Sports retailing in Europe has been through tough times in the past few years and this was reflected in one of the quietest ISPO shows in recent memory. Manufacturers and suppliers exhibiting at Europe's largest sporting goods fair earlier this week unveiled a large number of new products to try to attract interest from visitors, with new designs and new technology - especially in fabrics - at the forefront. Penny Leese was there.

The overwhelming theme at the summer ISPO was the use of climate control, in many versions, in both shoes and clothing. Fabric manufacturers such as Event, Gore, Schöeller, and DuPont were there to explain new products, and to point those interested in the direction of brands already using the technology.

The show was rescheduled to start on Saturday so that visitors could travel on cheap weekend tickets, but the new dates meant that it took place in the middle of the European summer holidays. The timing also clashed with a smaller, but more specialised, outdoor event that also took place in Germany, in Friedrichshafen.

Of the big names, Timberland was not at ISPO. Puma has not exhibited for a few seasons, and although the adidas-Salomon stand was still the biggest in the fair, it was down to half its usual size.

General trends
The campus look is big in sports fashion, with lots of companies offering outsize T-shirts and long-sleeved sweats with largeflocked numbers and college logos. 1970s-style short skirts in double knit tricot are returning too, often with a contrast band at the bottom and up the side. Colours are plain, simple primaries like red, black, and bright blue with white or beige piping. Retro shoes are still around, also with a bowling or campus feel. Converse All Star showed a purely European range of retro fleeces and shoes, with tight fitting sweats and skirts for girls in fashion colours like peach with ice cream-coloured big script logos across the chest.

The adidas ClimaCool offers 360° ventilation and moisture management.

Big baggy jeans for boys and girls imitate snowboarder styles but are in lightweight synthetics, with heavy contrast stitching, as at Homeboy. Corduroy is making a gradual comeback, like Australian Mambo's lightweight needle cord jackets and pants that are prewashed, streaky and with frayed edges.

The other big theme at ISPO was Hawaii - but more for girls than for boys. Big, bright, simple Hawaiian hibiscus prints were everywhere: in bright turquoise and white at O'Neill, and a bit more complex at Mambo, which also had matching cotton beach bags, coated with clear PU so they are bright and shiny but soft, flexible and functional too.

Think Pink was tipped by trend bureau Promostyl as being ahead of the pack with its Hawaiian prints last year. This summer the textiles were plainer, but in strong colours, with aubergine surprisingly being a strong seller, together with bright blue and papaya.

Dedicated to women
There is an increasing separation between men's and women's active sportswear, with the Americans showing the lead. In the past, women's sports clothes were often just scaled down men's wear. Ryka has long made shoes exclusively for women, by women. But now many more US companies are also offering fully dedicated lines for their female customers, and others make only for women. Technical features on these women's clothes are just as advanced.

Columbia Sports followed up the pretty shades of last winter with outerwear in combinations of beige and pink or blue. Jackets are dual laminates, with mesh linings, while pants have zipper seams to covert them from full to capri length.

Lotto is one of the leaders in the Italian tennis and soccer market. The company has also launched a very feminine junior collection ofgym tops and pants in sugar pink with matching elasticised indoor shoes.

Jade won the DuPont BrandNew award for women's fashion in the sportswear category. The clothes are ultra functional, designed in the US and just launched in Europe. The snug fitting stretch tops and pants are ideal for rock climbing, yoga and other sports that require stretching and flexibility. All clothes are tested by a variety of end-users, from kayaking grandmas to trail running teachers.

Membranes and technical features
Cooling, wicking and systems for keeping the wearer dry were everywhere at ISPO.

Event launched a new series of laminates and treatments offering breathability and water resistance, without the sweatiness often associated with waterproof membranes. Timberland is launching the first shoes with this technology later in the summer. The company has also signed agreements with other footwear distributors but declines to mention them just yet.

Vaude, the strong sports/fashion brand, has gone for the 3XDry concept - a new product from Schöeller which is water and dirt repellent and also highly breathable, with these properties being reactivated when the product is ironed. Moisture is transported quickly from the inside to the outside where it can evaporate, which means that garments with 3XDry dry more quickly than other materials. It also prevents shivering after activity since perspiration cannot be trapped in the clothing. Vaude has used the material to make some great outdoor fashion jeans called Dry Jeans. Other manufacturers using the technology at ISPO were Mammut and Salomon.

Gore's Windstopper fabric - called 'Next to Skin' - can be worn directly on the skin. It is an extremely breathable laminate that provides "perfect" moisture

 Natureform lasts and natural suedes from Icebug.

management, including wind protection. The new product is ideal for cycling clothes and is already being used by Peak Performance, Gore Bike Wear, Castelli and Exte Ondo. Garments can be machine washed at 40ºC.

