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Eco Performance Shines at Functional Fabric Fair


The Functional Fabric Fair Spring edition made its debut in Portland, OR earlier this month with solid attendance, an upbeat vibe and industry focus on the journey to carbon neutrality. The two day, in-person event, powered by Performance Days, showcased 296 fabrics in its Forum area along with trims and accessories, selected from 800 submissions, providing attendees and exhibitors alike an up close look at the latest aesthetics and innovative technologies for the Spring/Summer 2024 season.

What is crystal clear from the textiles featured and the topics presented by industry experts during the April event, is that eco is everything. For those companies slow to embrace sustainability, it’s too late, the bus has left the station. Designing for circularity, accelerating reductions in carbon footprint, and preparing for new regulations with criteria around chemical use, recyclability and transparency is now the order of the day.

Innovations of note at the Functional Fabric Fair, held at the Oregon Convention Center, include Brookwood’s Mahogany yarn dye plaid woven recycled wool blend with responsibly-processed Tencel, winner of the Eco-Performance Award; Green Theme Technologies’ water-free EMPEL DSR with PFAS-free chemistry to provide durable stain protection; and the emergence of carbon capture technologies built on the biological process of photosynthesis.

Alexa Dehmel, head judge for the Performance Forum, concluded her overview of the marketplace saying, “Today’s sport textiles demonstrate how fashion x function represents the current cultural Zeitgeist.”

An insightful Q&A with Higg CEO Jason Kibbey emphasized the industry’s mantra of “measure, manage and share,” in reference to the importance of tracking environmental impact data. Kibbey, in conversation with event moderator Charles Ross, stated, “If we want a 1.5 degree world, we need a tool set to do this. We need everyone to engage from factory managers to product developers. It is a collective commitment.” (Higg, along with several other eco certifications, was recently called out in a Changing Markets report as schemes to enable greenwashing. Kibbey and Ross subtly acknowledged the investigation, but stayed focused on the continued improvement of the Higg metrics and how factories are getting better year after year.)

Trend strategist Tsveti Enlow shared a high-level conversation on circularity, which, in addition to connecting the dots between nature/technology/innovation/culture, offered a new industry buzz phrase, the “carbon diet.” Enlow remarked, “We won’t be able to buy our way out of climate change. You have to deal with carbon before you offset it.” She noted a “massive shift” in the regenerative mindset, which requires changing laws, building new economic systems and thinking of individuals not as consumers but citizens.

The Spring ‘22 show generated good numbers. According to event organizer Reed Expositions, the number of exhibitors increased 25 percent, and the number of visitors climbed to well over 1,000. A wide range of active/outdoor/lifestyle brands made the rounds on the show floor at the Portland Fair including adidas, Allbirds, Houdini Sportswear, Duluth Trading, Keen, L.L. Bean, UA, Moncler, Smartwool and Vuori among many others.

Next up: Functional Fabric Fair in New York City July 19-20, 2022.

Look for more coverage of the Spring ‘22 Functional Fabric Fair in the upcoming May/June issue of Textile Insight.