Natural Performance Reigns Supreme as Consumers Increasingly Covet Plastic-Free Activewear
Wools inherent performance and technical benefits makes it the perfect sustainable choice for performance outdoor and activewear collections
Consumer perceptions and expectations around synthetic fabric handles are changing, providing the perfect opportunity for wool to make major inroads in performance apparel.
Whilst pioneers like Ortovox have been innovating with wool for first, second and third layers for the best part of 4 decades, new and next generation brands are warming to wool. As competition increases in the activewear market, a growing number of brands are looking to innovate and differentiate with natural performance fibres, such as wool. Alex Ingildsen, CCO at LTP Group states:
“Attitudes are changing thanks to innovations from leading fabric suppliers and rising consumer awareness and expectations around sustainable materials and practices. Wool has the natural advantage. The demand for the fibre continues to increase across the sports and outdoor market beyond the already-popular base-layer segment”
Here, Ingildsen, Laura Didžiokienė, fabric sourcing & innovation manager at LTP, and designer/trend forecaster Chantell Fenton discuss the future of wool in the performance sector.
Wool is Nature’s Technical Fibre
As one of the world’s oldest materials, wool is the original performance fibre with many inherent technical benefits such as natural breathability, elasticity and odour resistance. In contrast to synthetics, wool can absorb moisture vapour which results in less sweat on the wearers skin. Pontetorto’s Merino line, Technowool is said to absorb moisture up to 35% of its weight before feeling wet. In addition, wool fabrics can absorb and lock away the odour molecules from sweat, which are only released upon washing for a stink-free finish.
Thygesen & Birk recommend Sportwool for more active occasions, such as skiing, cycling and outdoor activities. As well as the many performance benefits, the textile is also machine washable at 40 degrees. Whilst the suppliers merino qualities are advocated for baselayers and underwear due to the fibre’s many benefits including close-to-skin comfort.
Another advantage to wool is the fibres thermo-regulating qualities. Wool reacts to changes in the body’s temperature, keeping the wearer comfortable, no matter the weather or exercise intensity. In warm environments, wool fabrics can feel up to two times cooler to touch than synthetic fabrics, because wool conducts more heat away from the skin. In contrast, in cold environments wool’s high insulation capability keeps the wearer warm even in humid conditions, thanks to small air pockets that are formed internally.
The multitude of benefits as well as the fibres sustainable qualities are the reason more brands are choosing to craft workout apparel in wool. Tracksmith’s latest run commute range is created from The Woolmark Company’s Australian Merino. Designed specifically to transition from run-to-work, the styles are said to be quick-dry and don’t retain odours for all-day comfort. The jacket is a blend of merino wool and T-400 nylon for enhanced fit and all-weather protection.
Milan-based urban sailing and skiing brand, Sease also amp up performance properties of wool by combining the fibre with bio-based nylon to create the brands signature IBRIDO fabric. The fibres are combined to engineer the ultimate performance and comfort, fusing wools thermo-regulatory qualities with the bio nylon yarns increased resistency and durability.
Compression zoning and 3D body mapping can also be achieved with wool garments for targeted breathability, enhanced fit and function. The technical construction is perfect for high-performance activities such as running, cycling, climbing, skiing and cross-fit.
The Sustainable Choice
Along with the performance benefits, another perk of wool is the fibres eco-credentials. Didžiokienė confirms
“One of wool's strongest assets is its sustainability and how it can be used to contribute to a circular economy.”
Naturally renewable and biodegradable, wool releases nutrients into the soil when decomposing and is easily recyclable.
Transparency and traceability are key to future-proofing the industry and the environment. Ortovox offers full transparency and traceability across the whole supply chain from sheep to finished product. The brands commitment to traceable wool is outlined in the Ortovox Wool Promise [OWP], a standard that goes even further than the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS).
Thygesen & Birk’s also takes an environmental-centred approach by offering plasma-treated wool with full GOTS certification. This process uses plasma instead of chemicals to modify the surface of the fibre to create different physical properties which alter the performance of the existing textile processes, such as spinning, dyeing and finishing, to produce versatile wool products. The supplier is also proud to offer mulesing-free wool by operating to the highest standards.
Many functional wools are blended with synthetics or have chemical treatments added. As designing for recyclability becomes increasingly important, invest in mono-materials and raw qualities. This approach is driving new ways of thinking across the wool sector and ensuring the fibre becomes even more eco-conscious.
Another sustainable solution is recycled wool from both pre-consumer and post-consumer sources. Recycled wool uses less water and energy than the production of virgin qualities. Italian fabric supplier, Lanificio Becagli located in Prato specialises in this process. The region is famous for producing recycled wool, honing the craft for more than a century.
What’s Next For Wool?
All the latest wool innovations are featured in LTP’s 360° Innovation Book. This resource is available to all existing customers as part of the company’s Value Added Services which are strategically developed to provide brands with the tools to drive new and exciting product developments. This suite includes:
LTP is a Danish owned garment manufacturer for +60 premium brands within active sportswear, outdoor, athleisure and sustainable fashion. LTP was established in 1991, and is probably the biggest Sport & Outdoor garment manufacturer in Europe with bluesign & GOTS setups. Our factories are located in Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Vietnam.
LTP consists of two divisions; LTP Garment and LTP Contract Furniture producing in nine fully-owned factories.
About Chantell Fenton
New design manager at LTP, Chantell is an experienced performance sportswear designer and trend forecaster, with a passion for wellness, technology and function-first design. Chantell has an in-depth knowledge of how to spot and translate the must-have trends and macro shifts for the sports and outdoor industry. For more details visit www.chantellfenton.com