The Future Is Hybrid

UA Rush by Under Armour features Celliant technology.

Is fashion at the cusp of a philosophical shift? Post-pandemic, we’ve emerged from athleisure, but comfort remains key. While fast-fashion pumps out fodder for the landfills, sustainability drives textile innovation. Luxury brands are struggling, and yet consumers are willing to pay top prices for beautifully designed, functional apparel that’s meant to last.

“Consumers’ drive toward luxury is shifting from conspicuous consumption to celebrating one’s individuality and purpose,” write Pam Danziger and Chandler Mount in The Robin Report.

Early adopters are looking for timeless, trendless apparel that utilizes simple lines, comfort-driven technology, and environmental concern to suit the needs of today’s multi-hyphenates. Call this concept hybrid lifestyle, or techwear, it brings something more to the table, such as protection from the elements, performance enhancement, circularity, or self-care.

The Houdini WalkAbout skirt is engineered for circularity.
The Shape of Things to Come

An inherent multi-functional DNA identifies these hybrid lifestyle pieces, featuring technical materials and elevated design that transition seamlessly from the outdoors to urban spaces. For example, adidas TERREX’s collaboration with Japanese brand, and wander, includes highly functional yet comfortable apparel, outerwear, and footwear that explores the human connection with outdoor life. The collection incorporates recycled nylon and rPET in subtle colors inspired by the natural world.

Nike Forward, launched in 2022, is another example. It’s a stripped-down approach to fleece hoodies and crews that adds nothing unnecessary. The undyed, gray heather fabric is created through needle-punching, reducing manufacturing steps and water usage, and consuming less energy.

The net effect is “a hoodie with interesting technology, which can be everyday wear for early adopters,” comments Adrienne Mercante, head of apparel design for United Sports Brands, a portfolio of sporting goods brands including Nathan Sports and PEARL iZUMi.

Mercante works with technical fabrics in traditional silhouettes, calling the approach “stealth technology” and “thinking person’s apparel.”

Managing director and creative lead Tara Latham of Sugarhouse Creative, a vertical design agency for performance apparel brands, gives Sweden’s Houdini high marks for its dedication to sustainability. Latham calls Houdini “timeless, trendless, wear-everywhere product. There’s no compromise. It’s pared-down; nothing screams trend. It’s anti-fast fashion. What a lovely trend to see emerge at this time.”

Salomon Essential Shell with Gore-Tex ePE membrane.
High-End Brands Embrace Sustainability

“More and more, we only want to partner with brands that have sustainability at the core of their ethos,” says Latham. She notes that European outdoor shops have begun merchandising sustainable and non-sustainable products in separate areas.

Gore-Tex ePE (expanded microporous polyethylene), introduced in 2022, is a long-awaited, PFAS-free membrane that complements the ingredient brand’s waterproof, breathable repertoire. In a Verde Brand Communications Channel Master Podcast, Nora Stowell, W.L. Gore’s global sales and marketing leader/fabrics division, described the product.

“It has a lower carbon footprint measured by Higg MSI, and that low carbon footprint is very important to consumers. It’s also 50 percent lighter and thinner, which means it consumes less raw materials, which also plays into the sustainability message.

“There’s something to be said about, call it slow fashion, and having one beautiful jacket pulled up for a very long time,” she continued.

Adidas TERREX is one of the select brands to launch the new Gore product, combining it with adidas Parley for the Oceans fiber from recycled plastic. The company’s lightweight, convertible XPLORIC Parley Gore-Tex Suit was a 2022 ISPO award nominee.

Arc’teryx Ralle and Coelle jackets, Patagonia’s Storm Shift, and Salomon’s unisex Essential Gore-Tex urban shell, also feature the pioneering ePE membrane. They’re beautifully functional, minimalist pieces that speak to the hybrid/techwear aesthetic, merging craft with technology and sustainability.

Adidas Terrex x And Wander hybrid techwear jacket.
The Human Need for a Softer Touch

At Struktur Society’s panel on The Futures of Design at the recent Functional Fabric Fair in Portland, Struktur founder Michelle Rose suggested, “We’re moving into a new human phase of awareness; more self-help, more self-care, more awareness of each other and our interconnection.”

Products that speak to that awareness and promote self-care, recuperation, and wellness, are on the radar. While there are a number of textile technologies said to promote well-being, the trend may be finding its legs.

CELLIANT, a technology that captures, converts, and reflects body heat as infrared energy, was introduced by Hologenix LLC in 2002. The proprietary blend of bio-ceramic minerals and trace elements is embedded in fibers such as polyester, rPET, nylon, and viscose. Studies show that textiles containing CELLIANT enhance performance and recovery by promoting circulation and cell oxygenation.

In 2019, Under Armour partnered with CELLIANT to create UA RUSH, a fabric designed to “give athletes an extra edge by continually recycling the body’s energy.” According to CELLIANT, Under Armour continues to add new SKUs to the extensive UA RUSH collection for both men and women.

Seth Casden, CELLIANT CEO, comments, “We’re thrilled to have a long-standing partnership with Under Armour. The fact that CELLIANT technology powers the UA RUSH collection has helped generate consumer advocacy around the idea that your gear can (and should) do more for your body.”

“Everyone knows someone with pain,” says Jordan Schindler, CEO of Nufabrx HealthWear. The company’s line of medicine-infused pain relief items has taken off at a number of retailers nationwide, according to Schindler.

The fabric releases the medication on skin contact, delivering a consistent, long-lasting dose; and the medications are compliant with the FDA. The treated fabric lasts for 15+ washes/150 hours of wear.

Schindler says there are six or seven different ingredients in the pipeline – ideas such as melatonin or anti-aging supplements – and partnering with sports or pharmaceutical brands is “something we are doing.” When asked about using Nufabrx technology with CBD, Jordan pointed out that for now, “Retailers are somewhat skittish. But we know how to do it.”

The Best of Both Worlds

Both Mercante and Latham see natural fibers as another way to promote self-care. “We’re seeing natural and biodegradable fibers across the board,” says Latham.

“There’s a place for natural fibers,” explains Mercante. “They feel good on your skin.” Mercante likes Ventile cotton for water repellency, ultrafine merino for tees, and wool dress shirts.

She describes “natural” technology as, “Functionality through fabric construction, moving away from finishes that wash out.”

Whether natural or technical, the combination of good design, functionality, and sustainability doesn’t come cheap. Mercante believes that the fashion industry has trained us to think that apparel has no value. “We need to retrain people in the value of clothing. Don’t throw it out; repair it. Think of it as saving the gear that’s going to protect you.”