Sportswear Tech Powers Athletes and Enthusiasts Alike
We examine recent development of hyper technical outdoor apparel for athletes and for their fans
Many technologies developed to enhance the performance of the Olympian end up in commercial lines and vice versa, technology designed to enhance the consumer experience are integrated into the elite line. Often one inspires the other.
This year several pieces from Sweden’s team kit designed by Uniqlo will be adapted into the consumer line employing the same fabrics and innovations. The mastermind behind the collection, Uniqlo’s chief designer and project lead, Masahiko Furuta told WWD
Technology is playing an increasingly important role in maximizing athletes' performances in winter sports and improving the performance of consumer products at home. In this article, Alex Ingildsen and designer/trend forecaster Chantell Fenton discuss the function required to meet the needs of the athlete and enthusiast in an era of hyper technical outdoor apparel.
From Peak to Pavement—Style Prevails
Whether an Olympian or a fan, style matters. City-to-slope solutions are increasingly taking inspiration from streetwear. The U.S.A. Ski Team will this season be kitted out in Spyder’s collection created in partnership with legendary New York artist Eric Haze.
Elsewhere, the official outerwear partner of the U.S.A. Snowboard Team, Volcom’s streetwear informed styles combine the brand’s signature youthful aesthetic with high performance fabric tech. The jackets are made from durable, water-resistant nylon, perfect for snowboarding or everyday wear during harsh weather conditions.
Russia’s flagless uniforms, designed by Zasport to comply with doping sanctions, take their design cues from high fashion.
Zero-distraction Fits Reign Supreme
This year kits do not just look great, the styles are also crafted for success, thanks to extensive testing in sport’s tech labs. Styles designed for this category focus on ease of movement through ergonomic cuts.
The Netherlands’ kit partner Fila unveiled a new skating suit designed to improve comfort, aerodynamics, and speed. The short trackers also have new suits designed specifically to improve safety. The undergarment is fully cut-resistant layered with a rubber competition uniform. Ergonomic fits also benefit consumers looking for all-day comfort and wearability.
Advanced Fabric Tech for Incremental Gains
Whilst Olympians are at their physical peak fabric tech can help deliver next-level performance.
Team China's Speed Skaters are kitted out in uniforms by Anta. The styles were tested using air turbulence control technology. Crafted from high-resilience materials to reduce wind drag on the track.
Adaptable Styles Win with Olympians and Consumers
Whatever the terrain, garments need to be built to adapt to the wearers' changing needs. Lululemon the official partner of Canada unveiled the teams' transformable puffers. The style can be worn in multiple ways thanks to zip-off sections. Athletes can make the jackets long or short, full jacket or vest dependent on their specific needs. The lower section can also be zipped off to create a scarf or travel pillow. The style is also crafted from goose down with 600 fill, meaning it protects to minus 10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit).
Volcom’s snowboarding jacket for the U.S.A. team is also adaptable. The jacket and pants can be zipped together via the powder skirt which provides added warmth and coverage.
Not only for the sporting elite, modularity and adaptability is becoming increasingly important in the retail space as consumers expect longevity from purchases. Winter jackets should feature zip-on and off sections to create transformer styles. Hem and sleeve adjusters can also be used to enhance fit. The ultimate ‘one-for-all-occasions’ jacket is robust enough for the slopes but light and agile enough to use for everyday adventures.
Extreme Thermoregulation is Key
The needs of athletes and consumers are aligned here. Brands in this space are commercialising a variety of cutting-edge options that manage extreme changes in temperature.
Team China's podium uniform keeps athletes warm in temperatures as low as -20 C, while the outfit is extremely light to ensure maximum comfort.
Lululemon describe their zip-necked cocoon-like sweaters for team Canada to wear on the podium as “a warm embrace.”
Whilst Uniqlo tested team Sweden’s kit in three different temperatures: 50 degrees Fahrenheit, 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 14 degrees Fahrenheit. The testing resulted in a “smart layering system” built from four layers that can be worn on their own or together in combination. The team also developed a new fabric, Ultra Stretch Dry which provides insulation and wicking properties without the risk of overheating. Vital functionalities for athletes performing at their best.
Ralph Lauren’s latest jacket developed for the U.S.A. team is created from a fabric that expands or contracts in response to temperature changes. For the summer Olympics last year, the company created a cooling jacket for Team USA’s Opening Ceremony uniforms that employed a self-regulating temperature cooling device within the garment. And in 2019, the brand introduced the heatable moon jacket with a battery pack that can be controlled wirelessly through Bluetooth technology.
Elsewhere team Great Britain’s jacket designed by Adidas in collaboration with Parley for the Ocean, is breathable, thermal efficient and quick dry for maximum performance. The collection also incorporates the same technology found in Adidas's Cold.Rdy collection, which is designed to insulate the body in cold weather.
About Chantell Fenton
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