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Expert’s View: Performance fabrics adding value to innovation and functionality

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The textile industry has evolved to a great extent and has witnessed numerous transitions over the years. Expert manufacturers have started experimenting a lot to keep up with the current trends. In the present era, fabrics hold high value in development of various segments of apparel business, ranging from workwear to party wear and sportswear to trekking wear. Therefore, it has become extremely essential to choose the fabrics wisely.

Technology and innovations have always been the core of every business, fabric industry being no exception. With the advent of new trends and technology in the textile industry, one can find a massive variety of fabrics available in the market. However, to opt for the best fabric as per the requirements, an understanding of the fabric is a must.

Fabric Characteristics

Fabrics are often intertwined with one or a group of yarns or interconnected loop of yarns which are composed of fibers and filaments. A fabric behaviour that plays a pivotal role in an apparel is affected by fibre blends and their fineness. Likewise, a yarn count is important to create a uniform texture for fine clothing, yarn quality parameters such as yarn twist, number of folds and yarn count affect the characteristics of a fabric.

Amongst the diverse range of accessible fabrics, the one with extra comfort and added performance potential holds the highest value. Possessing all such qualities and synonymous to the term ‘performance’ are . Most of the times, the look and style of a fabric is given preference over its characteristics unlike in the case of . Such types of fabrics are engineered for multiple practices, where the performance of the fabric and not style is the major parameter. These fabrics have the capacity to perform extra other than their natural behaviour.

Performance fabrics have a combination of fabrics made of woven and knitted to suit various applications. They are most commonly used for all active wear, sportswear, summer and winter wear, mountaineering and activities like trekking, work-wear purposes, military, urban wear and protective wear. They possess the ability to deliver extraordinarily more than their natural behaviour or the original qualities in their natural state. These added benefits of performance fabrics have enabled them to replace traditional materials and become popular among the end-users.

Qualities of Performance Fabrics

Performance apparels widely use an extensive range of synthetic filaments like nylon, polyester, elastane, acrylic and so forth. Qualities such as durability, strength, colourfastness, aesthetics and more are often observed in fashion apparels as these properties are quite essential for everyday purpose and maintenance. However, in case of performance fabrics, the requirements are functional and application specific such as moisture transmission, thermal resistance, wicking, waterproof, and flame resistant. The main reason following the requirement of these characteristics is because ‘performance fabrics’ or ‘value-added textiles’ are subjected to a wide range of end uses where the garment is affected by both internal factors including fibers, yarn fineness, warp/weft movement, fabric density, thickness, fabric count and external factors like exposure to sunlight, wind, rain and cold weather conditions.

The fineness of a fibre and yarn quality majorly affect the comfort characteristics namely wicking and moisture vapour transmission of a garment. This parameter is very important in maintaining and retaining the comfort level of a garment. Apart from this, fabric density also affects the performance of a fabric. For instance, a high fabric count has good abrasion resistance, fabric cover, and dimensional stability. In addition, the fabric has excellent resistance to wind and reasonable strength, a property widely preferred in work-wear category.

These facts clearly indicate that a number of internal factors including fibres, yarn and fabric structure affect the fabric characteristics. Therefore, the manufacturers should pay utmost attention in selection of appropriate fabric for different types of apparels.

Since performance fabrics and apparels are exposed to a wide range of external conditions including sunlight, rain, wind, cold or warm weather conditions and physical activity interaction with the human body, it becomes extremely vital to pay more attention to the traits than the style of the fabric.

Technology & Innovation

The interaction between the human body and garment is also quite essential, thus leading to increased preference for performance fabrics. With such extensive use and traits, performance fabrics are gaining wide popularity in the textile world.

Manufacturers are revolutionising at breakneck speed to present an exquisite range of fabrics with enhanced performance features for their patrons. This has further given rise to immense competition and widespread introduction of performance fabrics amongst the manufacturers to provide new levels of comfort and safety to the customers.

These new or enhanced performance characteristics are typically achieved through a selection of specialised fibers, or the inclusion of such fibers along with natural or synthetic materials during spinning, weaving or knitting process, or by addition of coatings or other finishes to the finished fabric. For instance, a premium quality yarn made of fine denier filament possesses a supple and pliable fabric that has low drape co-efficient. While on the other hand, a coarse yarn produces a stiff fabric that has high drape. In other words, it can be said that fibre type, yarn quality and fabric attributes affect a fabric’s performance.

Technology also plays a significant role in the processing of ‘performance fabrics’ by enhancing their features. Numerous techniques are devised by fabric manufacturers to enhance the quality of the fabric. Incorporation of technologies like nanotechnology has been a game-changer in the production of these types of fabrics. Usage of certain types of nano-particles in fabrics during production provides improved performance and characteristics such as increased stain or odour-resistance, without having any significant impact on a fabric’s weight and texture. Use of nanotechnology in the production of performance fabrics further leads to new paths for textile manufacturers to bring more innovative fabrics to the market in the future. Technology also comes to the forefront in improving the comfort factor of a garment. Smart fabrics which have intelligent approach to high body or ambient temperature are classified as performance fabrics and rely on the technology using micro-encapsulated phase change materials to absorb and release heat, thereby enhancing the comfort level.

Conclusion

The increased availability of advanced performance textiles and fabrics are leading to important innovations in the apparel industry. At the same time, unverified claims regarding the performance characteristics of these materials can also lead to confusion and incorrect decisions by the manufacturers. Hence, detailed knowledge of the fabric is essential in the selection, designing and developing of a garment. In other words, understanding the fabric and giving preference to its performance rather than the style quotient, that is, choosing ‘performance fabrics’is important to produce the finest garment and to have an advantage in this increasingly competitive market.