Tomorrow's sportswear here today!
Made from what are known as technical fibres with properties selected for one or more specific applications (fire-resistance, mechanical resistance, electrical conductivity), technical textiles are expected to account for 80% of the textiles produced in France by 2020. In fact, this proportion could be even higher for sportswear lines. Major equipment manufacturers such as Nike and Adidas, which are at the forefront of the industry, are working tirelessly on this development. In partnership with universities, the German equipment manufacturer spends over 100 million Euros each year on R&D in order to develop new products, materials and processes. Proof that tomorrow comes today can be found in the fact that connected fabrics are starting to appear on the market. Their mission is to measure performance by collecting and analysing vital signs during a sporting activity.
Intended for amateur and professional athletes, various t-shirts, tank tops and other pieces of sportswear are fitted with sensors inside in the fabric which are used to measure the heart rate, respiratory rate, body temperature, calories burned, and more. The physiological data collected in this way is sent to an external device (computer, tablet or smart phone), enabling users to monitor and compare their performance.
Always at the right temperature
Keeping the userat a constant temperature is the goal of this bio-inspired jacket and its "adaptive" ventilation system designed by Californian start-up Omius. Depending on the temperature of the user's body and the ambient temperature, slits located along the textile can open and close to let air through. Temperature sensors are hidden inside the synthetic fabric jacket, and send the data to a processor that controls the slits. The jacket also has pressure sensors enabling users to open and close the slits manually, while enabling the system to learn the user's preference using machine learning algorithms which map the data. The jacket's various features are powered by a polymer lithium-ion battery with an autonomy of one day.
The clothing designed by Lyon-based start-up Clim 8 offers a solution able to warm up the user when they get cold. Their technology uses a textile patch that can be applied to any type of t-shirt. When the temperature falls below the user-defined comfort level, the built-in sensors trigger heating at specific locations through strips of polymer fabric traversed by a low-voltage electric current generated by a mini battery. The comfort level can be set beforehand using a smart phone application.
"Flying on the ground"!
Here is the Hoka trainer, the first knitted running shoe with an EVA and rubber sole. Hoka One One®, a French brand which has seen considerable growth since its creation, unveiled its first knitted running shoe, the Hupana, for Men and Women. No need to be a champion to enjoy the performance of this brand of trainers whose name means "flying on the ground" in Maori! Two to three times thicker than average, but just as light, its EVA and rubber sole offers improved cushioning and comfort, and propels the runner's foot forwards. Slick, ultra-breathable and lightweight, this trainer harmoniously combines style and performance.
The Supercraft 4D: the future at speed
In a not so distant future, users will only need to enter a store and spend a few minutes running on a treadmill to get an imprint of their feet. The 3D-printed running shoe will be flexible and breathable, while perfectly matching the contours of the foot and the points of support used when the foot hits the ground. A gem of technology, the sole of the Supercraft 3D is made from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and offers durable elasticity and resistance to abrasion and tearing. By custom-making a sole perfectly moulded to the sole of users' feet, the German brand intends to radically change research on running shoes in order to better meet the needs of each individual athlete.
Thanks to a partnership with the Parley for the Oceans NGO, German company Adidas now offers a new pair of sneakers created using plastic waste recovered in the oceans. The equivalent of 11 plastic bottles is required to manufacture one pair of the sneakers. A first limited series of 7,000 pairs quickly sold out prior to mass production. "Our ambition, in the long term, is to eliminate "virgin" plastic from our production line", confirmed a communication officer for the brand. This is a remarkable and highly-publicised development, in particular because the company provided the players of Bayern and Real Madrid football clubs with kits made from recycled plastic by Parley. Proof that style and eco-friendliness go together.
The nano-bio revolution!
It's all change in the world of textiles. Nanotechnologies, biotechnologies and computing are about to journey into the very heart of the mesh, to reshape our clothes and the way we use them. Now is the era of intelligent clothing!
Unalterable, indestructible, able to change colours to suit your mood, to automatically adapt to any climate, filled with sensors that make real-time analyses of your level of fatigue, stress or health. Incorporated nanofibres, nanoparticles or nanotubes, deposited nanolayers and nanostructured surfaces. Chemistry's contribution to improving comfort and performance will result in improved and possibly new properties (mechanical, thermal, optical, etc.). New processes will make it possible to develop materials at the nanometric scale (under 100 nanometres).
Thanks to this miniaturisation, it will then become possible to incorporate chemical, physical, biological or electronic systems into the fabric to make "intelligent textiles".
Sports textiles, the best test bench for new materials, will continue to be a hot-bed for innovation.