We get daily sportswear enquiries here at Bridge & Stitch. So we’ve got together some tips for you when you’re designing your sportswear.

Sportswear, more than most other garment types, must be suitable for its purpose. You’ll need to consider the fit you want for your garment and how that will effect the level of movement the wearer will experience. For example, a compressive fit is often good for sportswear styles. This means the product is streamlined and the tightness affects muscle performance – it can’t just be tight though, it needs to be correctly pressurised! The design should also be supportive for its wearer. 62% of women said that comfort and softness were the features they looked for first in exercise clothing so it is really important that your design and fabric are comfortable for your intended wearer.

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A fabric for sportswear doesn’t just need to be comfortable. There’s loads of technical properties you could consider like moisture management. Are you looking for a hyrdrophobic fabric that repels water, or a hydrophilic fabric that absorbs water? Does your fabric need any protective qualitites like UV protection? You should also consider the usual factors when choosing fabric; the stretch of the fabric, the weight, and its breathability. Breathability enhances athletic performance. Nike Dri-fit mesh is placed in strategic places to create breathability. It is usually quite difficult to achieve a breathable and waterproof garment in one. However, Power Shield Pro-Polar Tec is one of the only fabrics which has achieved a waterproof and breathable fleece which lasts for at least 20 washes.

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Layering is crucial when designing a sportswear collection. The main way you lose heat is through sweat so layers and vents regulate body temperature. Each layer can be split into different functions:

Outer layer – protection (water repellent, waterproof, windproof, breathable, UV protection, etc.)

Mid layer – insulation

Base layers – moisture management (cotton absorbs moisture, synthetics can be wicking, insulating and water repellent)

If you would look to produce a synthetic base layer with wicking properties, you should consider the denier gradient of the fabric. This is the ratio of microfibres on one side of the fabric, to thick fibres on the other side. There is an increased surface area available in the microfibre bundles compared to the thick fibres and there is also an increased number of channels for wicking.

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Inspiration for your designs can come from ANYWHERE!

Velcro was inspired by the hooks found on burrs.

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The opening and closing of vents in clothing have mimicked pinecones.

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Polar bears actually have black skin, and their fur isn’t white, it’s translucent (mind blown). Their fur appears white because each hair is hollow and the way the light works with this makes the fur appear white. The white appearance allows them to hide from predators whilst still absorbing sun with their black skin. The hollow fur also has another purpose – it traps warmth! This idea has been replicated to create insulating, yet lightweight products such as winter jackets and sleeping bags. This heat regulation in polar bears means they are able to avoid infrared detection. This is a particularly useful skill and has military applications in clothing.

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The lotus leaf has self cleaning propertieis which have inspired fabric which can stay dry and clean itself – great for handling chemicals.

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Sharkskin is adapted to resist the attachment of living organisim such as algae and barnacles. This skin texture has been mimicked to created surfaces such as hospital surfaces and sportswear fabrics which are less susceptible to bacteria.

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The flying squirrel’s wings have been copied to produce suits for sky diving.

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There’s loads of cool stuff you can do with sportswear, so get creative!

You can use microencapsulation to add capsules into the fabric of your garments. These capsules burst and release chemicals, for example lemon scent or mosquito spray. You could use this for many functions; to add chemical additives to your garments, to add antimicrobial agents, to add moisturisers, to add scents, etc.

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Celliant is a polymer fibre which enhances oxygen levels. This can be added to clothing to make performance, healing and comfort improve.

SUN SOUL has developed a range of sun protecting clothing. The fluorescent material provides the wearer with sun protection and a different skin treatment depending on the colour. If the product lets in yellow light rays, this removes sun damage and helps counter the effects of aging. If blue, this  removes acne and blemishes. If red, this stilts hair growth.

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Singtex’s S’Cafe produce sustainable performance fabric made from coffee! They take coffee that would be thrown away and make fabric from it.

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One of our fabric suppliers has developed a fabric that is black, but instead of absorbing heat as usual, it reflects the heat.

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You can add electronics to your garments for added functions. This could provide impact protection, track the garment’s location, play music, monitor different things such as heart rate or drug levels in the wearer. The possibilities really are endless!

Sportswear is an excellent area for application of textile innovations and people pay more for sports apparel so think outside the box and get in touch with your designs via our Project Planner!