Multifunctionality - How Products are Adapting to Evolving Needs
From economic concerns to minimal lifestyles and seeking out a lower environmental impact, a wide range of drivers are influencing the demand for products that do more, but with less.
Having slowly been on the rise for a while, recognised through the increase in athleisure of the 2010’s to the more recent emergence of the outdoors into the streetwear markets. LTP are tracking a wider increase of the influence of multifunctional and modular design on both fashion and active apparel.
Brands are looking to cater to consumers with a more functional approach as they take note of the shift to more localised living, rising environmental awareness and the more recent rising cost of living. Below, we highlight some of the key drivers, and the trends and innovations evolving from them.
Paired Back Consumption
Driven by an ‘always-on’ mentality, consumers are feeling at capacity. Years of overconsumption, and a realisation of its effects, paired with time to reflect on both physical and emotional clutter has seen consumers move to make more strategic purchasing decisions. As a result, there is an increasing focus on products and materials that go further, meeting many needs through one product.
Previous Performance Days award winner, Optimer Adapt, is a technology that uses bio-based phase-changing and microencapsulated materials that both restores and recycles body temperature to aid the wearer in warming up or cooling down. On a more conceptual level, scientists at the University of Singapore, have created a film that uses moisture absorbed from sweat to help charge up electronic devices. Both of these innovations can be incorporated into garments to serve a second purpose, ensuring garments are multifunctional, adaptable and hardworking.
When it comes to footwear, even brands like Ugg and Dior are reconsidering how they can introduce and upsell multifunctional elements to their indoor and formal footwear. Through sitting at polar ends of the market, both have included removable and stowable rubber and nylon gaiters and galoshes in their product offering, allowing their classic styles to adapt to a wider range of environments and weather conditions, while achieving viral appeal.
With the rise in the popularity of the outdoors, bolstered by the pandemic and an increasing awareness of the benefits of immersing ourselves in nature, big brands are partnering to bring the outdoors to everyone. The crossover of outdoors performance and designer streetwear, is allowing what was once seen as casual outdoors wear to serve a purpose in urban environments too. The evolving influence of outdoors apparel is allowing consumers to purchase one item, to take them through a variety of environments, whilst being prepared for a range of weather conditions.
To increase their prominence in more streetwear and fashion focused markets, brands like The North face are teaming up with labels like Gucci and viral TikTok influencers, like Francis Bourgeois and urban bird watching collective Flock Together, bringing their functional products to a wider market.
For a more sophisticated collaboration, Nike and French fashion sensation Jacquemus have joined forces to create a paired back collection that speaks to performance inspired loungewear. Retaining a high fashion sensibility, the collection appeals to, and functions for, both active and fashion markets.
As we talk about Multifunctional products, modular design equally comes to mind. Having held its place firmly in the outdoors market, through details like trousers that zip off into shorts and jackets with stowable hoods, we’re seeing it emerge with a sustainable update into the wider fashion market.
With waste becoming an increasingly common resource, designers are already working on designing with a second usage in mind, while in the process of designing a product's first life. Nike is one of the many big name brands focusing on designing for disassembly and reuse through their glue free Link Sneakers. By being able to be easily taken apart at the end of its life, components can be reused and in turn retain their value. Fewer material mixes, minimal components and easily detachable trims are all key in the design of a first life product.
Continuing on the footwear theme, designing products with repair in mind also works to elongate a products life, minimising the need for further purchases. Sneaker brand Vyn designs by considering the areas of footwear that will wear out the quickest, selling replaceable components that also allow consumers to personalise their style. Moves like this are firmly inline with the EU’s ‘right to repair’, which focuses on saving costs for consumers and facilitating a circular economy.
When it comes to apparel, brands are also working to offer repair as a service, helping to elongate the life of a garment. Patagonia has long championed repair and reuse through their Worn Wear initiative which repairs and resells ‘broken’ products. More recently, global brand Uniqlo have started offering in-house repair for a flat fee making repair accessible to all, and Arc’teryx have launched their product service centre in New York that seeks to preserve the value of items.
LTP is a Danish owned garment manufacturer for +60 premium brands within active sportswear, cycling, outdoor, urban performance, performance running and organic & lifestyle apparel. LTP was established in 1991 and now spans two continents - Europe and Asia with 6 fully owned factories. Our European Innovation Centre is located in Kaunas, Lithuania and our Asian Innovation Centre is located in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We have a bluesign partner factory in all 5 countries where we operate (Lithuania, Ukraine, Romania, Belarus and Vietnam).
LTP consists of two divisions; LTP Garment and LTP Furniture producing in twelve fully-owned factories.