Activewear – More Complex than You Expect!

About a decade ago when people were asked about textile, they were thinking about white cotton t-shirts or their favorite pair of jeans. No functionality, simply interlaces of yarns. But now if you ask the same people, you will hear words like wicking, moisture control, durable water repellent, anti-odor and maybe flame retardant depending on the industry they are thinking about. Consumers are now much more educated on the additional value that complex finishes can bring to their garments and therefore they are much more involved in their purchases of textile.

A very good example of that trend is the boom in sales of activewear. Do we all go to the gym or do any type of physical activity? Probably not! However, we all own activewear. The video below is going viral on the web because it makes fun of that trend. We all wear these highly engineered products the same as we wore a pair of jeans not so long ago.

But why do we like activewear so much? The main reason is comfort.

Comfort is very difficult to test so the textile industry has come up with many different indicators to quantify it: the level of moisture on the skin, the temperature of the skin, the softness of the garment and so on.

The chemical industry has developed complex finishes that will provide to the customer that high level of comfort. Wicking agents will help the fabric to bring moisture from the skin through the garment in order to remove any excess of sweat. The rate of that phenomenon has to be well controlled so the natural sweat mechanism will still take place and cool down the person wearing the garment. Durable water repellent treatments are also key for comfort. Outdoor gear needs to keep the rain water from penetrating jackets or running shirts but it has to let sweat come through. This is called breath-ability. And these performance characteristics need to last throughout the life of the garment. Another challenge for the Textile Industry.

But comfort is also about how we feel when we are wearing the clothes. Look is very important in our Society. So the garments need to keep that look the consumer likes and made him/her buy that particular piece of clothing. For that purpose, additional types of fabrics and fibers have been engineered. Blends of synthetics and natural fibers to take advantage of the properties of both and spandex to improve stretch.  But the chemical industry is also playing a very important role in that quest for the perfect fabric by developing anti-crease, anti-abrasion, anti-odor and anti-microbial agents. All these finishes will help the fabrics keep its shape, its clean aspect and smell nice for the consumer to be comfortable in the garment all day long whatever activity she or he is doing!

About Magali Brown

Magali is from Carcassonne, France. She has her master’s degree in chemistry with a specialization in textile and chemicals for textile. She spent 6 years in Fukui, Japan where she obtained her Ph.D. in amenity fiber from the University of Fukui. After obtaining her Ph.D. Magali began working for NICCA Chemical in Japan. After 6 months she relocated to NICCA USA, Inc. where she has been for the past 2 ½ years. Her current role is New Product Development Supervisor where she works closely with customers to meet their needs and requirements. Two main areas of focus are using exciting products and/or custom developments to meet customer’s processes and performance. She is a member of AATCC and is part of their flammability committee. She lives with her husband and their handsome baby boy born earlier this year.
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