Innovations in shapewear and the application of 3D consumer shape data to swim and sportswear design, development and fit is the key to customer satisfaction, increased sales and diminished returns. This was the advice given to nearly 100 delegates at the ASBCI’s recent swim and sportswear seminar, run in association with Lingerie Buyer magazine.
Ten eminent speakers from the swimwear, sports clothing, shapewear, trend forecasting, textile development and testing sectors took to the podium to share their expertise at the seminar entitled: ‘Look good, feel good, smell good - Industry countdown to 2012’. Speakers advised that in the run up to the Olympics 2012 the distinction between sports and leisure wear will continue to merge while advances in moisture management, anti-microbial finishes and lightweight laminate structures are revolutionising the design and performance of active sports apparel.
ASBCI key events chairman Julie King, head of department fashion & textiles at De Montfort University chaired and opened the day’s proceedings with an overview of the swimwear and sports clothing sectors. Quoting figures from Just-Style.com she showed that the global retail market for swim and beachwear is forecast to rise from US$12.88billion in 2006 to US$13.51bn by 2012 – equivalent to 0.8 per cent growth per annum; suggesting that the rapid growth of the 1990s is slowing down. In comparison the UK sportswear market forecasts are more optimistic as the health conscious baby boomer generation drive the value of the sports clothing and footwear market up 13.8 per cent between 2009 and 2013 to £5.15bn (Source: Key Note June 2009). She predicted that while sports brands will continue to dominate sales there is an increasingly strong market for retail own brands. She concluded: “Sportswear is now firmly established as leisurewear and consumers continue to buy trainers, loose tops and jogging pants as everyday wear.”
Ben Harris, senior UK sales manager, Mudpie, was in agreement. His trends’ forecasting presentation ‘From shell suit to body suit’, showed how male and female active sportswear designs are as comfortable on the high street as they are on a beach or tennis court. He demonstrated how the creative trends forecasting process translates core inspirational themes into commercial sports, swim and fashion designs. Indeed the 2012 Olympics is currently inspiring street themed sportswear influenced by the creative arts, British heritage, Olympic imagery and multiculturalism.
Andrew Crawford, chief executive officer of 3D sizing and fit specialist Sizemic, demonstrated how 3D body shape data is being used to inform the design and pattern generation processes that make swim, sports and outerwear fit better. He explained: “Shape is more important than linear measurements when executing fit.” He went on: “The data generated from 3D body scanning projects like SizeUK can be used to target customer profile groups leading to better fitting garments across the sizes, inform a faster more accurate development process and maximise the percentage of customers that fit your clothes.” From target consumer shape data Sizemic generates parametric 3D virtual mannequins then physical copies using rapid prototyping technologies. Patterns are generated in a 3D environment using a Parametric Pattern Generation, PPG system to fit avatars. Once the pattern is agreed a pattern accelerator is used to produce pattern blocks. Sizing and grading is based on the 3D shape of each size not on conventional grading rules as Andrew Crawford concluded: “Morphological grading is more accurate as it’s based on real body shapes not linear measurements.”
Indeed the body is inspiring innovation in R&D explained Laura Rattray, applied innovation designer at Speedo’s Aqualab. Speedo has helped develop some of the world’s most innovative and successful performance swimsuits; 89 per cent of swimmers in the 2008 Olympic games wore Speedo’s LZR Racer suit. At its Aqualab, Speedo analyses how skin moves under water, while MRI scans reveal what a garment does to the inside of swimmers’ bodies. Laura Rattray explained: “We look for the fastest fabrics that achieve speed and we prototype and test continually. It is a continuous cycle of research, innovation, development and validation.” In the more recent past Speedo has adapted its R&D strengths to develop its Triathelite range for land-based performance sports and developed ‘speedosculpture’, a poolside shapewear collection based on morphological data from SizeUK.
Shapewear is the next big thing in swimwear agreed Karen Fearstone, buyer and Erin Knowles, merchandiser swim and sportswear for Marks & Spencer whose shaping range is currently taking 100 per cent more volume than this time last year and sales of its swimwear collections are up by a third. As Karen Fearstone explained: “Shaping is phenomenal for us. Whether slim or curvy, larger bust or smaller bust – everyone wants to be a better shape. We feel most vulnerable when on the beach, by the pool or swimming and we want the best figure possible and shapewear helps us do that.”
