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Functional Fabrics in Full Effect at Texworld USA

Whether it’s athleisure, the rising trend in comfort clothing or technology for smarter outerwear, customers are after fabrics with function.

At the opening day of Texworld USA and Apparel Sourcing USA in New York City Monday, functional fabrics were on full display and booths were filled with buyers seeking it.

For Colombia’s Lafayette Sports, the focus at this show is compression knits.

“Compression is what the customers are asking for,” Lafayette Sports international sales director Elisabeth Cardona said. The company is showcasing polyester spandex heather knits with high performing compression. “People are used to spandex knits, but compression is one of the trends that’s leading the market…[customers] want to know that it compresses and holds very well, so that’s why we are launching these new fabrics.”

Beyond compression, according to Cardona, buyers are looking for goods that are more eco-friendly. Lafayette has four-way stretch wovens that are water repellent with a fluorocarbon C6 finish that’s less harmful to the environment.

With so much of global trade up in the air and buyers constantly seeking shorter lead times, Lafayette has also benefitted from Colombia’s duty free trade deal with the U.S. and its proximity to the market.

“We have big brands like The North Face or Under Armour that mostly used to work with Asian countries, now they-re trying to get regional sourcing, sourcing out of Latin America,” Cardona said.

Also benefitting from its current standing trade relationship with the U.S. and its geographical location, Seamless Global Solutions, a garment manufacturer out of Mexico had its seamless garments for sportswear, shapewear and underwear on display. The booth was full as buyers lined up to discuss alternative sourcing solutions that could get to market quicker.

Everest Textile, a vertically integrated textile manufacturer based in Shanghai, is also acting in accordance with current demands for shorter lead times. The company is setting up a garment mill in Haiti and a fabric mill in North Carolina to better be able to serve the U.S. market.

“Now every brand just wants one station buying,” Everest sales department solution co-creator Quinton Lee said. The company already has interest in its U.S. mill from brands like The North Face. “Made in USA is now very popular.”

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Everest is focused on functional fabrics with finishes that are more eco-friendly, like a non-fluorine carbon-free water repellent, and innovation from the yarn level.

“Because we have our own yarn, we can think about what is new from the original material,” Lee said. “Now every customer just wants their product with the highest functionality.”

Innovation has been front and center at Taiwan’s Carol Textile too—and so has finding ways to cut costs.

The company had a three-layer jacquard with a filament in the middle for warmth on display at the show. Usually, to get this effect, two pieces of fabric are bonded together for the soft shell, but in this case, bonding can be eliminated altogether.

“We just weave it and we save time,” Carol Textile marketing manager Tim Lin said. “We save time and it’s also cheaper than bonding fabric.”

When asked what’s next for functional fabrics, Lin said they’ll need to be cheaper. The technology for these high performing fabrics needs to be more commercialized.

“The technology right now is good, but the price is too high,” Lin said. Since it’s hard to bring down the cost of the fabric, Carol Textile has focused on cutting out steps in the garment making process to reduce pricing, like offering fabric that already has channels sewn in for the garment maker to fill the down rather than having to stitch the channels first and then fill.

At Labtex, which has offices in Taipei, Taiwan and Shanghai, four trends were the focus at Texworld USA: light padding, strata marls, sueded velour and silky slounge.

For each, innovations in finishing and treatment have created fabrics with unexpected drape and hand feel.

One of Labtex’s mélange fabrics is done in a French terry construction, but the loops at the back are so micro they’re undetectable by the eye or the hand, making for a really soft hand. Sueded velour has been big in the market too. To make it, Labtex uses polyester spandex blends with finer yarns, a peach front and a brushed back to make the product exceedingly soft. Some of its fabrics, designated for loungewear, incorporate TENCEL to improve drape and make the fabric feel even softer.

“We use polyester but when we do the finishing the hand is very soft and it doesn’t feel like 100 percent polyester,” Labtex sales representative Maggie Chen said.

The biggest trend Chen has seen is in special yarns, and at Labtex, a new 37.5 coconut yarn that has a natural wicking function has been one of the most popular. The company partnered with a yarn supplier to develop the product as a way of intelligent innovation.