Making Sportswear For A Green World

Consumers increasingly want both sustainability and performance when choosing sportswear. While achieving this balance has traditionally been a challenge, new technologies are changing the game.

Sportswear consumers are as diverse as the activities they love. Outdoor enthusiasts might be found hiking, skiing, hunting or fishing, while urban fitness fanatics may run, cycle, skateboard or swim, play a team sport, lift weights or practice yoga. Whatever our exercise of choice, we all favor garments designed specifically to eliminate discomfort and enhance performance in our particular sport, whether we’re indoors or out in the sun, wind, rain and snow.

“This functionality is vital, but aesthetics are important, too,” says Martin Weber, Global Marketing Manager, who manages the Performance Apparel segment at Huntsman Textile Effects. “We see this particularly in the booming athleisure segment, where comfort and design go hand in hand. And yet aesthetics factor into sportswear buying decisions across the board.”

Sportswear brands are firmly at the forefront of the sustainable apparel movement. Top brands successfully appeal to young and young-at-heart consumers who define themselves by their conscious lifestyles and their dedication to their own health and that of the planet.

With increasing interest in healthy lifestyles, more consumers getting involved in sports and government promotion of sports participation, especially across Asia Pacific, the sportswear market shows no signs of slowing. Fortune Business Insights estimates the market will grow at 6.6% a year between 2021 and 2028 to reach USD 267.61 billion. And while the potential is huge, so too are the technical challenges for brands and their mill partners.

“Sportswear needs to perform well: to dry quickly, resist stains and odors, and offer breathability. It has to come in trendy colors and look as good after a hard workout or frequent washing as when it was bought. But that’s not all; modern sports apparel increasingly needs to promote sustainability, by saving water and energy and using eco-friendly formulations, and to provide assurances about consumer safety in accordance with partners like ZDHC and bluesign®,” Kerim Oner, Global Marketing Manager for Finishing Effects, explains.

Fortunately for brands and mills looking to achieve this balance, there are already a number of good options available from industry innovators like Huntsman Textile Effects.

      • Saving water and energy
        The company’s new AVITERA® SE Fast process delivers the lowest environmental impact for dyeing polyester-cellulosic (PES-CO) blends. It combines alkali-clearable TERASIL® W/WW disperse dyes and AVITERA® SE reactive dyes to cut processing time from around nine hours to just six. This helps mills improve efficiency and use around 50% less water and energy while delivering outstanding wet-fastness to ensure that sportswear will not bleed or stain during home laundering, or while in storage or transit.

        ERIOPON® E3-SAVE is another next-generation water-saving innovation. An all-in-one textile auxiliary for PES processing, it allows pre-scouring, dyeing and reduction clearing to be combined in a single bath and eliminates the need for anti-foaming products. This shortens processing time and saves water and energy.

    • Eco-friendly stain and rain resistance
      As the industry has moved away from the use of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) for durable water repellents (DWRs), Huntsman Textile Effects and its partners have led the way to provide new eco-friendly finishes that repel water and stains and help garments stay looking new for longer.

      Teflon EcoElite™ with Zelan™ R3 technology contains 63% plant-based materials and is the industry’s first renewably sourced water-repellent finish. It meets or exceeds performance levels possible with traditional fluorinated technologies, with excellent water repellency and durability on wool, CO and blends while preserving breathability.

      Another exciting innovation out of the Huntsman labs is PHOBOL® Extender UXN – a product that optimizes water-repellent finishes for long-lasting fabric protection. It is free from butanone oxime, which has recently been re-classified in Europe and restricted above certain limits in products by bluesign®.

    • Sustainable odor control
      Unpleasant odors can get locked into untreated synthetic fabrics. Sciessent’s Agion Active X2® is a next-generation odor-control solution that combines the advanced technologies of Agion® Antimicrobial and Lava X2® to deliver outstanding odor protection. Agion® fights odor-causing bacteria on the garment, while Lava X2® captures odor generated by sweat on the skin.

      This solution is easily integrated into the finishing process and can be combined with a range of other finishes, including Huntsman Textile Effects’ DWRs and Softener systems. It is bluesign® approved and complies with ZDHC Level 3 requirements.
  • Advanced moisture management
    Huntsman Textile Effects also offers intelligent and eco-friendly textile solutions that enable brands and mills to deliver fast-drying garments that help keep people cool and dry, even when working out. High IQ® Cool Comfort provides durable moisture management effects that transport water vapor away from the skin and spread it over a wide area to accelerate evaporation. The quick-dry effect reduces post-exercise chill, leaving the wearer feeling cool and dry.

Consumers’ expectations are maturing. We can expect that more and more will increasingly choose sports, athleisure and outdoor apparel that lets them dress to enjoy their favorite activities while feeling good about themselves and their impact on the environment. It is a challenge to achieve this balance, but textile technologies already exist to make this possible.

Anish Paliwal, Global Marketing Manager - CEL & DA, Huntsman Textile Effects
Kerim Oner, Global Marketing Manager – Finishing, Huntsman Textile Effects
Martin Weber, Global Marketing Manager - Washfast, Huntsman Textile Effects