Taiwan - With a global cultural shift towards health and fitness, the athleisure market is continuing to expand. According to a new report published by Allied Market Research titled, “Activewear Market by Product and Fabric: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2017-2024,” the global activewear market was valued at $351,164 million in 2017, and is expected to reach $546,802 million by 2024, registering a CAGR of 6.5% from 2018 to 2024.
As more companies are favoring a casual dress code and consumers are demanding more comfortable clothing, many experts agree that athleisure isn’t merely a passing trend, but an evolution in the way people are thinking about clothes. However, without the technical fabrics that wick moisture, protect against UV radiation, and offer freedom of movement, it’s unlikely that athleisure would have caught on the way that it did — so in order to predict future trends, we can start by looking at the latest innovations in fabric technology.
To see where the market is heading this 2019, let’s take a look at the top fabrics driving inspiration and innovation in athleisure.
1.Knitted 3-Layer High Pile
The only fabric of its kind on the market, the knitted 3-layer high pile can either be used as an inner lining for added warmth and comfort, or can be used as a decorative accent on the outer face. While typical 2-layer high piles use lamination to create 3-layer structure to prevent pile fibers from shedding, a knitted 3-layer high pile keeps pile fibers firmly in place without spending extra time and effort on lamination. Eliminating the lamination step not only simplifies the production process, it also lightens the fabric, making it ideal for athleisure applications. This helps manufacturers save time and money, without sacrificing quality. Furthermore, each layer can use a different material type — for example, a soft cotton lining and a UV protective fabric shell — optimizing function and comfort for outdoor sport enthusiasts.
2. Sculpted Spacer
Women sports bras, vests, and tank tops are becoming more acceptable for not just athletic activity, but for daily wear — and spacer fabric plays an important role in creating the padding and support. In the past, sports bras were made using a spacer fabric knitted in a uniform thickness, and would add additional padding for support or to create a push-up effect. With the new generation of spacer fabric technology — the sculpted spacer — manufacturers can knit in a way that corresponds to the natural size and shape of women’s bodies, enhancing comfort with form-fitting support. Besides keeping women comfortable and supported, the curved spacer is also a manufacturers’ dream — rather than attaching padding after the sports bra is sewn, the sculpted spacer is sewn all at once, eliminating several steps of the production process.
3. Quadro Stretch
Yoga pants and leggings are the quintessential athleisure garment, but they wouldn’t have reached their pinnacle of popularity if it weren’t for 4-way stretch fabric. Compared to its inferior rival, 2-way stretch, it can be stretched during exercise without exposing the wearer’s skin. Furthermore, 4-way stretch fabric provides excellent elasticity to protect and support the body, while also allowing freedom of movement. Quadro Stretch, a new generation of 4-way stretch fabrics, further enhances the original fabric by providing variant elasticity and compression to prepare muscles before exercise and release tension during and after exercise. By changing the proportion of spandex, brands can adjust elasticity according to individual consumer demands.
4. Spacer Jacquard
Maintaining the body’s microclimate — the climate around a person’s body — is of utmost importance for any activewear garment. Prior to spacer fabrics, outdoor athletes would prepare by layering different fabrics: a base layer for moisture management, a middle layer for warmth and insulation, and an outer layer for weather protection. With the invention of spacer fabrics, a single fabric can provide all the functionalities an athlete that used to require three fabrics to achieve — keeping wearers dry, warm, and protected from the elements. Furthermore, spacer fabrics act as shock absorbers, helping prevent impact-related injuries such as broken or fractured bones. Combine this with the design possibilities of jacquard fabric, we’re more than certain spacer jacquard will continue to be a key fabric in the 2019 athleisure market.
5. Swiss Fleece
Swiss Fleece is everyone’s favorite midlayer, working best when worn over a moisture-wicking baselayer material like merino wool, and under a waterproof and/or windproof shell. Swiss Fleece has a double-layer structure — soft-napped on the inside with jacquard pattern on the outside — that can be woven simultaneously, cutting the time and cost of processing, and keeping the fabric lightweight. Not only is this highly breathable fabric lightweight and quick drying, it is also soft and cozy. As athleisure exists at the intersection of function and comfort, Swiss Fleece is certain to play a key role in the athleisure industry in 2019.
While not strictly a fabric, intarsia knitting allows for patterns and designs to be knitted directly into high tech fabrics, and will likely push athleisure to a whole new level. Unlike printed fabrics, that peel off and fade over time, the new generation of intarsia retains its vibrant colors and patterns for much longer, since the design is knit into the fabric itself rather than just pasted on the top. As brands are looking for new ways to embed their logos into athletic gear — and designers remain on the lookout for techniques that can create a unique look — intarsia is likely to make a big impact in the 2019 athleisure market.
While trends tend to go out of fashion as quickly as they come in, fashion as a whole is something that evolves — and it is clear that the market is evolving away from uncomfortable three-piece suits and pencil skirts, and towards athleisure.
Without the introduction of textile technology that keeps wearers cool and dry during athletic activity and allows for free range of motion in daily tasks, athleisure may never have taken off the way it did. As brands fight to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive market, they are using more sophisticated technology to make sure they provide a wearing experience that surpasses that of their competitors.
Pailung, an internationally renowned knitting machinery company, is introducing 6 fabrics type that are expected to inject new energy into the athleisure wear in 2019. Besides machines with proven fabrics such as spacer jacquard, swiss fleece and quadro stretch, Pailung is bringing new machines offering 3 versatile fabrics to the table – 3-layer high pile, sculpted spacer, and fabric knitted using intarsia. All three will be introduced for the first time at ITMA 2019 in Barcelona.
Pailung is the currently one of the only companies providing machines that produce the knitted 3-layer high pile and sculpted spacer. The knitted 3-layer high pile provides a three-dimensional structure with exceptional long piles at 8-12 mm, and can be optimized for specific functions with a wide selection of density and color options. The sculpted spacer can continuously knit tissues of different thicknesses — ranging from 3.5 mm to 12.5 mm — into a single piece of fabric, with a multitude of color possibilities.