What are performance fabrics?

Performance fabrics are textiles that provide added benefits such as waterproofing, stain protection, odor detouring, antibacterial, flame resistance, body temperature cooling or heating, etc.  Because of such added benefits one of the hottest trends in fashion is performance fabrics

With so many competing products claiming to offer “performance," it can be difficult for consumers of clothing & footwear to sort through all the hype and recognize that some performance material offerings require compromises in one way or another.  It is possible that the look and fabric hand feel may not match that of non-performance fabrics.  For example, a fabric may be waterproof, but can potentially have a stiff feel, or a fabric may offer ease of cleaning for a minor spill, but bleach or acetone cannot be used for really tough stains without damaging the fabric.  This is not to say that all waterproof fabrics would have a poor hand feel.  The point is that you would have to review each fabric carefully for its positive and negative attributes.

Coated fabrics: Many of today’s so-called performance fabrics are created by applying a coating to an ordinary fabric.  The coating may be an inexpensive means of enhancing such properties as water repellency and ease of cleaning.  On the negative side, while these fabrics may look and feel stylish, their performance features will diminish over time and their range of performance characteristics will be limited. The fabric might be easy to clean during the first few months, but that feature could disappear with long-term use and without regular reapplication of the coating.  If you purchased clothing with this type of coating on the fabric, it is highly unlikely that you will be re-coating the fabric.  While virtually every performance fabric relies on high performance treatments, consumers would be well advised to look for performance features embedded directly into the fabric rather than only coated onto the fabric.

Engineered Fabric: True “performance fabrics" are typically entirely engineered to meet a set of specific requirements such as abrasion resistance, fade resistance, ease of cleaning, etc.  Fiber composition, yarn construction, weaving techniques and finishing applications all play a part in how well the fabric will endure in a stressful environment. Engineered performance fabrics can be more expensive than alternatives, but offer the best value and the fewest compromises between durability and aesthetics.

When clothing companies are making decisions in regard to purchasing performance fabrics, they should take environmental concerns and safety into the decision making process.  Fabric companies and apparel makers should be committed to extensive testing of their products, including long-term exposure to actual environmental conditions in a variety of climates.  Some of the chemicals used to enhance the performance of fabrics can be bad for indoor air quality if those chemicals leach from the fabric into the air. It is also important to monitor coatings to make sure that they do not irritate the consumers skin. 

Consumer should also conduct their own research to identify fabrics that have a solid history of engineered performance and safety.  Careful research will also help identify compromises in performance, look or feel that are inherent in many fabrics.

If you are looking for fabrics made for a variety of end-use applications, which provide functional qualities, such as moisture management, UV protection, anti-microbial, thermo-regulation, and wind/water resistance and breathability, you are looking for performance fabrics.

Below are a few examples:

Dupont Performance Fabrics: Sorona Colorful Performance Fabrics with Comfortable Stretch.  Activewear manufacturers and consumers alike appreciate the comfort stretch of DuPont™ Sorona® because it provides freedom of movement, making outdoor activities more enjoyable.  Ideal for use in performance fabrics for active outdoor apparel, Sorona® provides comfort stretch and good color fastness to maintain bright, bold colors. And for the consumer, performance fabrics made with Sorona® resist fading from harsh UV light and can withstand repeated washings, extending the garment’s life.

Milliken Performance Fabrics: Milliken provides hard-working and comfortable performance manufactured fabrics for athletic uniforms and ball caps, imagewear and workwear, collegiate garments, shapewear as well as performance athletic apparel and hunting apparel.  They also make fabrics for industrial applications such as healthcare, hospitality, table linens, office interiors, labels, and much more.  Milliken's technologies enable the superior performance of their fabrics.

  •  VisaEndurance® fabric (Milliken) Combines an effective long-lasting odor control and stain release with a moisture management fabric for easy care. Available for a variety of uses, including active athletic wear, hunting fabrics and medical scrubs.

  • StainSmart® fabric (Milliken) Get the easy care of a fabric that effectively and easily repels and releases stains bundled with the comfort of wicking. Available in garments, hospitality fabrics and airwall fabrics.

  • BioSmart® fabric (Milliken) Bacteria and viruses collect on garments throughout the day. But BioSmart® fabric substantially diminishes contamination to support even the strictest safety programs.

  • Napery (Milliken) Decades of research and technology have gone into the making of a line of table linen fabrics, including industry-leading brands such as Signature® Plus fabric, Damask HD™ fabric and Visa® Plus fabric, that sets the standard in the industry.

Invista: When total focus on your performance is key, COOLMAX® EXTREME fabric is what you want—a no-nonsense fabric that meets your most-demanding standards.  Engineered and designed for the serious sports participant, COOLMAX® EXTREME fabric delivers the very best. This is the moment in which a few seconds make all the difference. With the confidence brought by hours of training mind and muscles, you want to know that your body is at its peak condition. Count on COOLMAX® EXTREME fabric, with its state-of-the-art moisture management properties, to deliver the power of unwavering performance.  COOLMAX® EXTREME fabric effectively moves perspiration from the body and through the fabric, where it can evaporate quickly. The thermoregulatory effect of moisture transport helps keep skin temperature low. It meets the highest INVISTA standard for COOLMAX® fabric.  COOLMAX® is a trademark of INVISTA.

Learn more about fabric here on Apparel Search.

If you are a clothing manufacturer interested in purchasing fabrics for garment production, you may want to also read about fabric utilization here in the textile industry terms section.

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