments made from cellulosic fibers.

Phaseable Technology

Sympatex Technologies was awarded World Textile Information Network’s “Future Materials Award 2014” earlier this month. The technical materials company beat out six other finalists in the category “Best Innovation—Sportswear and Outdoor Apparel” as the ecological alternative among textile specialists, with its Phaseable technology, a 2.5-layer laminate with an intelligent climate regulation and dynamic thermal insulation, leading the charge.

The technology is suitable for high levels of physical activity including sports and outdoor activities. The three-dimension half-layer on the inside of the laminate only touches the skin when necessary, and with foam points. An insulating air layer is created between the skin and the laminate during the recovery phase of the athlete. The technology offers a better moisture transport, breathability, and climate regulation and is completely wind and waterproof.

On the environmental front, Sympatex Phaseable sets itself apart by not using any solvents for its technology, making it 100 percent recyclable and PTFE- and PFC- free.

Thermal Retention

Kelheim Fibers, a leading manufacturer of viscose specialty fibers, developed a new viscose fiber that reflects infrared (IR) radiation for thermal retention.

The new viscose fiber contains IR-reflecting particles, which can significantly reduce the process of the human body loosing energy via thermal radiation. The thermal radiation emitting from the body is instead reflected by these particles and sent back to the body, reducing the cooling and keeping the person warm.

Mineral IR-reflecting particles are integrated into the fibers core, preserving the fiber’s natural qualities, rather than being added in a subsequent finish with additives based on titanium oxide. The effects of the new method are permanent and cannot be washed out.

Textiles with the integrated viscose fiber offer similar benefits to typical viscose fibers like comfort, softness and skin friendliness. Test results show the new fiber has produced significant temperature effects, compared to standard viscose fibers, opening up many opportunities for it in the fashion and textile industries.

Cooling Fabric

Garmatex, fabric innovator and supplier, announced the launch of its new advanced cooling fabric Thursday at the PGA Fashion and Demo Experience in Las Vegas. IceSkin is designed to regulate the body’s temperature in extreme climes.

The fabric is made with natural jade minerals and Garmatex’s CoolSkin quick-dry microfiber filaments, which help to utilize the cooling effects of perspiration and lower the skin’s surface temperature. The jade minerals deflect the sun’s rays to keep the body cool and offer extreme UV protection. IceSkin is multi-layered, using a three-dimensional knitting process to keep its cooling technology working like new.

Garmatex CEO and president, Martin Doane said, “IceSkin is another example of how Garmatex continues to optimize fiber technology and provide innovative fabric solutions to a wide range of businesses and consumers.”

The new cooling fabric is available now in Garmatex’s golf shirts and towels. The company plans to sell the fabric to leading apparel and medical brands going forward.

Sustainable Silk

Italian textile company, Centro Seta, introduced its first collection of sustainable silk fabrics for Autumn/Winter 2015-2016. The collection, called Bacx, was developed through extensive technological research to ensure high quality silk fabrics were also sustainable and responsible, and the new range offers complete transparency across all production processes.

Centro Seta’s new eco-friendly silks are offered in two ranges, GreenFiber and Newlife. The GreenFiber range fabrics are created using a new silk yarn derived from recycled production wastes. The Newlife range of high-tech, eco-silk fabrics combines traditional silk with Newlife threads, which are made from recycled bottles. The bottles are transformed into a polymer and then worked into a thread through a mechanical process.

The Bacx collection is certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and is available in a wide variety of colors.