Trends of Performance Fabrics
(1) Recycled Materials
Recycled polyester and nylon remain the most common sustainable eco-friendly materials used in sports performance fabrics. A growing number of sports and outdoor brands choose to replace raw materials with recycled materials at an affordable cost, and are keen on selecting recycled materials with social impacts and benefits (e.g., Thread and Parley for the Oceans). In addition, recycled fabric materials do not end with fibers. The use of recycled cotton, recycled wool and recycled down has increased due to technological innovation.
(2) Biodegradable Materials
Due to doubts over the negative impact of synthetic fiber materials on the environment, designers’ interest in biodegradable fabrics has increased. At ISPO Munich 2019, outdoor brand, Houdini launched The Alchemist, a jacket made of recycled material and biodegradable synthetic fiber material, the PrimaLoft Bio fill . The Südwolle Group exhibited a series of biodegradable products, including merino wool blended hemp, Lyocell, silk, and biodegradable nylon Amni Soul Eco, while combining the company’s Naturetexx plasma technology to increase the performance and durability of fabrics. Another interesting series is the BIOBACK fabrics with high humidity management and quick drying functions, launched by M.I.T.I., an Italian fabric manufacturer. This material is biodegradable, and does not release any toxic substances into soil.
(3) Biomass Nylon
Biomass fiber materials have also attracted attention in the area of sportswear and high-performance apparel due to sustainability and environmental protection issues. For example, German outdoor brand Vaude is working with 12 partners to launch the EFFECTIVE project to study the commercial development of Biomass Nylon 6 .
Opportunities and Challenges in Circular Economy
The concept of circular economy is currently driving innovation in sustainable and eco-friendly materials. Sports and outdoor supplies companies have also begun to consider the significance and effects of design, manufacturing, use and end of life. The adoption of circular design principles begins with the creation of products to extend life and durability, and takes into account the fact that products can be reused, shared and repaired, as well as recycled or composted when they are exhausted.
(1) Rise of the Clothing Rental Business Model
For instance, Routinely, a New York startup company, can provide sportswear kit renting services according to customer needs. Customers can choose to rent worn or brand new sportswear according to price considerations. At present, the well-known brands provided by this company for renting include Nike, Outdoor Voices, Lululemon, RHONE, adidas, UA, etc. The rise of rental and resale trends is mainly resulted from the gradual rise of the Millennials as major consumers, as the Millennials do not intend to own items over the long run, but prefers specific products needed for short-term use. The clothing rental business model has affected apparel design and manufacturers because buyers are increasingly concerned about product durability.
(2) Challenges Facing the Sports and Outdoor Industries
Since most sports and high-performance fabrics are equipped with specific functions, they are usually made of mixed materials, which are often not recyclable in existing recycling systems. Although a growing number of recycled or biodegradable fabrics with potential is currently entering the market, these fabrics have to be dyed or printed, and often require additional performance coatings, which may affect the recyclability or biodegradability of products when they are scrapped. Therefore, manufacturers are currently developing and testing large numbers of solutions.
回收聚酯和耐隆仍然是最普遍應用於運動機能布料的永續環保素材，越來越多的運動及戶外品牌在成本可負擔的情況下，選擇以回收材料替代原生材料，且熱衷於選擇具有社會影響效益的回收材料（如：Thread及Parley for the Oceans）。此外，回收材質布料並不止於合成纖維，由於技術創新也使得回收棉、回收羊毛及回收羽絨的使用量也增加。
基於合成纖維材料對環境產生負面影響的疑慮，提升設計師對生物可分解布料的興趣。在ISPO Munich 2019展會上，如：戶外品牌Houdini推出The Alchemist，採用回收材質及可生物降解的合成纖維材料PrimaLoft Bio填充物製成夾克。Südwolle集團展示了生物可分解系列產品，包括美麗諾羊毛混紡麻、Lyocell、絲綢和生物可分解的尼龍 Amni Soul Eco，並結合公司的Naturetexx電漿技術，提高布料的機能和耐用性。另一個有趣的系列是義大利紡織品生產商M.I.T.I.推出BIOBACK布料，具有高濕度管理和快乾功能，此材料可生物分解，且不會在土壤中釋放任何有毒物質。