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Sustainability, Comfort and Tech on Equal Footing at ISPO Munich

The newest crop of performance sports apparel will be made of fabrics that are more eco-friendly, eye-catching and interesting than ever, with many current trends kicked up a notch, if the collections at ISPO Munich are any indication.

Continued innovation in sustainability, blends of natural and synthetic fibers, technical fabrics with benefits boosts, and luxury comfort were all on full display at the sports goods tradeshow. Though high-tech performance was a common thread running through most of the textiles at the show, exhibitors also upped the fashion ante as well, with tremendous burst of color, texture and pattern this season, in fabrics for both women’s and men’s apparel, proving once and for all that art and alchemy need not be mutually exclusive.


No longer just a trend, sustainability is the price of entry for anyone playing in the premium space. Consumers are demanding that brands earn their loyalty by sharing their concern for the planet. Everything from recycled fiber to higher standards for eco-responsible production were top of mind.

Roica EF recycled spandex, Unifi’s Repreve recycled polyester made from plastic bottles, Tencel’s Refibra fiber made using post-industrial cotton waste, and NILIT’s Sensil Ecocare recycled nylon 6.6, were among the fiber producers repurposing post-consumer and post-industrial waste as raw materials.

Pontetorto showcased Biopile, the first pile fabric that doesn’t release microplastics into the world’s waterways. The sustainable fleece it developed with German outdoor brand Vaude has 100 percent biodegradable Tencel on the inner brushed side of the fabric.

Waterproof, breathable membrane maker Sympatex communicated its “Close the Loop” message, and continues its “guaranteed green” program that reduces CO2 emissions and offers carbon offsets.

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Hi-tech production

Creation of fabrics and garments using revolutionary technology that improves styling, efficiency, quality and performance was a subtext at ISPO. Seamless knit construction, bonded or fused seams, improved printing and fastening, and anatomically engineered garments captured the attention of visitors.

Shima Seiki’s flatbed knitting never ceases to amaze. On display were gorgeous sports and athleisure pieces with interesting dimensional structure and details made of water-repellent yarns on the latest computerized knitting machines including the seam-free WHOLEGARMENT technology.

A collaboration between knitting machinery leader Santoni with high-tech yarn producer Tecnofilati resulted in the creation of a seamless smart garment containing Resistex Silver that enables tracking of heart rate, motion and other physical performance metrics in a comfortable garment that neither chafes nor binds.

Juki’s ultrasonic machine creates seams with neither needle nor thread. A pass through with bonding tape creates a seal that is waterproof, light, and smooth against the skin.

Natural with a performance boost

Blending the breathability of wool with nylon or polyester is the way of the future for performance fabrics, imparting improved aesthetics, versatility and functionality with lighter weight and increased styling possibilities.

Cifra’s ultra-innovative warp-knit seamless fabrics of Merino/Lycra and Merino/Tencel/Lycra are natural, breathable and moisture managing, providing second-skin garments with soft hand and ideal fit.

Performance-enhancing fabrics

Performance features were the name of the game at this iteration of ISPO. Fabrics that are fashionable enough for runway but also allow full range of motion, moisture management, temperature management, muscle invigoration, compatibility with wearables and more, were a highlight on the show floor.

For Chinese knitter Tong Lung, technical performance is so important that the company refers to itself as a “Techstile” firm.

Schoeller’s extensive line of high-performance solutions for performance brands included many new dryskin, naturetec and prestige products that wick moisture, insulate and allow enhanced freedom of movement.

Tiba Tricot’s soft, lightweight base layer fabric made of NILIT’s premium Sensil Innergy, which invigorates muscles and enhances recovery, won a Textrends Top Ten award at the show.

The Nanostitch division of Liebaert was a key example of premium performance. Its Nanostitch Extreme collection is comprised of nylon/Lycra tricot fabrics providing extreme compression and second-skin feel.

At Sofileta, Ever Dry Skin moisture management fabrics were the main focus.

Cordura, which wrote the book on strength and abrasion resistance, showed its collection of fabrics blending natural fibers like cotton, linen and wool with high-tenacity nylon that offers modern explorers flexibility without limitations.

Comfort benefits

Across the ISPO show floor, fabrics—particularly base layer—were getting lighter and softer. In addition, comfort, breathability and temperature management reigned.

Eurojersey’s Sensitive Fabrics collection combined high performance and ease of movement with ultra-luxurious hand and natural touch.

Improved warmth-to-weight was also a recurring theme, with examples like Polartec’s Alpha, a lighter fleece with increased warming.

Primaloft’s Black Insulation Thermo Plume is the closest thing to down that doesn’t actually come from a goose. The ethical product is made from small, silky fiber plume-like structures that mimic the softness, hand and aesthetics of down (and can be used with traditional down-blowing manufacturing equipment) but is also water repellent.