Production Know-How Behind Summer Sportswear Trends
Summer is a time when people are naturally more optimistic and focused on wellness. After the challenges of the past few years, many will be looking forward to choosing summer sportswear in uplifting colors and playful patterns.
Designers are embracing a vibrant color palette for the coming season, with bold color pairings lending a retro vibe. Geometric shapes, gingham checks, polka dots, florals and stripes are also making a splash with creatives at trend-setting fairs like Performance Days Munich.
Of course, sportswear has to be highly functional, too.
“People buying sportswear nowadays want comfort and protection, whether on land or in the water. They expect their sports apparel to dry quickly, resist stains and odors, and offer breathability,” says Martin Weber, Global Marketing Manager for Performance Apparel at Huntsman Textile Effects.
“Achieving this functionality with on-trend aesthetics can be a challenge, especially given the increasing focus on sustainability in the sportswear market. But solutions are available. The key to finding the ideal solution is to be clear about what design elements and performance attributes you want to achieve; and what undesired side effects must be avoided.”
Let’s consider a few scenarios relevant to spring-summer 2023.
Deep shades and bold contrasts without bleeding and fading
According to Weber, it is technically difficult for mills to achieve deep shades and striking contrasts on the blends favored by sportswear and swimwear designers — specifically, polyester or cotton fibers, and synthetic or elastane blends, especially when using recycled polyester or polyamide.
“These blends tend to have limited wetfastness, and conventional dyes can bleed and fade, especially with increasing shade depth. But it is possible for brands to choose brilliant and deep shades and expect consistent shade reproducibility,” he says.
Huntsman’s TERASIL® W/WW disperse dyes deliver outstanding results, even for deep and very deep shades. With the best wetfastness performance available today for PES and its blends, they ensure that high-performance sportswear and athleisure garments will not bleed or stain during home laundering, or while in storage or transit, when temperatures can reach as high as 75°C. The new TERASIL® BLUE W further raises the washfastness benchmark and is robust during processing to heighten production efficiency and sustainability.
“Another option for nylon and nylon-elastane blends is the ERIOFAST® range, which brings greater design freedom to brands because intense deep shades can be combined in one garment for extreme color contrast — and even paired with white of the same substrate. This is an acid reactive dye range that provides excellent color blocking properties and no staining, along with outstanding washfastness so colors stay brilliant for the lifetime of the garment,” Alessandro Larghi, Global Marketing Manager for Wool, Polyamide and Polyacrylic at Huntsman Textile Effects, explains.
ERIOFAST® achieves superior moisture management effects without any additional finishing steps. With no fixing agent, the fabric’s very soft and smooth hand feel is also retained. The dyes are fully compliant with stringent brand and industry restricted substances requirements, as well as bluesign® approved and suitable for STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®-certified textile products.
Water repellence without sacrificing fabric quality or production efficiency
Durable and sustainable water repellence is a key consideration for outdoor clothing. Mills have to have a high level of expertise to use non-fluorinated durable water repellents (DWRs) to achieve the desired repellency while maintaining fabric quality and production efficiency.
Kerim Oner, Global Marketing Manager for Finishing at Huntsman Textile Effects, says, “The right chemistry, recipe and application process is vital, and this is often best achieved with expert technical input from a partner like Huntsman Textile Effects.”
When exceptional water repellent effects are required, sustainable Zelan™ R3 is the chemistry of choice. Based on Teflon EcoElite™ technology from Huntsman’s long-time partner Chemours, this breakthrough product was the industry’s first renewably sourced DWR treatment. It contains 63% renewably sourced content derived from a variety of plant-based sources, carefully selected to be from non-genetically-modified (non-GMO) and non-food-source feedstock.
Furthermore, Zelan™ R3 is up to three times more durable than existing non-fluorinated DWRs, and it delivers consistent high-quality results on a variety of fabrics, including cotton, synthetics and blends. It is ideal for high-performance outdoor and outerwear fabrics, with an excellent water repellency spray rating after 20 washes.
Zelan® R3 is applied by padding at loading levels comparable or lower than other typical repellent finishes. It is engineered to help prevent build-up on rollers for uninterrupted production. It is also compatible with commonly used coating and lamination systems and can be combined with PHOBOL® XAN Extender to boost wash durability.
High-value intelligent performance without compromising sustainability
Consumers want their sportswear to deliver enhanced performance, comfort and protection, but they also increasingly expect brands to achieve this in an eco-friendly way—and to be transparent about their sustainability efforts.
Huntsman Textile Effects helps brands meet customer expectations through its High IQ® quality assurance program. Giving brands a way to communicate their products’ quality and performance at point of sale, the High IQ® hangtag identifies products that deliver on-trend effects while also meeting the textile industry’s strictest environmental standards.
For example, High IQ® Cool Comfort provides durable moisture management effects that allow garments to breathe. The unique technology transports water vapor away from the skin and spreads it over a wide area to accelerate evaporation, ensuring garments dry quickly. This quick-dry effect reduces post-exercise chill, leaving the wearer feeling cool and dry.
High IQ® Sun Protect, on the other hand, delivers built-in protection from damaging UV-A and UV-B rays, providing an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of up to 50 and above. It is ideal for children’s wear and summer sportswear. Tested against the highest industry standards, High IQ® Sun Protect offers maximum protection without impairing the natural aesthetics of the fabric. In addition, prolonged exposure to sunlight and multiple laundering will not degrade the protection or fade the colors.
The technology that drives the HIGH IQ® Cool Comfort and Sun Protect programs complies with the requirements of bluesign® for safe and sustainable textile production and is suitable for Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX®-certified fabrics.
“Consumers are increasingly holding sportswear brands to account for their sustainability efforts, but they still want garments that perform well and look good. That’s entirely achievable today for brands and mills that take advantage of the latest dyes and effects technologies and the expertise of the innovators who create them,” Weber concludes.
Kerim Oner, Global Marketing Manager – Finishing, Huntsman Textile Effects
Martin Weber, Global Marketing Manager - Washfast, Huntsman Textile Effects