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Fleece fabrics and garments: lightweight warmth for better performance
published in Issue 25, 2nd Quarter 2008
Fleece fabric has redefined the way people dress for cold weather. It enables wearers to spend hours in below-freezing temperatures without becoming uncomfortable, and yet it is light in weight and has relatively low bulk. The market for fleece fabrics has benefited greatly from a growing interest in outdoor sports, as well as recreational activities in general. It has also benefited from the rising popularity of cold winter sports, particularly alpine climbing and recreational skiing. By 2007 the market was worth an estimated US$4 bn worldwide.
The supply of fleece fabrics is dominated by Polartec, formerly Malden Mills, whose Polartec and Polarfleece brands have become household names. The fabric was introduced as polyester fleece under the brand name Polarfleece in 1981. Subsequently, fleece developed a somewhat dowdy image but this was changed dramatically with the launch of Polartec fabrics in 1991. Polartec fabrics satisfied customer demands because they dried quickly, they were warm, lightweight, and breathable, and they came in fashionable styles and colours. Polartec fabrics have been successful because they are warm, lightweight, and breathable, they dry quickly, and they come in fashionable styles and colours. Sales have been helped by the growing popularity of outdoor pursuits among baby boomers and their desire for garments which are warm, comfortable and easy to care for.
The key attributes of synthetic fleece—good thermal insulation, softness, low weight and the ability to wick moisture away from the body—were embraced by outdoor enthusiasts and mainstream consumers alike. Fleece garments, or fleecewear, swept through the performance apparel market in the mid-1980s. Fleece overtook wool as the fabric of choice for a number of outdoor apparel applications and established itself firmly as an alternative to heavy pullovers and bulky overcoats. Today, its uses in outdoor apparel range from high-tech outerwear to hiking boots. Fleece garments have also crossed over from performance apparel into fashion and corporate wear. Fleece has even found its way into deep-sea diving, in the form of linings for diving suits.
For the future, fleece fabrics will find their way into many new applications. Growth will be driven by novel end uses for existing products, as well as by the introduction of innovative 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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