[Leading techwear materials]

[Leading techwear materials]
Often, when choosing functional clothing, we primarily pay attention to the fabrics and materials from which it is made. At this choice we form the general idea of clothing functionality. The modern market is sufficiently rich in offers from different manufacturers, but experiencing an acute shortage of new developments due to the rapid changeability of technologies in general humanity background.
We tried to understand – which modern materials are more advanced and what quality standards they will dictate in the next few [a couple?] years.

Author: Alexander Denisov [TECHUNTER].
Photo: Dyneema [DSM], Stone Island, Haglofs, Black Yak.
The modern industry of clothing and equipment development and production for outdoor has long secured the status of high-tech and science-intensive industry, which has been developing dynamically in the last 30 years. Almost every couple of years, all new materials and accessories were introduced, old designs were improved and fundamentally new concepts appeared. But, as with any industry, revolutionary development has been replaced by evolutionary development. The industry began to feel the lack of fresh ideas caused by the shortage of breakthrough materials in their properties. Designers hit the experiments, many of which can be considered extremely successful. Improved patterns provided excellent freedom of movement, there is a trend to reduce the weight of the equipment without losing its strength, and the high technology came to the Playground of casual wear, creating a world of "techwear" and no less fashionable direction "city-outdoor".
But the further, the more acute became the crisis of the industry has required innovations. Demand for them has increased particularly in the last five years, which has led to the introduction of the most advanced fabrics not only in conceptual clothing, but also in a limited series. The latter is an encouraging signal, as designers and technologists learn to work with the material on small lines, studying its properties, preparing the ground for wider introduction of new technologies into their products.

Therefore, we decided to talk about several potentially revolutionary fabrics and technologies, and in conclusion we will touch on the latest trends that have emerged recently and try to predict their next development.
This is the one of the most promising materials. To be precise, Dyneema is a whole family of fabrics based on fibers obtained from ultra-high molecular weight and high density polyethylene. There are twisted strands which weaved and formed a woven fabric. They can also be simply fused into a layer of polymer of the desired shape, for example, in the production of chains or armor plates. Finally, often the fibers are thermally glued into a non-uniform cloth, which is laminated on both sides with transparent synthetic films – this group of materials is most interesting and is known as Dyneema Composite Fabrics. Today Dyneema is the most tear-resistant synthetic fibre available. They are 4 times lighter and durable than the famous Kevlar and 15 times stronger than steel wire of similar section. This allows you to create a very light and compact package things without losing their strength and durability.
The first samples of fibers were received in 1963, but their commercial use began only 27 years later. Dyneema fabric used in making sails for sea yachts, body armor and armor plates, jackets, chains and ropes for loading operations, rucksacks, slings for mountaineering, tents, ultra lightweight tents and shelters. The advantages of the fibers include their chemical inertness, resistance to ultraviolet radiation, zero elongation of the fibers under tension and extremely low wettability with water. Dyneema is not at all inclined to absorb and retain moisture, so it practically does not require the application of water-repellent treatment. Laminated fabrics are completely waterproof, making them ideal for ultralight Hiking tents, backpacks and almost weightless waterproof clothing.
Dyneema is not without drawbacks. Zero elasticity requires from designers a very careful evaluation of patterns in the development of sportswear, designed to provide maximum freedom of movement. In addition, there are no methods that allow to paint polyethylene fibers in any resistant color except black and blue, although in this direction research is constantly conducted. The key drawback of Dyneema is its instability to high temperatures – fibers melt easily in contact with hot objects and lose durability when washing in hot water.

Twisted Dyneema yarns due to zero tension form a rather rough canvas, so it is almost not used in the "pure" form only in protective clothing, shoes and backpacks. More often polyethylene fibers simply mix with others to give to clothes new properties.
A clear example – Dyneema Denim – cotton denim, supplemented with 7% Dyneema fiber two times more wear-resistant and 25% stronger at the break than the classic denim. The difference in texture, appearance and tactile sensations between them is invisible. This group of materials is in the greatest demand – Levi's, Taylor Stitch, Hugo Boss and many others already have their regular collections of jeans clothes.

But the most interesting are the Dyneema laminated fabric. Designers are captivated by their weightlessness and impermeability with high strength and ease of care. Even the semi-transparency of these materials turns into a plus, allowing you to create very unusual things with futuristic appearance. Among the fashion brands, work with them noted only by Stone Island, released a limited series of only 100 jackets Prototype Research Series_02, painted by the garment dyed technology.
Finally, mass-produced windbreakers from translucent laminated Dyneema are produced by a small American brand Hyperlite Mountain Gear and South Korean outdoor brand Black Yak – it is Emergency Jacket made of the lightest fabric article and designed to protect against snow, rain and wind in the event of an emergency deterioration in the weather as part of a mountaineering route or climbing. Own design to create clothing made from Dyneema are already being carried out in Arc'teryx.