M&S applies its shapewear technology across its brands while staying faithful to each brand’s design identity. Standard to G cup-sized bust support based on bra construction data and tummy control panels are now integral features of the designs and M&S is currently working on a bottom lifting design, introducing more maternity designs and post-surgery swimwear both online and in selected stores. M&S is also developing its online ‘shop your shape’ service that offers style solutions to suit perceived shapes with recommended style choices. She concluded: “We’ve had phenomenal success with shaping across all areas, including sports shaping…customers are buying it for everything from holidays to core swimming and exercise wear because it’s a really versatile product.”
Jane Fenlon-Smith, product manager, Triumph UK agreed: “We have established that there’s a real need for shapewear. It has become established as a global market trend and is a growing one at that. It has become a very acceptable form of underwear – not just for a quick fix under a little black dress for the evening but as an everyday part of our dress and dress culture… Now it’s all about the fashionable application of shapewear and tapping into what women want.”
Triumph has informed its product development and high profile advertising campaigns with consumer usage and attitude studies. The results revealed that while the average UK woman is nearer a size 16 than 12 with a 36D/DD bra size and a typically apple or pear shape, half of respondents still think Marilyn Monroe’s hour glass figure is the most attractive. In response Triumph launched ‘Shape sensation – the ultimate curve creator’ (Autumn/Winter 2010) featuring new elastic lace fabrics and added new colours like pink and grey that capitalise on consumer appeal. It is also seeking to educate consumers on shape through in-store leaflets and driving an ‘International Shape Debate’ based on its own shape categories Meercat, Gazelle, Panda, Cheetah, Giraffe and Lioness. She concluded: “We are what we are and we need to dress accordingly.”
John McDonald, product specialist, W. L. Gore & Associates in the first of a series of technical presentations demonstrated how changes in outdoor sports activities, such as Alpine speed climbing and cross mountain endurance events, have driven Gore to: “deliver the lightest, most breathable, invisible to wear protective fabrics in the world…with tighter fitting silhouettes to achieve the upmost heat loss and moisture vapour transport at the garment level.” The result is Gore-tex® Active Shell a new generation fabric that combines lighter, thinner ,membranes with higher levels of breathability and low thermal absorption with superlight lower denier face fabrics and new ‘stretched’ out tricot backer fabric that delivers a better sensory and moisture management experience for the skin.
Continuing the fabric innovations theme Alain Langerock, marketing manager, with Devan Group gave delegates a master class in the science of the latest anti-bacterial fabric finishes. Registering chemicals that suppress or destroy odour making micro-organisms with the Biocidal Products Directive 98/8/EC is a lengthy, and at five million Euros, expensive but necessary process – so using pre-registered tried and tested products such as Devan’s passerelle™ moisture management finish, its aegis enhanced™ ‘freshness’ technology and its Liquidstretch™ extensibility and stretch recovery finish on sports apparel is the safest and most cost effective route.
Combining products that have not been developed and tested together can have potentially dangerous outcomes. He explained: “Every chemistry has an influence on another chemistry.” Crucially Devan’s chemical innovations bond to the substrate of apparel fibres and “stab” the cell walls of the micro-organisms destroying them. This means they do not migrate to the skin and remain functional for the life of the garment even through repeated washing.
In the final technical presentation ‘testing times’ Jacqui Coombs, client account manager for testing house Specialised Technology Resource (UK) Limited, STR UK, explained the basic legal requirements for sports apparel; Directive 2005/95/EC general product safety, REACH Regulation (EC) 1907/2006, Directive 2008/121/RC Textile names and Directive 96/73/EC Methods for the quantitative analysis of binary textile fibre mixtures. Additionally items of safety wear and PPE, such as bike and equestrian helmets, must comply with rigorous British Safety standards and sun wear products such as hats have to comply with UV protection British Safety standards.
Testing products for compliance to directives and standards are crucial when substantiating and defending any promotional claims and indeed warned Jacqui Coombs: “There are no rules to what you can claim, but you must be able to prove it – if you claim it is breathable and waterproof testing must show that it is; if you make athletic performance claims then wearer trails must prove it…and for subjective claims such as ‘improves wellbeing’ you must have the market research and viable statistics to prove it.”
The swim and sportswear seminar was organised in direct response to requests from the ASBCI’s retail and brand members and is the fourth in a series of successful ‘sector specific’ seminars run by the association. Previous seminars have addressed sizing and fit issues in childrenswear, fashion & corporate wear and in lingerie & swimwear.