Between performance and fashion [Special Textiles 2019]Sport as a bridge between performance and fashion in search of new style hybrids
The world of the classic sportsman no longer exists; the clear distance that existed in the past between “technical” fabrics and “fashion” fabrics is gradually decreasing, leaving room for a new “hybrid” called “technical fashion”.
This process (which has been going on for almost 5 years) has had a big impact in all areas of textile application, from fashion to accessories, through interior design.
It is increasingly common that companies historically linked to technical production have begun to consolidate their presence within a completely new market.
Today, almost 90% of global consumers wear clothing or accessories (footwear and leather goods) that have some technical characteristics or materials drawn from the performance world.
An interesting combination of fabric and performance is certainly the experience of Thindown®, the first feather fabric entirely made in Italy that revolutionises the concept of thermal insulation and padding, turning the feather into a firm fabric with high technical characteristics. NIPI is the company based in Chieti that has developed and patented the technical process of making this fabric entirely in feather, contributing to making its distribution uniform - thanks to the absence of seams in horizontal sections - and thus avoiding the passage of cold and material spills. The fabric has two outer layers of interlock mesh and a “feather heart” that remains compact and held in place by the polyurethane resin. In this way it is possible to create different thicknesses and apply processes such as cutting, laminating, embroidery and sewing while keeping the padded part. Thindown® has obtained the Oeko-Tex 100 and RDS (Responsible Down Standard) certifications, or the certification that guarantees the well-being of the feathered animals used. Thindown® is available in the Duck and Goose versions, in the Thindown® Active variants, composed of a special blend of duck and polyester feather, Thindown® Flex, a stretch fabric that follows body movements ensuring high comfort and in the new Thindown® Recycled version, made with 100% recycled feather and recycled polyester scrim. Furthermore, Thindown® can be coupled with a special Downproof membrane, to be used with fine fabrics and cashmere or wool type knits. But what are the performative aspects of Thindown®? Surely the lightness compared with technical features. In fact, with the same performance in terms of insulation and heat conservation, Thindown® is 70% lighter, thus making clothing and footwear lighter and more comfortable. In the same way the compact nature of the fabric allows to maintain excellent insulation characteristics, preventing the creation of “cold spots” and maintaining the heat for a decidedly higher duration. The application sectors, are not limited only to fashion and interior design, but also extend to technical sectors such as automotive and acoustic insulation.
Furthermore, currently, the increasing trend of performative demand in the fashion world has allowed many technical realities to enter the market. An example is Asoltex, a historic Venetian company specialised in technical lamination reserved to the most extreme sports activities. The Asolo based company responds to the growing demand for “green” items with the new family of breathable agglomerates based on recycled polyurethane. Items that stand out for their high capacity to absorb the moisture accumulated inside the shoe, which is trapped in the Airtex alveolar structure and, therefore, slowly released in the form of water vapor. A system that gives the foot a constant and pleasant feeling of dryness and comfort when wearing the shoe. Airtex is also breathable, comfortable, bacteriostatic and thermoformable. It can be used for die-cut thermoformed insoles. But Asoltex does not stop at the insoles and presents proposals also for the upper and lining, also available in combination with the Osmotex membrane that ensures breathability and water repellency. Superior performance in terms of thermal insulation can be obtained thanks to the lamination with Insulation PrimaLoft® Grip and PrimaLoft® Micropile. For the upper, on the other hand, are offered high-performance fabrics that are characterised by the original technical textures and excellent values in terms of comfort, breathability and water repellency, as well as a selection of thermoformed fabrics and run-resistant nets with excellent performance compared to abrasion and mechanical strength.
The trend that combines fine natural yarns with technical yarns is also very interesting, for applications in both the fashion and performance sports sectors. This is the case of two different companies, but with similar and very strong DNA.
The first is Tollegno 1900, a historical Biella-based company for the production of wool yarns and fabrics mainly for men’s tailoring and which today presents itself with a new approach to the fabric, combining the preciousness of noble fibres with the technicality of technical yarns. 3D WOOL, made of mono or bi-stretch elasticised wool, is the cutting edge in the company’s textiles branch. Encouraged by its intrinsic features that make it perfect for elegant, comfortable, performing and distinctive garments, it is tailored to its DNA thanks to the possibility of buying functional “ready to make” cuts for tailored suits. On the yarn side, Tollegno reinvents the concept of technical wool with “Harmony 4.0”. Its main characteristics are four: greater resistance, given by the most tenacious twisting; blend of Merino Wool yarn with siliconised nylon; washable thanks to the hydro-compact feature; greater fineness with equal deniers. Thanks to the collaboration with the company Sandonini, manufacturer of machines for the circular processing of uppers, Harmony 4.0 has been tested for footwear with excellent results.
