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Makers of Outerwear Fabrics Answering the Textile Innovation Call

One of the manifestations of the coronavirus pandemic has been that people have embraced the outdoors as a safe environment, escape from isolation and a return to nature.

It was natural then that makers of outerwear have taken the opportunity to innovate their offerings and enhance their brands. Several of these companies promoted their brands earlier this month at the virtual Performance Days trade event.

One of them was technical textile manufacturer Ventile, which has developed three new fabrics to add to its expanding sustainable fabric range. Ventile launched a lyocell and linen-blended fabric called Ventile Eco 290, combining 70 percent lyocell and 30 percent linen fibers. The result is a sustainable, water repellent fabric for outerwear.

Responding to customer demand, Ventile also added two fabrics to its current recycled offering. The lighter-weight Ventile 250 RCO and the Ventile 230 RCO poplin fabric are both made from 100 percent recycled cotton and are Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certified.

After the successful development of its recycled fabric in 2018, the popularity of the Ventile sustainable range has grown exponentially. Last year, the brand reported 115 percent growth in sales of Ventile organic cotton fabric over the past three years, with 25 percent of all Ventile sales now coming from sustainable fabrics.

“Our Ventile sustainable range has developed over time almost entirely from customer requests for sustainable fabrics,” Ventile production manager Daniel Odermatt said. “At our core, we are committed to offering well-made fabric that offers a sustainable textile option. The latest edition, Ventile Eco 290 a lyocell and linen blend, is made from the wood-like fibers of the eucalyptus tree. This raw material is a great sustainable option for fabric yarns.”

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Odermatt noted that Eco 290 fabric is one of the heavier fabrics the company produces. This trait means it is “great for coats and accessories and has proven popular with shoe manufacturers,” he said.

Also taking part in Performance Days was Thindown, which introduced its down fabric combined with Dupont Sorona fiber.

Thindown + Sorona combines the benefits of real down-like warmth, lightness and breathability with the softness, drape and stretch recovery of Sorona fiber through the proprietary cutting-edge process from Natural Insulation Products (NIPI) Italia. Entirely produced in Italy with Responsible Down Standard certified down, the new blended insulating fabric is available in 45, 60 and 80 grams, offering versatility and application throughout different product categories and industries.

Delivered in rolls, Thindown + Sorona is characterized by a uniform distribution of down, enabling the absence of quilted sections, offering an outstanding barrier to cold temperatures and preventing down leakage. Sorona fiber is made from partially plant-based ingredients and contributes to widening the offer of the most sustainable Thindown lines, all GRS certified–Thindown Recycled, made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled fibers; Thindown Fiberfill, made of upcycled down fibers, and Thindown Hybrid, a blend of recycled down, feathers and fibers.

“At NIPI Italia, we are constantly researching new product developments for our fabric,” said Paolo Bodo, global CEO of NIPI. “We are pleased to partner with Dupont, the creator of some of the world’s most outstanding fibers. This prestigious collaboration will lay the foundation of a long-lasting partnership and will be the cornerstone for consolidating our presence in the performance and outdoor industries.”

One of the manifestations of the pandemic has been that people have embraced the outdoors as a safe environment.
A Kuiu Peleton zip hoodie using Toray’s Karuishi fabric. Courtesy

Meanwhile, Toray has developed Karuishi, a knit textile the company said represents a significant improvement in the fleece fabric category. To create Karuishi, Toray developed a special knitting construction that creates a high-volume, two-layer structure, resulting in a higher loft without increasing weight.

This knitting method allows Toray to use variations of yarns on the face and back, creating fabrics with different performance characteristics without using glues or laminates. It says Karuishi also has a much more durable face, resisting pilling and abrasion without surface treatment or resins.

Recent testing from Toray has uncovered another positive and important attribute of Karuishi–it produces a lower level of microplastic shedding in comparison to other leading fleece products. Toray’s testing labs repeatedly washed samples of Kariushi, as well as competitive fleece. The lint shed by each fabric was collected and compared and the results were dramatic. Kariushi fleece showed far less microplastic shedding, especially after repeated washings.

In a panel discussion at Performance Days, Sharon Perez, business development manager for Lenzing, which makes Tencel, noted that three companies have partnered on the Tree Climate collection. Concept III’s David Parkes partnered with Lenzing to create an assortment of fabrics that showcase the inherent performance, superior hand and sustainability of Tencel.

Parkes believes the outdoor consumer will respond well to the improved sustainability profile that Tencel fibers brings to apparel, since they are derived from sustainably sourced raw material wood and produced in a closed loop, resource efficient production process.

“The foundation of performance apparel is the innovation in yarn and textile engineering that enable us to offer new product,” Parkes said. “We have an industry that demands this innovation and Tencel brings so many good features…the hand, the drape of Tencel lends itself very much to performance apparel layers.”

In addition, he said the moisture management and heat absorption of Tencel also make it a strong fiber for outerwear. The companies are in the process of developing knit fabrics and garments to add to the existing wovens collection. This includes a textured knit combined with fleece made with Cyclo that limits fiber shedding, a reverse knit heavier weight fleece and a flat-back rib knit with a textured face also with Cyclo.

Steven Lerman, Brookwood Companies’ executive vice president for consumer, noted the company has manufactured woven outerwear for Tree Climate. These include Tencel and nylon blend fabrics for jackets and a bottom weight canvas jacket with Cordura for additional strength, while the company is working on stretch wovens with Tencel.