Skip to main content

At Outdoor Retailer, Sustainable Innovation Is the Future of Performance

The gear is only as great as the sum of its materials and components—or so they say.

A diverse showing of innovative fabrics took center stage at Outdoor Retailer’s 2020 Winter Market. At a show devoted to rugged gear and apparel, many new releases from brands and their suppliers centered on issues surrounding durability, sustainability and enhanced performance.

Some material manufacturers focused on finding sustainable solutions to fan favorites like faux fur, while others brought out tough textiles designed to take a beating in the world’s harshest conditions.

Sourcing Journal spoke with some of the show’s leading textile makers about the newest advancements in the space.

Wool 2.0

Schoeller's performance wool is waterproof and breathable.
A Lululemon coat made with Schoeller’s performance wool. Sourcing Journal

Swiss performance textile brand Schoeller is gearing up for fall with a renewed classic.

The company’s performance merino provides wool’s signature warmth along with protection from the elements. Ultra-lightweight hydrophilic fibers pull moisture away from a wearer’s skin, while the proprietary weave allows for enhanced breathability.

What’s more, this wool is hyper-water-resistant, making it ideal for outdoor apparel and even footwear accents. Gone are the days of getting drenched in a peacoat and smelling like a wet dog for the rest of the day.

Cold-weather brand Kanuk will release men’s and women’s puffer jackets featuring the Lifestyle wool as paneling, while Lululemon will debut a number of tailored yet athleisure-inspired coats using the material as an outer shell.

Timberland has also partnered with Schoeller on the design of a hiking boot, speaking to the wool’s durability and ability to withstand the elements.

The new fleece

Polartec Power Air is now made entirely from recycled plastic bottles.
Polartec’s Power Air has a new, eco-conscious spin. Sourcing Journal

Related Stories

Polartec launched Power Air in 2018 as a fleece alternative, engineered specifically to address microfiber shedding—a massive culprit in ocean pollution. Now, the company has re-released its innovative mid-layer fabric with an even more substantive sustainable spin.

The new Power Air, which encapsulates lofted fibers within a multilayer, continuous yarn fabric construction, will now be made entirely from recycled PET—or post-consumer plastic bottles. The material is made to be recycled when a garment has reached the end of its life, making it truly circular.

With some of the structural kinks worked out, the newest iteration works out to be 25 percent lighter than the original.

Power Air offers more advanced thermal efficiency than traditional fleece, and is proven to shed five times less than other premium mid-layer weight fabrics, according to David Karstad, Polartec’s vice president of marketing and creative director.

Fleece is normally characterized by plush fibers that sprout outward from a fabric base, but Power Air’s fibers are encased in pods, like a “fuzzy bubble wrap.”

“If the loft is on the inside, we’ve hidden or protected the things most likely to break off and become microfiber,” Karstad told Sourcing Journal.

I can’t believe it’s not fur

DuPont Sorona faux fur is made from corn-based polymers.
DuPont Sorona’s award-winning faux fur is as soft as the natural version. Sourcing Journal

The newly minted winner of the ISPO Textrend “Best Product” in Accelerated Eco Category, DuPont Sorona’s new faux fur is making waves as the first recyclable plant-based imitation animal fur offering on the market.

The notably soft and lifelike material is made from bio-based DuPont Sorona corn-based polymer fibers. Current styles vary from classic mink to plush teddy-style fur, which are all fully dyeable to replicate natural furs or trend-forward effects and colors.

The synthetic component is ideal for footwear and apparel applications like linings, collars or trims for shoes and apparel, DuPont Sorona representatives said. Homofilament fibers lend the furs their softness, while also providing a high degree of durability and resistance to wear.

They are also mechanically recyclable in the polyester recycling stream—a notable deviation from the cruelty-free options of the past, which were made from polluting polymer fibers.

Famed vegan fashion designer Stella McCartney worked closely with DuPont Sorona and Ecopel in the development of the fur, which will appear for the first time publicly in her spring 2020 line.

Tough as nails

Gore-Tex Pro Shell technologies display enhanced durability, stretch and breathability.
The Gore-Tex Pro Shell suite of laminate materials is built for extreme conditions.

Outdoor industry stalwart Gore-Tex has released a new suite of three complementary technologies that prioritize durability—as well as stretch and breathability—in its outer-layer fabrics.

The Gore-Tex Pro line of performance materials represents the highest standard for extreme weather protection available from the outdoor leader, with different functionalities that allow brands to customize based on end uses.

Using a new testing process that measured the susceptibility of fabrics to recurring physical damage over time, Gore-Tex identified opportunities to make its waterproof and breathable laminate stronger.

Gore-Tex Pro’s Most Rugged laminate is the most durable material the company has made for the mountain sports category, representatives said. Using 70 to 200-denier face textiles and a micro-grid backing, the new membrane technology can be made with a variety of recycled and solution-dyed fabrics.

The complementary Gore-Tex Pro Stretch technology is a waterproof, yet breathable material developed for extreme wear-and-tear. While most stretch fabrics are knits, this woven construction allows for comparable elasticity as well as extreme durability. Instead of using elastane filaments in the face textile of the laminate, a thin layer has been added between face textile and membrane.

Even in the coldest of alpine conditions, exertion will cause a wearer to sweat, and that can become a source of discomfort. Gore-Tex Pro Most Breathable technology caters to athletes engaging in high-intensity outdoor activities. The ultra-breathable, waterproof technology features Gore-Tex’s lightest laminate ever offered, using 30-denier face textiles.

The three Gore-Tex Pro technologies can be employed individually or combined into a single garment.

Woven for performance

ISKO debuted its line of Arquas 6.0 performance fabrics this week at Outdoor Retailer.
Isko’s Arquas 6.0 suite of performance fabrics are woven for stretch and strength. Sourcing Journal

Established denim manufacturer Isko hit the Denver showroom floor with a new suite of 35 woven performance fabrics, dubbed Arquas 6.0.

Most of the offerings are made with certified recycled materials like recycled PET, the company’s marketing and business development manager, Sonny Puryear, told Sourcing Journal. While many of the active and sport materials on the market are knits, the Arquas 6.0 collection is woven like the company’s signature denim.

Their construction, along with Isko’s proprietary material makeup, provide enhanced durability and great recovery, Puryear said. The line’s variations range from soft stretch fabrics to rigid, paper-like finishes, and many offer benefits like moisture management, UV and wind protection, heat retention, and water and stain repellency.

Arquas 6.0 fabrics display a range of qualities suitable for an array of sports and activities, from yoga, running, climbing and hiking to golf and even equestrian sports.

Fabric formulations are released in black, white and shades of grey, and can be printed with colors, patterns and metallic finishes.