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Don’t lose your cool
Feature: 3/8/2005



New fabric technology works with you in hot weather.

Summer presents a dressing dilemma to many people: There might be a 25-degree rise in temperature from the time you leave your house to the time you arrive at work – and then if your office is air-conditioned, there might be an even steeper drop once you step inside.

The tempting solution might be to put on a bathing suit and a cover-up – a surprisingly versatile outfit for all sorts of occasions and weather, thanks to the trend toward stylish beachwear. The more practical solution, however, might be to start wearing some of the new fabrics that help regulate body temperature.

"Cool and comfortable means moisture control”, says Renee DeLack Hultin, president of Nano-Tex Americas, which develops treatments to change how fabrics behave. In the summer, humidity stifles the skin's ability to ‘breathe’, so the perspiration just sits on the skin, and in the winter perspiration gets trapped under the layers of clothes needed to protect skin from the elements. Moisture is what makes the body feel hot or cold, Hultin says.

Polyester normally is one of the biggest moisture offenders – it actually repels water – so if someone starts to sweat there's nowhere for it to go other than down the wearer's back. But the synthetic fabric has other qualities that manufacturers and shoppers covet, including easy care, a year-round weight and it travels well.

So Nano-Tex developed a treatment that encourages polyester to accept moisture. "We make it water-loving. It'll pick up moisture, disperse it and dry quicker. People want the best of both worlds”, Hultin says.

Coolest comfort
The technology was first used on outdoor gear but now is offered on standard weekend and corporate casual styles. A similar ‘Coolest Comfort’ treatment is available for wrinkle-free cotton garments and resin-treated knits because those fabrics also block moisture absorption.

Regular cotton will absorb moisture but the fabric becomes heavy and sags when it reaches its saturation point, notes Hultin, who predicts a treatment for that isn't too far off in the future.

Up-market shirt-maker Thomas Pink is battling heat and perspiration by making an even more luxurious product. The shirts, known as Thomas Pink 200's, are made of Swiss spun cotton with a 200-thread count so the shirts have the light weight of silk. Their airiness allows the skin to breathe, which can be especially important to a man whose wearing a jacket and tie all day.

Bagir makes a tailored wool-blend suit using a Polgat Textiles’ fabric that was originally developed for NASA. Smart fabric technology by Outlast contains micro-encapsulated phase-change materials called thermocules that absorb, store and release heat depending on the wearer's body temperature. The ‘Stays Cool’ suit features the high-tech fabric both on the outside shell and the lining.

Retailer Jos. A. Bank reports an enthusiastic reaction to the suit since it arrived in stores a few weeks ago. "The styles have been enthusiastically accepted by our customers resulting in robust sales”, says Robin Graham, divisional merchandise manager for the men’s wear chain. “Our customer is knowledgeable and selective. Performance and quality stand out as his choice makers”.

Breathable pantyhose
For working women whose employers have a no-bare-leg dress code, ‘No Nonsense’ offers a new breathable control-top pantyhose that uses a knitting process that features a pattern of small ventilation holes that allow heat and moisture to escape. There's also a ventilated panty.

At the same time, Warnaco has launched a line of treated activewear called ‘Axcelerate’, which is engineered by Speedo. As a brand that made its name in swimsuits, Speedo knows a little about moisture. But the N3S line goes beyond that; it not only aims to curb perspiration with its moisture-wicking properties – it also targets the smell and stain that often comes with it.

The company is using a treatment applied to the fabric before garments are even cut or sewn, explains Anne DiGiovanna, vice president of marketing for Warnaco Intimate Apparel. "The ‘no stick' comes from an anti-bacterial agent that helps vaporise the sweat that's on your body, which keeps you from smelling. If the sweats not there, it can't become bacterial and it can't create smell," she says.

The ‘no stain’ is a similar process. Garments are treated with a soil-releasing agent that keeps a stain that causes bacteria from settling into the fabric.

Based on an article by Samantha Critchell for The Associated Press.
Author: John Gibbon
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