Performance fabrics continue a trend that has been evident for a long time–the blending of fashion and function. The latest functional fabrics have showcased at global fashion trade shows that offer quite a lot of innovation–but no revolutionary developments.

One development is unmistakable: functional materials are becoming more natural again. Not only are special treatments being applied to cotton but functional backings are being added as well, giving it completely new properties without sacrificing on its pleasant tactile qualities or wearing comfort. Merino wool has reached the middle of the market and has established itself as a base and mid layer material–also in summer collections. New plant raw materials such as bamboo, coffee and Ricinus indicate how textile manufacturers are on the lookout for eco alternatives. At the same time synthetic fabrics are being given a finish that is reminiscent of waxed surfaces and facilitates vintage effects. This shows that the eco-trend is everywhere in the new collections and for this reason is no longer marketed as an exotic segment at the trade fair. Now, as in the past, the industry is searching for an alternative to down, as the growing demand in recent years has led to price increases of up to 300%. Plus, it is difficult to check up on the way down is procured, posing substantial risks concerning preventing cruel treatment of animals. The frequent criticism by Greenpeace of the use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) for water-repellent treatment of outer garment layers is yielding first results and new procedures are being presented.

Colors, structures and patterns are becoming cleaner, more muted. Glossy surfaces have disappeared almost completely. Instead, fabric manufacturers have become more enthusiastic about backing materials and focusing in on making the reserve side of fabrics attractive. Laminates, for example, are being printed or embossed applying their structure to the outer layers. In addition, 3-D structures in fabrics ensure fabrics are kept away from the skin, increasing wearing comfort.

By contrast, the race for lighter fibers seems to be over for the moment:
Now evidence has to be presented that fibers with extremely low denier numbers are able to withstand everyday wear. Instead, there is a noticeable trend toward more robust fabrics with more durability and a nice feel. Spacer fabrics are making a comeback as midlayer material, for which Nike was given wide recognition last year. These fabrics consist of two single jerseys interconnected internally by a monofilament. The thread thickness determines how large the hollow spaces inside the construction are and thus how well heat is retained. These fabrics supplement fleece and midlayer fabrics with a new and clean- looking appearance. Hardshell jackets for protection against the weather have lost relevance at least in terms of new developments in appearance and technology.

Basically, the industry is differentiating more and more clearly with regard to cooling and warming effects. The new generation of fabrics makes it possible to develop clothing tailored to precise specifications.

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