Peak Performance
Attendees at Performance Days Munich
The future of polyester was the theme of Performance Days in Munich. Over the duration of the two-day show, attendees and experts discussed and debated which direction synthetics would take in the future. What is clear is that polyester, not just in the performance sports and outdoor sectors, but also in the fashion domain, continues to be a staple fiber in delivering lightweight performance. The show’s buzzwords focused on circularity, tile-to-textile, efficiency and waste.

We have come a long way since the emergence of recycled polyester, not just through the much-improved hand feel, but also through new innovations and resource-saving attributes including water, through solution-dyed polyester, as seen at Taiwanese mills, from e.dye.

In textile-to-textile recycling, the origin must be 100% polyester to begin with. Multiple blends are stripped, either chemically or manually. This is where we are starting to see a trend in mechanical stretch and mono fabrics - allowing for a more effortless cradle-to-cradle experience. Recycled post-consumer plastic bottles have successfully created recycled polyester, with a much better hand than before, on par with virgin synthetics.

As for new commercial biodegradable polyester, circular and warp knitter Unitex has incorporated Ciclo. The technology is based on an additive blended with a base polymer in molten form during the melt extrusion, creating countless biodegradable spots in the plastic’s matrix. Unlike conventional synthetics, fiber fragments from Ciclo won’t persist forever in the environment, reducing microscopic fiber pollution.

Newcomer Celys is offering compostable polyester. Certified in EU and NA markets, Celys claims to be the world’s first compostable polyester fiber with 95.4% decomposition in 179 days under industrial composting conditions.

Non-profit Accelerating Circularity led the call for localizing collection and sorting systems to feed into localized recycling facilities. Plain speak, sending the raw materials back to the manufacturing source, rather than all the garments (as is the case now), shipped worldwide to be sorted for recycling, landfill or incineration.

Fabric selections on display

It’s Only Natural

The sportswear sector may rely heavily on synthetics, but naturals are making an about-turn. Naturals have offered protection and performance for decades. Ventile’s cotton collection is a case in point, celebrating 80 years in 2023. Other regenerative fibers are pushing through, embracing both the consumer’s love of the natural ingredients and also highlighting the inherent benefits they can offer. Newly engineered products take natural and man-made cellulosics to the next level.

Natural fibers lend their way to circulating and biodegradability, and certain natural ingredients offer compostable attributes that are part of the regenerative agricultural campaign. Imbotex, the natural ingredient insulation company, highlighted its new regenerative hemp-based insulation using Sero hemp from Bast Fibre Technologies. Another natural ingredient to be incorporated into the Imbotex range is Tirol Wool, an ancient breed of Tyrolean sheep that produces long-fiber wool for insulation. Through the special oxy-wash treatment, the scales of the wool are eliminated without damaging the structure of the fibers. Thanks to its eco-friendly process, the fiber of the fine Tyrolean mountain sheep’s wool becomes soft, odorless, hygroscopic and breathable.

A new scientific study from Woolmark, an exhibitor at the show, confirms that 100% wool base-layer garments provide greater thermal comfort for outdoor ‘stop-go’ sports, including hiking, cycling and rock climbing in both activity and rest phases. Wool’s unique natural structure allows the fiber to react to changes in body temperature, ensuring the wearer maintains an optimal microclimate in dynamic environments. Garments tested as part of the study included 100% wool, cotton, viscose, and polyester of similar fabric weight and thickness. To investigate the study’s robustness, each fabric was tested using ‘sweating mannequins’ and then humans. The results highlighted the ability of the fabric to breathe and dry quickly; the study demonstrates the premier natural capabilities of wool to maintain enhanced comfort and thermal sensation compared to other fabrics tested.

Collaboration is crucial, with many brands from different sectors teaming up to create the perfect product and pooling their resources and know-how. One such initiative is The Mindful Project, a collaboration between the premium seamless supplier for technical sport, Mia Group, Protective, a German-based sports apparel manufacturer and Flocus, a company that has brought natural fiber kapok to the forefront of the textile field. The result is seamless apparel with a silky touch against the skin.

Flocus natural fiber kapok