Like their athletic consumers, sportswear brands can’t afford to fail at performance. Being on the cutting edge of apparel sports trends is not enough. More than style, the athletes’ comfort, performance and protection ꟷ often under extreme conditions ꟷ is paramount.
This is where computing and technology come to the rescue, bringing the sportswear market to an interesting cross-point merging technology, science, engineering, electronics and textile. Just as the textile market has performed a jump in the use and application of innovative fabrics, so has sporting apparel whose performance highly depends on the materials worn by athletes.
The materials used often allow for the garment or product to regulate body temperature, reduce wind resistance and control muscle vibration – all of which help improve athletic performance. Known as “smart textiles” or “performance textiles,” these innovative fabrics can be simply understood as fabrics that have been developed with new technologies that provide added value to the wearer. What makes smart fabrics revolutionary is that they have the ability to do many things that traditional fabrics cannot, including communicate, transform, conduct energy and even grow.
The range of materials being used include metals, polymers, fibers, yarns, textiles (knitted, woven, embroidered, non-woven), but also electronic components such as sensors to detect body or environmental parameters. Together with connectors and a data processing unit, these fabrics can also collect and process data. Lately, there has been a strong push towards solutions that can achieve better properties including washability, stretchability and new functionalities. With nano fibers playing a major role in dust and water filtration, nanotechnology appears as a key player in this whole ecosystem.
In its new report Nanotechnology, Smart Textiles & Wearables, Cientifica Research, the leading authority on smart textiles, wearables and nanotechnology, evaluates that opportunities in smart textiles will overtake those in apparel within six years and that altogether, this represents an $8bn opportunity for nano and 2 dimensional materials.
The result is a complex ecosystem of different material, component and connection options that are now available for product designers. While dealing with complex performance textiles, design lines and proportions have to be flawless to perfectly match and adapt to the body in motion. Also, accurate and consistent logo placement is crucial. But how do you ensure the logo will still appear as it should on a stretched garment? As simply as it could appear, using smart textiles actually adds a layer of complexity when it comes to design, a challenge that sportswear brands are typically facing.
Here again, computing, and precisely CAD/CAM solutions, can be of tremendous help. 2D and 3D digital solutions can to some extent take into account the technical attributes of the sportswear textile materials. By using a 3D avatar and visualizing true-to-life simulation, these solutions can highlight shaky proportions, a logo distortion, or simply point out at a shirt extensibility on muscles.
3D digital solutions present other major advantages for the sportswear market, which is under intense pressure to issue qualitative and performance garments much faster. Indeed, if garments are being stretched, timelines are shrinking, with more collections to be produced in shorter time.
Interested in hearing more? See how the leading sportswear brand, Under Armour, has been benefiting from an integrated 2D and 3D environment before even cutting or sewing the first piece of fabric, for faster product life cycles at less cost.