Performance apparel is a key market for major sports fashion brands such as Nike, adidas, Under Armour and The North Face. Consumers are exposed to significant marketing momentum and social drivers to buy and wear premier ‘smart fabrics’ — brands like Dry-FIT, Primeknit and ARMOUR. Such fabrics promise the wearer enhanced performance, including breathability, abrasion resistance, toughness, stretchiness and waterproofing. But what exactly is so special about these materials and — importantly — do they deliver on the marketing hype and justify their premium prices?

How smart is a smart fabric?

By looking at the patents of premier performance apparel manufacturers, we can see that considerable effort is being committed to the development of new and innovative fabric and garment designs. Patent claims focus on weave or knit patterns; fibre compositions (polymer blends); fibre or fabric treatments by coatings; garment compositions having segments of different shapes and at specific positions; new fabric layers; new fibre blends; fabric and seam coating, finishing and sealing.

Here’s a quick guide to some of the most interesting recent developments in smart fabrics. Read More