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Post-Coronavirus Activewear Will Take On More Protective Properties

Though the COVID-19 pandemic is currently top of mind, consumers are not new to the idea of consuming during crisis.

In a recent webinar, Fashion Snoops addressed how climate change, coupled with the uncertainty of the coronavirus, is leading the activewear category down a design path based on utility and preparedness. Over the next 18 months, consumers in crisis mode will likely drive up the demand for activewear that provides adaptability, utilitarian practicality and protection,  the trend forecasting firm reports.

There’s been an uptick in designs that aim to protect the wearer for some time, said Taylor San Nicolas, Fashion Snoops activewear editor.

Prior to the pandemic, consumers were coming out of a decade that saw the warmest temperatures ever recorded, historic hurricanes that were more devastating than in the past and disturbing rises in sea levels.

“We can’t deny that climate change is real,” said Fashion Snoops director of activewear William Hildebrand. “With this product shift, we wanted to explore the possibility that if these climate uncertainties continue we might need to adopt a more nomadic lifestyle at some point in the next years, and we had to consider what would be the products that could either save our lives or be helpful in this type of expedition.”

Pushing this shift along, San Nicolas added, is Gen Z, a whole generation that is worried for their future.

“People are feeling super anxious and really want to be prepared as we move forward in the future,” she said. Therefore, innovation will be born out of necessity. “We believe that while this crisis is creating a lot of damage, it will also lead to a lot of creative innovation, and a global realization that we need to change our habits for a better future.”

From material innovation to construction design, Fashion Snoops says designers will reconsider activewear garments for extreme adventure and resiliency.

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Here, fabrics will help bridge science and fashion. Materials and hardware, said Fashion Snoops materials editor Nia Silva, are based on preparedness and protection. Reinforced mesh that doubles as a pollution filter, canvas with high tensile strength and thermal fabrics that would otherwise be reserved for first responder are being adapted for commercial use.

There’s also a focus on how technical finishes can augment materials to be more protective, durable and functional—be it enhanced gripping or more tactile or visible.

“We’ve all seen the demand for antimicrobial finishes,” she added. Materials with surfaces that are less porous or that have a hydrophobic finish which organisms cannot survive on are two solutions, but Silva expects to see more innovations engineered in the near future.

Key design concepts include outdoor staples with rugged qualities (like ultra-lightweight puffer jackets made with stronger-than-steel Dyneema), apparel with “on-the-go” power supply for electronics and designs that include face protection.

The Indestructible Puffer by Vollebak
The Indestructible Puffer by Vollebak Courtesy

Though face protection is a mainstay in the mountaineering market, Hildebrand said it is going to be even more mainstream for other outdoor sports like running. “I think the concept of the face mask is even going to be taken further with not just protection for your face but something that can filter air pollution or can help…in times [like] pandemics like we’re experiencing right now,” he said.

And multifunctional products that can be worn for various situations will likely gain importance after the pandemic, as consumers are forced to rebuild their bank accounts. “We definitely think that’s going to be a key point for consumers in the future,” Hildebrand said. “Financially, a lot of people are having trouble right now…And we believe people will rethink the way they buy and buy more out of necessities. If a product fits more than one situation, that’s an added value.”

Items like cargo pants with exaggerated storage, fireproof parkas made with fireproof and waterproof material and the transformer jacket—a two-in-one product that is a running top but also acts as a shell jacket—live here.

For footwear, the trend calls for streamlined hikers with the agility of a running shoe and an internal sock to maximize comfort, and versatile training shoes that feature an additional sole that can be used for rough elements.

“All of these considerations are going to be even more important following [COVID-19], because of the protection and certainty they can offer, in spite of the uncertainty of everything else around us,” Silva said.