Sandonini has also activated a collaboration with Di.vé, a Biella-based company that sells wool stock service yarns and at this moment promotes two extremely interesting products: Extreme and Denim.
Denim is an indigo-effect cotton yarn that has the particularity of being dyed in yarn with a treatment that prevents it from being drawn off after washing, making it particularly suitable also for knitting uppers.
The Vergnasco company has strengthened and expanded the Extreme line, dedicated solely to the union of fashion and technicality. The collection is an invitation to experimentation and change. It represents the ideal solution for casual/sportswear that promotes the culture of performance. It is a great innovation in the field of functional yarns thanks to special mixes of natural and technical fibres or the twist of special nylon or polyester filaments, including the use of Trevira, a high performance polyester.
But what really differentiates these products are the three surface treatments. Extreme H10 is a process with which new generation DWR (Durable Water Repellent) substances, an invisible water repellent and fluorine-free shield, are added to the yarns. The result is a breathable mesh that preserves a comfortable microclimate and lets the water slip off the surface, preventing it from being absorbed and making it easier to dry. Extreme H20, on the other hand, is a nano emulsion treatment that has the ability to transfer sweat from the skin to the surface of the mesh where it can evaporate quickly. It is an antistatic, breathable product that promotes a beneficial thermoregulation effect. Finally, Extreme H30, an ennobling process that protects fibres through special new-generation “sanitised” products that protect the product from damage caused by mould and bacteria. All this guarantees a high level of comfort, practicality and hygienic safety in contact with the skin even after prolonged physical activity.
Following Napapijri’s “Make it Better” philosophy, namely the creation of innovative, functional and quality garments that respect the environment and reduce waste, the young designers of the Master CKD (Creative Knitwear Design) of Accademia Costume & Moda and Modateca Deanna have created an ad hoc capsule collection in Merino wool, interpreting the creative identity of the brand. The objective of the project was the research and development of functional garments that respected the environment not only thanks to the use of natural Merino wool fibre, but also to the use of advanced flat-knit knitwear that minimised waste. Starting from the iconic Napapijri garments, the young designers, with the help of the brand and The Woolmark Company, have studied flat-knit technological innovations in the field of knitwear to create high-performance garments exploiting the innovative STOLL technologies and the innumerable qualities of Merino wool. Examples are the reflective yarn or the Grilon Yarn, a polyamide yarn which blends with wool and is strategically positioned in functional areas making the garments perform and resistant to abrasion and impact, thanks to the use of flat beds knitting technologies. The samples are made in collaboration with STOLL, Zegna Baruffa Lane Borgosesia and Südwolle.
The last case study shifts slightly from the classical textile world and falls within the sphere of embroidery yarns. The Amann Group, a leading manufacturer of sewing and embroidery threads, has created a series of “smart yarns”, conductors of electricity and data. The yarns are no longer simple stitches, but they open more and more interesting roads in the wearable tech field. They can replace plastic or metal parts inside electrical circuits in areas such as the automotive industry, but at the same time they can be used in the medical field to transfer information and regulate values such as humidity and heat. In footwear there is an application in orthopedics, for example in insoles and soles for diabetic patients where the control of perspiration levels is extremely important. All this is possible thanks to the “Sensorphil fluid” able to perceive the accumulation of sweat and water emanating from the human body. At the same time the company offers “Steeltech”, made with steel yarn, and “Silvertech”, made of silver in combination with copper and brass: both yarns are ideal for use both in weaving (shuttle weaving and knitting) and in embroidery works.
The French company JRC REFLEX, based in Romans, acquired the Italian company I.B.R. LTD (province of Bergamo) which holds the patent for the production of high visibility printed refractive products.
JRC is today a reference point for backlit fabrics: it stands out on the reflective market due to the high quality of its products and above all thanks to the type of technology used which involves spreading glass microspheres covered with a metal substrate which, if illuminated, reflects light. The fields of application of this product are endless and range from purely technical ones, such as the safety branch, to more contemporary fashion, passing through the automotive sector. The range of supports on which the JRC technology is applicable varies and includes shuttle-woven and stretch fabrics up to coagulated and directly spun supports. The latest novelty, presented at the ‘Performance Days’ of last May, is “Retro Reflection”, a very interesting product that combines technique and aesthetics. The new application allows you to create a two-tone effect that is activated with light. Starting from a white or black base, the illuminated fabric takes on different colours. A possible effect thanks to the colouring of the coating, where two lights and microspheres are present, that reacts to the light source.