Top gear makes a statement
From Nike's Turbospeed track-and-field suits to Speedo's FastSkin3 Super Elite swimsuits, athletes will be sporting the latest in hi-tech apparel at the coming London Olympics. Nonetheless, such innovation is not just for the elite, as sporting-goods brands aim to incorporate new technology across a wide range of sportswear.
'Whereas clothes worn for exercise used to have a simple, 'comfortable' criteria, we now see clothing and materials that 'breathe', help with circulation and performance, and assist recovery,' says David Tanner, marketing and training manager for local sporting goods chain Escapade Sports.
Nike, Adidas, Puma and Patagonia, and niche brands, including Ronhill, Asics and 2XU, are leading the charge towards hi-tech materials, environmental sustainability and nanotechnology.
Adidas focuses on temperature optimisation through its Clima systems technologies, while Puma has rolled out a new moisture-management fabric designed to provide ventilation and reduce perspiration. New to Escapade, British running brand Ronhill offers six fabric groups, each with a different focus and purpose, according to Tanner.
'It's not about fancy catch-phrase advertising any more,' says Kirsty Hulme, director of sporting apparel brand 2XU. 'Wearers want to know about more technical aspects of garments.'
Customers are becoming more eco-conscious, a fact that is not lost on major brands. Nike joined the Plant PET Technology Collaborative (PTC) to accelerate the use of plant-based PET materials and fibre in their products. Japan's Asics Corporation has drafted a new sustainability strategy to consolidate parts, reduce carbon emissions and increase eco-friendly materials.
Patagonia is at the forefront of such initiatives, supporting environmental organisations and reducing resource consumption. A number of its products are made from recycled materials.
Already used in racquet frames and bicycle parts, nanotechnology is turning up in 2XU's tops to enhance moisture and odour control.
The technology is also being used for water-repelling swimsuits and to incorporate ultraviolet-ray protection.
'Sports gear is really making a statement and brands are stepping up to the challenge and becoming more style- and colour-conscious,' Hulme adds. That translates to neon brights and crossover garments.
Adidas collaborated with David Beckham for its new Essentials collection for pre- and post-workout, while Nike has unveiled colourful training shoes celebrating the Year of the Dragon.
'The colours and designs worn by today's health and fitness community are as eye-catching as they are technical,' Tanner says.