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Ralph Lauren to Debut ‘Intelligent Insulation’ at Beijing Olympics

Ralph Lauren’s new thermoregulating outerwear will outfit Team USA at the opening of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games next month.

The heritage label’s Intelligent Insulation textile innovation responds to changing temperatures using a mechanism woven directly into the fabric. Material startup Skyscrape helped develop the climate-responsive textile to expand when the temperature drops, providing a thick layer protecting against the elements. Ralph Lauren, the official outfitter of Team USA since 2008, will debut the technology on American athletes at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies.

Intelligent Insulation aims to extend the lifespan and use cases for a single garment as products developed with this material science can transition through seasons and environments. A reaction taking place between two layers of material makes the textile expand and contract at different rates in response to changing temperatures. The textile bends in a different pattern in colder climates, broadening air pockets and increasing the insulation’s thickness.

Portland-based Skyscrape spent several years developing the technology with support from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA-E. The agency was interested in material innovations “impacting domestic energy, jobs, and technological competitiveness for the country at large,” Skyscrape founder and CEO Brent Ridley told Sourcing Journal in 2020. “Our goal is to create a technical solution that could be deployed as broadly as possible” across brands and categories.

David Lauren, chief branding and innovation officer for Ralph Lauren, believes “Intelligent Insulation reimagines what is possible in the apparel landscape.”

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“For the first time, you can have a singular item that provides incredible versatility and style for a variety of temperatures, changing the way we can holistically think about the makeup of a consumer’s closet,” he added.

Olympic athlete Shaun White wears Ralph Lauren's Team USA anorak.
Olympic athlete Shaun White wears Ralph Lauren’s Team USA anorak. Ralph Lauren

The sustainability-centered Team USA uniform features an Intelligent Insulation-lined anorak, and a mid-layer jacket, pant, gloves and boot made with recycled polyester from post-consumer plastic bottles. The Made-in-America garments are available at Ralphlauren.com and in select Ralph Lauren retail stores. A virtual reality video series featuring six Olympic athletes, accessible through in-store installations or a VR headset, accompanied the launch.

“Ralph Lauren has defined American style for over five decades, and we’re thrilled that Team USA will once again wear this cutting-edge, sustainable and iconic apparel at the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland said.

“America’s elite athletes have worked a lifetime for the opportunity to represent the United States on the world stage,” she added. “We thank Ralph Lauren for celebrating and supporting them, and for pushing the boundaries when developing apparel that serves a purpose for Team USA.”

The new insulation tech continues Ralph Lauren’s tradition of showcasing material advancements on the Olympic stage. In July, the New York firm unveiled cooling wearable technology for athletes competing in the Tokyo Games.