Disruptive Innovations for Customised Sports Apparel and On-Demand Production

by Debbie McKeegan | 30/01/2024
Disruptive Innovations for Customised Sports Apparel and On-Demand Production

Debbie McKeegan details the new markets and innovations that are emerging across sportswear as well as the latest trends which include personalisation, new chemical innovations and software for customised product personalisation.

As the apparel marketplace continues to expand and evolve, new markets continue to disrupt the sector. Athleisure and Sports apparel garments have now become a hybrid addition to our closets. Performance sportswear, and technical fabrics are now routinely worn outside of their original specification (sports events and competitions) and they feature routinely as additional ranges for many fashion brands worldwide.

Celebrity endorsements from the sports world now influence sales where personalisation and customisation further enhance the purchase and a product’s individuality. The consumer is leading this market shift to deliver new opportunities and accelerated growth for the industry. Customised sportswear, plus personalised and tailored sportswear continue to influence the market allowing fashions cohorts, athletes and sports enthusiasts to optimise their performance whilst simultaneously expressing their distinctive style.

Personalisation and customisation are predicted to surge as the future of Sportswear unfolds, spawning a new generation of micro-brands, and pop-up capsule collections with celebrity endorsements. Leaning into this market shift are mega brands like Adidas and Nike who offer customisation services, enabling the consumer to design and wear their own sportswear with pride.

As a market shift, personalisation is expected expand further with advances in software, fabrics and workflow systems proceeding apace. As a sector the global sports clothing market is predicted to capture a valuation of USD $315 billion in 2024 and reach USD $475 billion by 2034 (Future Market Insights) with the sports clothing market estimated to register a CAGR of 4.20% during the forecast period.

In this huge global market, the growth of personalised sportwear is duel-fuelled by the growing popularity of ecommerce and direct-to-consumer sales, which enhance and deliver a simplified, automated production model for personalisation and customisation as the sector moves irreversibly into on-demand production.

This tech review delves into just some of the latest innovations that are reshaping the landscape of sportswear manufacture and customisation, with a keen focus on technical textiles, design software and workflow systems.

Sportswear Technical Fabrics for Personalisation

Looking at the worldwide stage – and beginning with Japan HEATTECH is an innovative new material that UNIQLO developed jointly with global textile manufacturer Toray. To achieve the ultimate in warmth and comfort for sportswear and athleisurewear more than 10,000 prototypes were created. HEATTECH generates and retains warmth, fights bacteria to prevent odours, prevents static electricity and is extremely comfortable.

In the USA COOLMAX is a specially engineered type of polyester exclusively produced by Invista, an American textile corporation. This polyester fabric consists of fibres that are carefully engineered to wick moisture and allow the passage of heat. COOLMAX fabric has a variety of potential applications, and it is a popular material particularly for sportswear and athleisurewear.

In Europe Greentex continue to expand their fabric portfolio by offering innovative, customizable, and versatile sustainable textiles for digital printing. Empower designers, artists, and businesses to unleash their creativity and bring unique ideas to life. Especially relevant for sports and athleisurewear, where personalisation is so important.
Chemical Innovations for Performance Textiles

In Germany, dyeing and finishing specialist CHT has used recycled polyester flakes as the base chemistry for a new hydrophilic finish that improves the moisture wicking of sportswear fabrics and is said to give garments fast-drying properties and improved protection against dirt and oil. The company states that “the new formulation is optimal for moisture management and thermoregulation in sports and active wear”.

In Greece Nanobionic technology is reshaping the future of sportswear and apparel. This mineral-based coating which can be applied to any fabric (without constraints) introduces a new era where wellness seamlessly integrates with textiles. The brilliance of Nanobionic as explained “lies in its simplicity: activated by body heat, the embedded minerals emit far-infrared rays back to the body, fostering benefits that span physical recovery, muscular protection, and overall performance enhancement”.

Sportswear Software for Customised Product Personalisation

From Poland Antigro Designer streamlines the entire printing process, from customisation to production. Their software creates print-ready files that are perfectly adjusted to your print machinery. Concentrating on your unique print workflow they have developed a solution that automates the order process and removes the requirement to message clients back-and-forth, preparing and sending proofs. Antigro Designer allows customers to create projects for themselves.

In Estonia PunchCloud specialise in providing embroidery digitising and vector art services. Since 2000, the company develops professional design patterns for all embroidery machines and vector files of all formats - offering digitising services to embroiders and converting images into high quality line art.

In Israel Early.Vision Software supports streamlining the design to production workflow for sportswear, allowing designers to focus on design and create nested, print ready files that are prepared for production automatically based on ecommerce orders.

From the United Kingdom “Kit Builder enables everyone to be a sportswear designer”. Kit Builder 3D Customizer is packed full of advanced features - change fonts, colours and patterns, place text, change sizes and load images and logos.

In America CorelDRAW underpins the creative function of the sportwear design process and offers seamless efficiency for customised printed manufacturing at speed. From small print runs for team shirts, uniforms and specialised performance sports, through to mass produced customised shirts for international. They explained “The sportswear designer must create at speed whilst still retaining originality and accuracy of print. Scaling and manipulating design files at speed, with no loss of quality. It is the simplest of tasks and yet it’s here where quality is often lost”. CorelDRAW’s Vector-based files speed up the process with no loss of quality, and with a minimal load on any manufacturer’s server.

Sportswear Lifestyle Workflow and AI Automation for Personalisation

From France at Lectra interoperability between Gerber’s AccuMark and Lectra's Modaris patternmaking solutions lets sportswear product development teams focus on getting products to market quickly. Lectra’s patternmaking solution achieves a seamless workflow from cad station to final delivery.

In California, Stitch Fix employ AI algorithms to personalize sportswear apparel recommendations. These algorithms use a customer's browsing and purchase history, body measurements, and style preferences to recommend clothing products that are likely to appeal to them. This improves the personalization and effectiveness of online shopping.

In Texas at vPERSONALISE the user can design intuitively in real 3D or flat patterns. Their patented, automatic size and design grading enables visualization of the sportswear apparel at different sizes, letting customers accurately view design changes matching their size chart. This automation ensures that the order is production ready with the customer’s design, graded to size and ready for manufacturing.

The future of the sports and athleisure sectors are inextricably bound up with one form or another of customisation. Whether its team sports, corporate identity or simply personal preference this sector is growing exponentially, for as the suppliers of fabrics, software and workflow recognise - personalisation is here to stay.

Discover the latest innovations in sportswear at Sportswear Pro 2024, taking place from 19th – 22nd March 2024. Sportswear Pro will showcase the very latest technologies and solutions for on-demand and customised sportswear production. From sample design and automated digital workflows, to innovative materials and integrated wearable technologies, the exhibition and visionary trend forum will present sustainable, faster and leaner production solutions to sports and activewear brands and manufacturers. Register here and use promo code SWPJ401 and save 30 euros.

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