Simple styling, ultra light weight and hi-tech fabrics and treatments compete for attention in summer 2003 with classical, retro looks in natural materials inspired by the hippie era. Penny Leese reports from Europe’s biggest sports fair - ISPO - held twice a year in Munich.

Although nominally a sports trade fair, ISPO is also a showcase for new technical materials and their applications.

Polartec used the event to launch Polartec Power Stretch fabrics for fitness. The company has also introduced far more UPF certified fabrics, a sun safety programme in various weights. All Polartec PowerDry  fabrics have been evaluated and have labels on them. UP15, for example, blocks 93 per cent of the sun’s rays.

H2P’s micro-fleece is windproof, waterproof, insulating and abrasion resistant. Although pliable and stretchable it has a tensile strength of 115 lbs. The puncture strength is the force at which one object punctures another (for example, a 0.13 inch galvanized roofing nail to puncture a 4 by 6 inch fabric swatch is 14.75 lbs). The fleece, which uses micro-cell technology, is aimed at the boating market.

Outdoor fashion show

Burlington Worldwide has used nanotechnology in its new textiles. Durable synthetic fibres are wrapped with cellulose on a molecular level to give a cotton feel and handle. This process eliminates the need for blended spinning processes.

Other products include Nano-Care, which makes cotton fabrics oil, water and even red-wine stain proof, as well as being wrinkle resistant and ideal for travel garments. Lee Jeans is about to run a major advertising campaign in the US (September) for its red wine repelling chinos. Nano-Pel technology makes fabrics water and oil repellent while Nano-Dry provides synthetic fabrics with advanced moisture control for improved drying and comfort. It wicks quicker than cotton, and has already been taken up by Marks and Spencer in the UK. One major advantage, says the maker, is that the effect is built into the fibres so that it is permanent and does not wash out.

An ecological fibre made of PLA, called Lactron, is a non-petroleum synthetic fibre from Toray, made from corn. Lactron’s biodegradability has been tested in soil, sea water and activated sludge – where it breaks down within a couple of years.

Board sports fashion show

Abletex is a water resistant textile from Formosa Taffeta Co Ltd of Taiwan, and one of the first to utilise the much talked about Bluesign technology. The company already supplies major sports brands like Nike and adidas-Salomon.

Women lead the field
Dedicated sports clothing for women – which means women can still be fashionable, attractive and not look like sportsmen – is a growth market. New at ISPO was Röhnisch of Sweden, making pretty, functional and feminine fitness and training clothes. Sleeveless black catsuits with discreet logos were functional and stylish – and definitely not unisex. The garments are made of microfibre to allow the moisture and heat generated by the body to pass though the garment, the company says.

The A5 series from North Face uses cotton and other natural materials. Quality is high – the cotton garments are heavy gauge as they are designed for good abrasion resistance in the sport of bouldering. The women’s garments have body hugging upper pieces, with loose fitting pants and shorts for optimum function. Newest are the colour woven checks with a 1960s feel, in soft cream with a contrast colour like khaki, rust or dull blue. The A5 apparel series is new for spring 2003, with totally different collections for men and women.

K2 designed by Jette Joop

Odlo of Switzerland – better known for sports underwear – has completely relaunched. Underwear packing is totally updated with Cool, Light, Warm and X-Warm. Logically blue is for summer wear and warm winter underwear is red packaged. For summer 2003, there is a cool, wicking singlet and underpants in pale marled grey functional polyester fibres. Odlo also has functional Paclite jackets, and baggy khaki shorts with padded inserts for cycling.

Skateboarding is still a popular youth pastime (appealing to the not so young too). Skateboarding fashion is still very trendy – even Columbia sportswear, better-known for traditional outdoor clothing and shoes, has launched a collection of skater clothing called Men’s Convert – also traditional – in 100 per cent cotton.

Simple clogs for next summer by Jette Joop for K2

Shoe technology
Up to now the new adidas mi-fit system has been used by professional athletes like David Beckham, Martina Hingis and Zinedine Zidane. Now it is being launched in Europe. First the feet are scanned for length, width and pressure. Then the adidas expert helps the user to find the best fitting shoes from the shelf. A short test on a treadmill or court helps players decide. Finally, users can make one of a kind shoes with different materials, embroidery and colours on a computer aided design station –and shoes are delivered in 2 weeks.

Keeping feet cool in summer is very important, especially during strenuous activity. adidas is continuing with its 360 degree climate control, with strong promotion and display material. The Head tennis brand now has all-round cooling in its footwear too, with perforations in the insole and air circulation systems.

Detail of simple clogs for next summer by Jette Joop for K2

A lot of the products at ISPO will never actually be worn for active sports. Sports technology can also be utilised to make very comfortable shoes, and new comfort lines abound. One is Clae footwear from California, designed by Wei-En Chang. Using know-how from the sports industry, the new company has made a range of soft leather trendy shoes, at the same time very comfortable. Most of the range is in soft buttery brown and tan leathers, but the most eye-catching is a squash-inspired white leather trainer with a front bumper rubber outsole in turf green.

Even highly technical sportswear companies like the North Face make multi-purpose footwear for urban as well as outdoor use. The North Face footwear collection relies on versatility and multi function.

Technical materials used in shoes includes Gore-tex XCR technology, which features a lighter, more breathable membrane system. Gronell, the hiking boot maker from Italy, has added Outdry by Nextec to its technical boots. Outdry is a membrane laminated direct on to leather to make it waterproof.

Sandals are big next summer, especially toe post versions. Not just beach sandals like those from Reef Brazil or Speedo, but also technical sporty type sandals with moulded soles and anatomical footbeds from Teva and Ecco’s Receptor. More fashionable sandals from K2’s Jette Joop collection have low wooden soles with contrast colour EVA flex zones built into the sole, to match the leather uppers.

Newest in shoes, after white leather, is oily, waxed and antiqued brown leather. It is used on retro type jogger and trainer shoes to give a new look. Merrel’s trainers come in green or tan oily leather. Green is a new highlight colour. Etnies trainers came in bright grass green leather, with rubber toecaps. Dunlop Green Flash has revived the colour combination, making white leather trainers with just a touch of green on the sole.

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Roller skates
In line roller skates are available with 4 or 5 wheels in a line, while racing skates have hinges so the heel can lift up when running. The newest roller skates have an almost retro feel, with a wheel at each corner and a brake block at the front. ‘Quad’ roller skates from Nike Bauer are low cut with sneaker styling and bright colours that appeal to women and to children. Skechers’ campaign featuring Britney Spears wearing its sneakers with 4 wheels also aims at the youth/fun market.

By Penny Leese.

The 58th international trade fair for sports equipment and fashion - ISPO winter 2003 - takes place at the New Munich Trade Fair Centre, Germany from 1-4 February 2003. For more information visit: www.ispo.com