Functional Apparel: A Transformation with Diverse Applications

By Gayatri Mohite

Functional apparel has various uses, providing comfort and protection in various situations. In comparison, basic garments have limited functions. Using specially created fabrics and layering techniques protects functional apparel against radiation, fire, and extreme weather conditions. This type of clothing can be classified into three categories: medical, sports, and protective garments.


Activewear is popular because of its comfort and flexibility, made possible by the materials used in its design. Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, cotton, wool, and graphene are key in achieving these attributes. Out of these materials, polyester and nylon are the most commonly used in athleisure clothing due to their excellent combination of desired properties.


The developments in fabric technologies have resulted in more inventive and practical apparel. These include moisture-absorbing, temperature-regulating, and odour-resistant fabrics, which elevate comfort and performance for consumers. According to recent research conducted by Allied Market Research, a significant compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is expected in the global functional apparel industry in the coming years. This industry is gaining traction mainly because of the increasing demand for comfortable clothing and fitness-related products. Sustainable practices and adopting digital retail channels further propel the industry’s growth. 


Futuristic Trends in Functional Apparel:


  • Smart Textiles:  


The integration of electronic components in functional textiles not only enriches user interactions but also holds life-saving potential. Wearables track vital signs like body temperature, heart rate, and GPS signals. Moreover, satellite systems aid rescue operations in secluded areas, highlighting the impressive capabilities of these technologies. Enhancing these technologies will be achieved by incorporating scalability into the textile material.


The transmission of data, such as ECG readings, from conductive yarns in smart textiles to a microcontroller is facilitated by connecting carrier threads made of conductive, embroidered yarn. These conductive yarns effectively process and exhibit the received information. 


Additionally, integrating piezoelectric sensors into textiles enables the attainment of touch controls.


Smart textiles find widespread use in various fields, including the military, medicine, and sports. An illustration of their versatility can be seen in incorporating moss-embroidered electrodes into sports jerseys. This integration enhances the jerseys’ functionality and usefulness, particularly in specific application areas. 


  • Near Field Communication Technology: 


Initially, NFC chips were intended to replicate the production of fake branded products by discretely incorporating them into garments. However, the evolution of technology has broadened the uses of these chips. The Near-Field Communication Protocol allows devices like smartphones to interact with these embedded chips seamlessly. After scanning the chip, users are provided with data from the creator, such as weblinks, audio, and video documents, enabling customer engagement that can be leveraged for marketing purposes.


  • 4D Printing: 


In the domain of 4D printing techniques, materials are initially manufactured using 3D Printing, which can transform either over a period of time or in response to environmental factors. The leading brand, GRDXKN, has used the process in which polygons (cross-linked) of polyurethane printed on fabric undergo thermoforming throughout the printing process and result in a three-dimensional figure.   


  • UV Protection  


Inorganic semiconductors like aluminium dioxide, silicon dioxide, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide function as UV blockers. When these substances are in nano form, they are highly effective at absorbing and scattering UV radiation. A thin titanium dioxide layer blocks UV rays on cotton fabric, resulting in a high Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) and increased defence against harmful UV rays. 


Functional Apparel for Athletes: 


The trend of athleisure wear has swiftly risen in popularity, greatly impacted by the extensive engagement on social media. Embraced by the younger generation, athleisure perfectly blends athletic clothing with leisure attire. Its appeal can be attributed to the growing emphasis on maintaining a health-conscious lifestyle. Fitness influencers play a significant role in promoting activewear brands, successfully capturing the interest of their target audience.


Sports-functional clothing is specifically created for sports and exercise, setting it apart from regular clothing by incorporating features that improve functionality and performance during physical activities. It necessitates additional characteristics such as stretchability, protection, comfort, breathability, moisture transfer, windproofing, UV protection, and waterproofing. This type of clothing provides athletes with the necessary anatomic fit and compression.


Recent Developments in the Functional Apparel Industry:


Puma India Launched Its First Outlet in Maldives on 30th May, 2022 


On 30th May 2022, PUMA India introduced its inaugural store in Maldives, venturing into the esteemed tourist spot. This marked PUMA India’s entrance into the Republic of Maldives as a prominent sportswear brand. Over the past few years, the Maldives has witnessed a significant rise in incoming tourists. This expansion makes Maldives the newest addition to PUMA India’s network, which involves 19 other countries: the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. 


Sonee Sports, a sports and lifestyle marketplace based in Maldives, has partnered with PUMA to bring the brand to the island nation. Through this collaboration, PUMA aims to broaden its retail presence and explore new opportunities in sports clubs, e-commerce, and other distribution channels within this dynamic market. The inaugural store in the Maldives spans 1800 square feet and promises customers an exceptional shopping experience with an impressive product showcase. Targeting both kids and adults, the outlet will offer a wide range of accessories, apparel, and footwear to cater to diverse lifestyle and sporting needs. PUMA’s entry into the Maldives market is set to make a significant impact and capture the interest of locals and tourists alike.


Rich Mnisi and Adidas Collaborated to Introduce an Apparel Collection in Pride 2023 


Adidas has unveiled its newest partnership for Pride 2023, joining forces with renowned South African designer Rich Mnisi. The collection, ‘Let Love Be Your Legacy,’ seamlessly blends fashion-forward lifestyle pieces with high-performance athletics gear and shoes. The ultimate goal of this collaboration is to celebrate solidarity and inspire individuals to freely express themselves in all realms of sports and cultural contexts.


The Adidas and Rich Mnisi collection integrates clothes made partially with recycled materials and in partnership with Better Cotton. Adidas, committed to fostering equality in sports, upholds its longstanding alliance with Athlete Ally, a non-profit organisation that aims to eradicate homophobia and transphobia in sports. This sustained collaboration underscores Adidas’s commitment to making sports an inclusive and welcoming environment for all. 


In conclusion, the functional apparel market is rapidly expanding due to increased fitness awareness and is projected to grow even further with future technological advancements.


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