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Five Next-Gen Materials to Watch in 2020

With 2020 well underway and many shoppers still confined to their homes, apparel that’s built to perform using functional fabrics seems a far-off need for another era entirely.

But the makers of these materials are still hard at work, and their creations are now coming to market in the form of physical products. Outdoor gear brands and contemporary fashion brands alike rely on these tech-forward and often sustainable innovations to propel them into the 21st century.

From recycled denim to durable, nanospun membranes, material enthusiasts are continuing to push the next generation of fabrics, in spite of the unprecedented challenges facing the apparel sector this season.


Denim wonks at ISKO are committed to bettering the world’s favorite fabric with R-TWO, a formulation that blends reused cotton fibers with recycled polyester. The process reduces the need for raw cotton, adding factory waste back into the spinning process. The fibers are combined with recycled polyester filaments extruded from plastic bottles.

Common Thread

In April, Dupont Sorona launched its Common Thread Certification Program with five performance fabrics made with the company’s partially plant-based polymer formulation—a proprietary blend that replaces traditional plastics-based fibers. The material range includes fabrics built for long-lasting stretch, shape recovery, easy care and crease-resistance, enduring softness that holds up against pilling, and lightweight, breathable warmth.

Aerobrane Electrostatic Spun

Textile solutions manufacturer Schoeller saw its aerobrane electrostatic-spun membrane introduced to the global marketplace this spring in a rain jacket from Outlier. The fine, hydrophilic fibers that make up the shell provide protection against wind and wet weather while remaining breathable during physical activity.

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The North Face debuted its own breathable, weatherproof range of fabrics using a nanospinning process called Futurelight last fall, with a range of new products hitting this spring including jackets, pants, hats, footwear and outdoor accessories. The technology is applicable across a versatile array of fabrics made for different activities, as nanospinning allows for adjustments in weight, stretch, breathability, durability, texture and constructions for both knit or woven fabrics.


Over the past year, brands have seen an influx of vegan alternatives to traditional animal hides. Piñatex, a vegan leather made from the leaves of pineapples, has made some high-profile inroads with labels like Chanel, Hugo Boss and fast fashion titan H&M. London-and-Barcelona-based company Ananas Anam produces the faux hides in the Philippines, pulling from the global glut of 40,000 tons of waste leaves produced by the pineapple industry each year.

Learn more about how the apparel industry is developing textiles to address sustainability, health and performance. Download Sourcing Journal’s Material Innovation 2020 Report here.