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Waterproof breathable fabrics: new technologies for greater comfort
published in Issue 24, 1st Quarter 2008
Garments which are waterproof and breathable help to provide wearers with greater comfort. For consumers, comfort is an increasingly important consideration when buying performance apparel. For manufacturers, a garment which is both waterproof and breathable can often command a significant price premium. However, price differences have narrowed over the years as waterproof breathable garments have become more affordable than in the past.
Waterproofness and moisture permeability are mutually contradictory. It has therefore proved to be a major challenge for manufacturers to produce a material which has both these properties. In the past, fabrics which offered protection from wind and rain did not breathe, and this made them uncomfortable to wear. But great strides have been made in waterproof breathable technology over the past 30 years.
USA-based W L Gore & Associates (Gore) has been given credit for giving birth to the performance outerwear segment and to the 3-layer approach to dressing for the outdoors. In 1976 it introduced Gore-Tex, a PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) membrane, which revolutionised the waterproof apparel market. Since then, a myriad of functional alternatives to Gore-Tex have been introduced including Conduit from Mountain Hardwear, Entrant from Toray Industries, EPIC (Encapsulated Protection Inside Clothing) from Nextec, eVent from BHA Group, H2No Storm from Patagonia, Helly Tech from Helly Hansen, HyVent from The North Face, MemBrain and PreCip from Marmot, Omni-Tech from Columbia Sportswear, Pertex from Mitsui, Reflex from MacPac, Storm-FIT from Nike, Sympatex from Sympatex Technologies, and Triplepoint from Lowe Alpine.
The introduction of new waterproof breathable fabrics has greatly increased the range of choice for consumers. It has also led to greater segmentation in the market, as technologies have been developed for specific end uses and weather conditions. Also, competition has intensified as new players have entered the marketplace and have challenged Gore-Tex’s domination. Such competition seems set to intensify in the future, leading to an increase in the tempo of innovation as companies scramble to raise comfort levels for those who pursue outdoor activities.
Table of Contents
Waterproof breathable fabrics: new technologies for greater comfort
Waterproof breathability in performance apparel
Testing standards for waterproofness, water repellency and breathability
Ways of achieving waterproof breathability
Applications of waterproof breathable materials
Key producers of waterproof breathable materials and their products
Four times a year, Performance Apparel Markets provides an overview of the sector for performance apparel and corporatewear. It provides market data and analysis of new and established markets for performance fibres, fabrics and clothing, and is essential reading for executives who are working in (or supplying) this fast growing sector. It is also an invaluable one-stop-shop where people who are not involved in the industry on a day-to-day basis can find an authoritative source of relevant information which helps them to quickly gain an understanding of the key issues facing the companies in this sector.
Reports in Performance Apparel Markets include:
reports on major developments in the global performance apparel market, focusing on new products and technologies, innovative fibres and key players;
detailed, independently-researched reports on one of the following topics: antimicrobial fibres and fabrics, anti-static technology, flame resistant fibres and fabrics, high strength fibres and fabrics, high visibility apparel, microencapsulation, moisture management fabrics, performance swimwear, seamless knitting and stitch-free seaming technologies, smart and interactive textiles, stain protective apparel, stretch fibres and fabrics, surfwear and surf-inspired clothing, temperature regulation, UV protective fibres and fabrics, and waterproof breathable fabrics;
company profiles, outlining the business, product, market and manufacturing strategies employed by key players in the performance apparel industry; and
business news and developments affecting global performance apparel markets, majoring on innovations, mergers and acquisitions, investments, joint ventures, and financial performances.
Performance apparel represents one of the fastest growing sectors of the international textile and clothing industry – and market growth is being fuelled by the emergence of new fibres, new fabrics and innovative process technologies. The market is also being boosted by changes in consumer lifestyles. People are living longer and spending more time on leisure activities. New high-tech fabrics are being developed for a wide range of active sports such as aerobics, athletics, ballooning, cycling, hiking, mountaineering, parachuting, sailing, skiing, snowboarding, swimming, and windsurfing.
Exciting innovations are emerging in smart textiles and nanotechnology – and the sector’s growth prospects are helped by the trend in increasing demand for performance features in mainstream fashion.
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