Mass introduction of Dyneema is preventing the high cost of the material itself and the difficulty of working with it – cutting, seams sealing, etc. But the prognosis is positive – the amount of concepts increases, and limited series of clothes from it becoming more extensive. In addition, for 4 years there is a "Dyneema Project", designed to promote new fabrics and organizing the collaboration of brands with the company-manufacturer of Dyneema – DCM.
Vectran is a synthetic fiber produced from the melt of liquid crystal polymer. They are only slightly inferior to Dyneema in tensile strength, but exceed steel and Kevlar in this parameter. Chemically inert, resistant to heat up to +145 °C, then do not melt, but only lose in strength. Very poorly cutted and well dampen vibration. With the exception of the most durable varieties, Vectran fibers are resistant to staining. Until recently, they were used only in protective work and motorcycle clothing, strengthening the braid of downhill skis and snowboards, in the production of cords and ropes, as well as tennis strings.

In outdoor-clothing Vectran was used quite limited until recently – as the gain is subject to higher wear places. A striking example – the jacket and pants Heli Pro from Peak Perfomance.
The first full-fledged experience in creating workable, functional clothes with large-scale use of Vectran fibers can be considered the ACE Lofoten ski suit from Norwegian outdoor brand Norrona. For its tailoring the strong nylon cloth strengthened with Vectran threads on all area (a proportion – 77% /23% respectively) is used. The uniqueness of the fabric is due to the fact that it is a membrane laminate Gore-Tex Pro, created by the company in a small volume at the exclusive request of Norrona.

ACE costume series is limited and all items are numbered with serial numbers, but there is hope that it will take its place in the regular collections of the brand. Mass introduction of fabrics with Vectran fibers in production of functional and stylish clothes is hindered by complexity of material processing – for its cutting re-equipment of production as usual knives and cutters do not cope with it is required.
New slim nylons
However, with the gradual introduction of fabrics and fibers Dyneema and Vectran, it is not necessary to write off already become a traditional nylon. Of course, in this case we are not talking about mass fabrics, but rather expensive products that are produced in relatively small volumes. The developers have made the greatest progress in the production of the finest nylon fabrics and materials, where the main work is to increase their strength, while maintaining low weight. Traditionally, the Japanese concern Mitsui, which has owned the brand Pertex since 2005, leads in this direction.
Realizing the" natural " disadvantages of nylon, its employees decided to increase the strength of the material by changing the shape of the fibers. Instead of a round and oval section, they made them Y-shaped (YFuse) and diamond-shaped (DiamondFuse). Due to this, the fibers lie denser to each other and their minimum sliding is observed even after numerous washings.

In addition to sports and outdoor brands, thin, but relatively wear-resistant Pertex nylons due to its properties, extraordinary texture and appearance have found recognition in the fashion "techwear" industry. They are actively used by market pillars such as Stone Island and Nanamica. Especially for clothes in "city-outdoor" style Pertex company presented more wear-resistant series of fabrics Pertex Unlimited, which can be seen in the collections of winter apparel in 2018.
Sub-micron electrospinning membranes
By the early 2010s, membrane laminates reached a certain level of the development – something radically new manufacturers can not presented long enough. The market was shaken up by Polartec LLC company, better known to the world for its fleece fabrics, which presented the Polartec NeoShell laminate. Its feature was the use of submicron electrospinning membrane, which has a very high vapor permeability.
Unlike traditional membranes, which are produced by repeated stretching of teflon or polyurethane, electrospinning membranes are created from the finest polyurethane fibers, which are formed into a single array by means of an electromagnetic field. Formed something like a nano-felt with a large, and most importantly – controlled, the distance between the fibers of the membrane, which allows for two-way air exchange. The difference in vapor permeability between traditional and electrospinning membranes is particularly noticeable in the framework of intense physical activity with increased sweat and heat generation.
The main disadvantage of NeoShell and its analogues is in reduced water resistance and resource as compared with the classic membrane laminates. Therefore, it is used either in storm clothes for highly aerobic activities, or in softshell-clothing.
Become a truly mass material electrospinning membranes will succeed only if they overcome their key shortcomings. And work in this direction is already underway!