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New Functional Fashion Fair Puts Performance Materials in the Spotlight

From luxury to budget, there’s no shortage of activewear styles on the market today. And the breadth of options is merely a reflection of the demand, which shows no signs of abating. Whether we love to work out or are simply enamored with the comfort these clothes provide, statistics show shoppers in the U.S. are opting for athleisure styling from head to toe.

In fact, athleisure sales growth continues to outpace sportswear, prompting Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor of The NPD Group, to call the category one of the “few sources of consistent, long-term growth.” In 2017, non-activewear sales fell while active kicked up 2 percent to $48 billion, taking a 22 percent share of the industry, according to NPD. Women’s, in particular, was up 4 percent.

Further evidence that active won’t be relinquishing its market-leader status? High heels are being kicked to the curb in favor of sneakers. While stilettos toppled 12 percent in 2017, sport styles leapt by 37 percent to $2.3 billion.

With active racing ahead, it’s no wonder that brands of all stripe continue to jump on the trend. To feed that demand, a new show from the founders of Performance Days will bow in New York this summer. The Functional Fabric Fair will take place July 23 to 24 at the Javits Center in NYC.

As the name suggests, the focus will be on performance resources and educational opportunities. And judging by the demand coming out of the Munich show, which has been running for more than 10 years, it will be a welcome addition to the show schedule.

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“Performance Days’ attendees historically have been from the outdoor industry and concentrated on the highly functional performing brands. Over the last few years, we noticed more and more lifestyle brands and athleisure brands attending, and surprisingly, many from the U.S.,” said spokesperson Stephen McCullough.

While McCullough acknowledges that there’s a smattering of other shows that dabble in this market, he said none focus on it exclusively. “The U.S. needs a performance fabric stand-alone trade show to not only satisfy the outdoor, highly technical brands, but also the brands looking to enter this market with established brands, but not fully educated in the possibilities that exist,” he said.

The fair, which McCullough said will maintain the DNA of its German predecessor, is designed to cater to a range of product developers, including diehard active brands, athleisure companies looking to up their technical fabric game and private label designers pushing further into the space. The show will feature more than 75 suppliers across a range of products, including waterproof materials from Sympatex, Polartec insulation, Outlast thermal control fabrics, Safe Reflections reflective materials, Re-Down’s recycled down and feathers, and E-Dye’s sustainable color.

Those new to active will be right at home thanks to the “white glove” treatment the show provides. A concierge will be on hand to help make suggestions plus attendees will be able to get an overview of the latest innovations via a display of swatches in the Materials Science area.

For those wanting to navigate the options on their own, show organizers will provide a handy key on the Functional Fabric Fair site and in its directory that highlights suppliers offering features like quick dry, thermos-regulating and antibacterial products as well as those that have recycled materials, fluorocarbon-free goods and fabrics that are certified by groups like Blue Sign.

“We want to make it easy to find whatever a buyer is looking for in an organized and logical manner,” McCullough said.

To supplement the buying trip, the Functional Fashion Fair will also host a range of educational sessions covering areas like trends, sustainability and technological advances. Leading color forecaster Nora Kuhner will also be on hand to provide insights into the color palettes set to emerge for 2020.

In addition to these resources, the show is also co-located with a host of other industry events like Project, MRKet, Fame, Moda and TexWorld taking place in the same venue, making it easier for buyers to shop.

Visit the Functional Fabric Fair site to learn more about exhibiting and attending the show.