The merging of technology advancements for performance fabrics and the increased need for sustainable materials were front and center at the Functional Fabric Fair at the Javits Center in New York City Monday.
Companies are doing more with recycled materials in yarns and fabrics, while the many finishes for attributes like water repellency and durability are taking environmental factors into account, too. Executives said companies are turning to their suppliers to help them meet sustainability goals with the materials they use.
“Our biggest growth the last couple of years has been in our recycled textiles, and leading into our sustainability marketing story as a company,” Sherry Wood, director of merchandising for Texollini, said. “I feel sustainability in the past year has really come to the forefront, where all the designers and brands–small, medium or large–have to have some sort of message.”
Texollini is using Repreve recycled polyester and nylon extensively, as well as blends of recycled polyester and Tencel.
“Now we’re looking into our next generation of sustainable fabrics,” Wood said. “We’re looking into biodegradability fabrics and incorporating new ocean waste yarns. There are a few companies doing different variations, so we’ve been doing research to find the right one for us.”
Texollini has seen growth in the performance brands space, especially men’s tops, as well activewear, swim and athleisure.
“Since we specialize in fabric with Lycra, we’re seeing a lot of younger brands coming in with a story to tell, and a focus on fine tuning a specific product and adding some type of performance element to it,” Wood explained.
HeiQ launched its new fluorocarbon-free (PFC-free) products in its HeiQ Eco Dry product range of durable water repellence (DWR) technologies at the show.
“The new PFC-free DWR treatments have been engineered specifically to meet industry challenges and maintain excellent hydrophobic properties after multiple dry cleanings,” Walter Nassl, chief technology officer at HeiQ, said. “We continue to innovate different technologies of HeiQ Eco Dry to allow even more high-quality, durable and sustainable products in the market.”
Huntsman Textile Effects (TE) also displayed its new PFC-free DWR finishes, including Teflon Ecolite, its collaboration with the Chemours Company, that provides a renewably sourced, non-fluorinated DWR that stays dry and repels water stains, according to Lee Howarth, global marketing director for Huntsman TE. The company’s High IQ Repel, which has levels of finishes for every day, outdoor and extreme apparel, has garnered attention in the outdoor space.
Burlington Fabrics had its lines of Smarterwear, MCS HCS Hybrid Cool and Plaid-Ology on display at the show. Andrew S. Hicks, account manager for performance fabrics, said the Smarterwear fabrics are easy-care performance polyesters designed for versatility. They are quick-drying and wrinkle resistant.
MCS Hybrid Cool uses two cooling mechanisms–one provides instant cooling before the first sign of sweat on the fabric and a second that gives long-lasting cooling by moving moisture vapor away from the skin. The Plaid-ology line are piece-dyed plaid fabrics that allow for customization of the colors and stripes in the fabric, since it’s dyed from the greige goods stage.
“Plaid-ology gets a lot of business from fast-fashion chains like Zara, since the colors can be changed easily,” Hicks said. “We’re also getting a lot of business from our tech flannels, which are light-weight, soft fabrics that look like traditional cotton flannels but can be worn year-round and don’t have to be washed as often since they are synthetic.”
For Thermore, the focus at Functional Fabrics was its Ecodown Fibers Marble lighter-weight insulation that’s puffier, warmer, more durable and made from 100 percent recycled material, according Michael Szymxzak, the company’s sales representative for North America. The black and white shaded material also comes in pure black, which creates a 3-D effect and changes the hue of the covering fabric.
Drirelease showed off its Geo Cool fabrics made from hydrophilic particles derived from metal oxides with a high thermal conductivity. Lee Thompson, business development manager for the East Coast, said the particles are added during the dyeing of filament polyester fabrics or yarns and locked into the fiber to give permanent wicking and thermoregulation characteristics.
With no chemicals or irritants to wash out over time, Thompson said Drirelease ensures eco-friendly long-term fabric performance.
At Bixby International, Phyllis Freedman joined the company as global industry manager last year to expand its expertise in plastic laminating and extrusion for apparel. The company’s new Bixwear line is desgned to improve stretch and recovery in places like the leg of a yoga pant, or to prevent bagging at the knees.
“We call it placement compression,” she said.