Performance for All: A New Era of Enthusiast
Creating Textiles Functional & Fit for a More Casual & Diverse Active Outdoor Participant
Determining what the consumer wants in the months and years ahead is really anybody’s guess because if there is one thing we’ve all learned during our collective COVID experience in 2020 it’s that even the best-laid plans can quickly go out the window. However, there are a few things we do know:
People are exercising more:
Survey’s show “exercising more” tops the 2020 New Year resolutions list and three in four Americans intend to exercise more this year than last. Everything from sales of running shoes to searches for activewear and plans for home gym renovations are tracking in the mid-to-high double digits.
COVID-19 has energized individuals to get outside in unprecedented numbers:
Sales of ski season passes are surging. Alex Moser, director of marketing/communications at Seven Springs Mountain Resort, reports season pass sales up 150 percent with 20 percent accounting for new passholders. Snowshoes and nordic equipment are trending; rental reservations and store sales are strong and the winter boot category is growing. Off-the-slopes exercise is climbing, too. NPD reports year over year sales of outdoor sports equipment up 12 percent, and cycling up 41 percent.
Home is where the action is:
Behavioral shifts to remote work, online learning and a decline in travel has resulted in the home becoming the new hive for activity. Not surprisingly, health & fitness equipment sales are up 54 percent.
Sartorial standards are changing:
Activewear is now a standard issue, everyday wardrobe staple. Online searches of activewear items are up 59 percent, according to LYST Insights, State of Fitness Fashion: Activewear 2020 report. 2020 sales of leggings were up 21 percent in the U.S., compared to the same period in 2019, according to the WGSN trend forecasting agency that also reports that the rise in leggings sales is about more than just comfort — “leggings celebrate women’s natural shape and parallels the trend of inclusivity and body positivity.”
Millennials are buying homes, having kids and focusing on family oriented recreation. “This bodes well for weekend activities like camping, paddle sports and day hikes,” states NPD Outdoor Sports analyst Dirk Sorenson.
Messaging shifts from aspiration to achievable:
The term “transitional” in a textile context takes on new meaning in 2021. New activewear collections are now described as versatile enough to go “from screen to outdoor,” replacing the “trail to cocktail” mantra of years past. “Safety” and “education” are buzzwords in welcoming novice enthusiasts to outdoor sports.
Big box retail eye active outdoor:
Kohl’s senior executives are doubling down on both segments with expanded product ranges, Footwear Insight reports. The retailer counts active athleisure apparel, footwear and accessories as key components of its broadening Active and Leisure Outdoor offerings whose in-store space will grow nearly 20 percent next year. On deck for a March 2021 introduction is Kohl’s new athleisure brand, FLX, with both men’s and women’s assortments. Also, the retailer intends to expand the presence of Hanesbrands-owned Champion in its stores.
These trends are reflected in textile developments slated for the season ahead. “Global living has changed, from how we work, and how we dwell to how we exercise,” comments Belinda Burt, product development manager, Burlington Fabrics, who believes consumers are making better choices while taking a more holistic approach to product purchases. “People have had time to educate themselves on what they buy. They want to know about the clothes they put on their body, what foods they put in their body, and what is right for them.”
Across the industry, sustainability is a key component of textile collections. However, so, too are functional features like comfort stretch, thermo-regulation, and durability. Execs agree that modern day fabrications must be multi-functional with an eco-friendly aspect. Just as sustainability alone is not enough, neither is a textile with a single performance characteristic. “It’s all about what else we can do to add value,” says Burt.
Fabrics that easily transition from screen to outdoor is central to Burlington’s product developments. In regard to changing lifestyles due to COVID, products now need to function and feel good as we move from task to task throughout the day. Says Burt, “That might mean, you shut down the screen, put on your sneakers and go for a walk. Or your kids complete their online learning and head outside to skateboard.”
Here’s a quick rundown on new offerings from a handful of suppliers developed with a new era of active outdoorist in mind:
The Sustainability Collection, featured at OR Winter Online highlights fabrics made with upstream solutions provider technologies as well as Burlington proprietary technology, such as MCS (Moisture Control System), No Fly Zone insect repellency and PF Zero, the company’s own formulation that is now developed across multiple platforms. In addition to high value sustainable properties and recycled content, the Collection also features comfort stretch, a soft handfeel and a range of performance properties. For example, the fully sustainable, 4-way stretch “Kerrigan” quality is a blend of 87 percent Green Circle polyester and 13 percent EcoMade Lycra. Green Circle poly is made from polyester garment waste using a closed loop recycle system, EcoMade Lycra is made from pre-consumer Lycra materials collected from company manufacturing sites. Another quality, a poly stretch twill called Kopari, is engineered for maximum comfort stretch, features Seaqual, a recycled poly yarn made from post consumer plastic bottles and plastic waste captured from the sea, in addition to MCS technology and a 50+UPF. Other fabric qualities feature Repreve recycled polyester and CiClo, an additive that reduces polyester microfiber pollution in landfill and marine environments.
In its first launch of the year, Polartec and brand partner Burton have created a unique eight piece capsule collection featuring Polartec’s proprietary fabric and technologies. All the apparel and accessory pieces in the collection use recycled Polartec fabric. The collaboration, in celebration of the Burton snowboard film One World, highlights the concept of inclusivity. A company statement explains: “Whether you’ve been here all along or you’re dropping in for the first time, the bond of snowboarding spans the globe and connects us all. We are One World.” Polartec Power Air, the supplier’s new knit construction that encapsulated air to retain warmth while reducing microfiber shedding, is featured in the One World Stash Pants and One World Tap Line Hat. The innovative fabric is light, stretchy, and highly durable with enhanced thermal efficiency and longevity. Both items are made with 73 percent recycled fabric.
eVent expands its line to include a new bio-based membrane technology for all-weather protection performance. At the technology’s core is the highly-renewable castor bean, which when converted into a nylon resin results in a light, but tough, flexible membrane. The bio-based nylon has a reduced carbon footprint, and the membrane is biodegradable and recyclable. Available in standard and recycled laminates, the new eVent Bio combines high breathability with degrees of stretch comfort.
Suedwolle launches Omega Twist, a revolutionary spinning technology. Properties include reduced pilling and “hairiness,” maximized durability and abrasion resistance. Featuring Omega Twist spinning technology, the fabric “Marin” is a blend of 90 percent wool/ 10 percent polyamide that stands out for strength, exceptional pilling grade and easy care efficiency.
Schoeller biocosmo textiles, within the Performance Collection, feature fabrics made with recycled, recyclable and/or biodegradable yarn and a bio-based finishing technology. According to the company, these high-quality, durable textiles meet the various needs of modern cosmopolitans, accompanying them in the biocosmos of day-to-day work, leisure and sport. As example, the light, elastic schoeller-dynamic fabric combines sustainability with functionality and comfort. Fairly produced in Switzerland, the soft jacket and pants quality consists of a high quality recycled polyamide and a recycled elasthane and, in addition, is finished with the water-repelling ecorepel.