The 2018 winter games in South Korea are little more than two weeks away. For the athletes, it’s a chance to demonstrate years of hard work. For the brands that outfit them, it’s an opportunity to bring style and performance to the world stage.
Outdoor brand Burton has become a staple at the winter games, and this year the company is outfitting both American and Canadian athletes. While the brand took a minimalist approach for the U.S. snowboarding uniforms, team Canada will compete in pieces that are extremely detailed—inside and out.
The company worked with the Granted Sweater Company out of British Colombia, which created hand-knit sweaters depicting heritage Canadian symbols. From there, Burton recreated the look on snowboarding jackets using digital printing.
The process of delivering on the vision posed a variety of technical challenges for the brand, which is known for its innovative print work. “The process of creating the artwork was a lot of trial and error, because every centimeter of the print had to fall in the right place so the front could match to the back and different sizes would have the same look,” a Burton representative said.
Beyond the painstaking print, Burton put equal attention into creating outerwear that could perform at least as well as the athletes who will compete in them. To give the long, slim fit maximum comfort, the brand created the shell fabric from four-way mechanical stretch DuPont™ Sorona® biosynthetic fabric.
This stretch capability—along with the fiber’s superior recovery—is a leading reason why Sorona® fibers, which were developed a decade ago, have gained in popularity across apparel categories. “Because of the molecular structure, it can stretch and recover. A lot of things can stretch, but they fall down on recovery,” said Renee Henze, global marketing director of DuPont™ Sorona®. These properties, along with Sorona®’s soft hand feel, make it ideal across a variety of categories such as denim and athleisure—the latter category having fueled an “exponential” increase in interest.
Sorona® is also becoming a favorite in the swim category because it doesn’t break down in the presence of UV and chlorine. Additionally, designers are starting to replace or pair Down with Sorona® to give insulation better performance when wet.
DuPont continues to evolve applications for Sorona® as the industry changes. “We have three innovation centers that we staff with experts in the field of textiles. They’re working on different ways to use Sorona® in fabrics and insulations, and they work closely with the mills,” Henze said, adding her team is in constant contact with brands to identify ways in which they can work together to satisfy consumer demand.
Beyond its performance attributes, brands like Burton are drawn to Sorona®’s sustainable traits. The Sorona® polymer is made from 37 percent renewable plant-based ingredients, and processing it uses 30 to 40 percent less energy than conventional nylon fiber. These were important points for Burton, which feels that as an outdoor company, it has a responsibility to support the wellbeing of its customers and their “playground.”
“Because our heritage is in snowboarding and global warming is affecting snow and weather patterns, we want to do our part to reduce our impact as much as we can,” the Burton representative said. “That’s why we set such ambitious sustainability goals, and we’re constantly looking for innovative ways to improve not only the performance of our products but also the impact we’re having on the health of the environment.”
Burton says when a company like DuPont can quantify the ways in which it is environmentally friendly, it helps the brand educate consumers.
“These fiber companies also work with us to educate our sales teams, which goes a long way because if the kids on the shop floor understand the performance benefits, then the consumer will pay $5 more for a garment made of these fibers,” Burton’s rep explained, adding hangtags are equally important. “Such measurable benefits can really make an impact on product sell-through.”
Burton knows that performance comes from picking the right ingredients. “Internally, we started to design around fabric, and fabrics are made of fibers–the fiber really affects the end product,” Burton’s rep said, adding the team will look for ways to tweak the design or construction in order to enable them to afford to use a higher quality fabric.