DuPont recently launched Neotis Studio to work on textile developments. There are three categories of Neotis products: engineered laminates are tough nonwovens, thermally bonded fabrics are dimensionally stable and lightweight, and stretch nonwovens are combined with Lycra. The result is a strong breathable lightweight fabric that stretches and recovers. One of the companies using new technology by Neotis is the Italian fashion sports label Napapijri, with a pretty range of faded and muddy pastels for women and naturals for men.

Ultraviolet protection has long been available in Australia and, more recently, in the UK, and is finally making an entrance into mainland Europe. Schöeller textiles, for example, offer up to sun protection factor (SPF) 40 for tennis wear. Sunstroke fabrics by Indas of Italy absorb UV rays and block the sun's hot rays, keeping the body up to 20 per cent cooler. Not only do they meet the UV801 International Standard but are also recognised by the German Institute for Skin Melanomas.

Indas has also launched a fabric containing silver, which it claims has anti-bacterial properties and is especially useful in underwear. These Nostatex materials have a top layer of cotton, a middle layer of pure silver and an inner polyamide layer. The company alleges that the high conductivity of the silver fibres ensures both anti-static and anti-stress effects against pollution caused by electrical appliances such as mobile phones.

Slam, the Italian sailing wear company, has jackets with Awex (by Res), a fabric that neutralises the negative effect of electro-magnetic waves. Slam uses Awex to line the mobile phone holder in its jackets. The anti-microbial and anti-bacterial fabric is 92 per cent polyamide and 2 per cent silver.

Stretch is also becoming available in heavy-duty performance fabrics. Toray's Dermizax has high resistance to seawater, and can also be washed several times. It is an ultra-thin membrane that can stretch up to 200 per cent.

Not all fabrics are hi-tech: some exhibitors had gone in the other direction totally. Italian sailing wear company Murphy and Nye had waxy leather sailing boots and a collection of clothing in pre-washed, off-white sailcloth. Earth Creations was one of the new start-up companies in the Brand New section at ISPO. It makes a range of T-shirts and dresses, all clay dyed. The collection is very simple and includes baby suits, T-shirts, baggy woven pants with drawstring, and tank dresses in a wonderful range of muddy colours ranging form ash to lilac. New for spring 2002, the company has added hemp/Tencel and hemp/silk fabrics.

Chris Kay prints such high definition rubbers onto textiles that for the first time Braille can be put on T-shirts, clothes and other textiles.

FerNicci has a novel idea - developing existing clothing and accessories. The two partners are based in Holland and New York where they track down a product and, if there is sufficient demand, build in additional features such as a compass or reflectors onto a jacket, detachable ID tags, hats and gloves. The Warning Light vest is made from water repellent Antron nylon, with a battery operated light on the front and warning decal on the back.

Sportswear shops also sell a lot of travel clothes with hi-tech features. Tatonka had a collection of urban clothes that they can be used for travelling, active sports and worn in the office as well.

In the swim
For competitive swimmers Arena launched "Waternity", which is constructed from 22 per cent Lycra and 68 per cent polyester. The material hugs the body like a second skin, and water absorption is around zero. In addition, it promises around 240 hours of chorine resistance, high elasticity that prevents muscle oscillation and dries 3 times faster than conventional polyester materials. This collection is aimed at a larger market than the famous Powerskin, which was developed for top level athletes.

The trikini was heavily promoted at the show. The principle here is that whatever the wearer does, the triple strapping system will ensure the 'bikini' stays put. It is just as suitable for disco dancing as for beach volleyball claims Blue Chips, the German distributor which will be driving its launch in March 2002. The trikini has rings above the triangle cups at the front, part of the strap is a halter, and the other part extends into the upper of two straps across the back. An additional triangle of material between the shoulder blades holds the whole system in place.

Beach Babes from O'Neil used Hawaii print all over small triangle bikinis - next summer's most basic shape - with small wrap-round skirts. On the feet were flip-flops with flower prints on the insole or sole and wooden-soled clogs with bright coloured leather uppers. Dusty 1970s hand knits had short sleeves and a small stripe at the rib and sleeve with shell lace pattern, Missoni style.

Shoes breathe too
Shoes can breathe too. The most impressive was the adidas ClimaCool, which offers 360° ventilation and moisture management. The shoes are open all the way round, on the top, sides, insock and even in the arch area of the sole. According to adidas, scientific tests have proved that the shoes provide the wearer with 20 per cent dryer and cooler feet. The characteristics of all ClimaCool shoes are: ventilation rib construction, open mesh, sock liner and the use of open cell foams and less adhesive. The technology is largely used in running, tennis, training and basketball shoes. For autumn/winter there will be additional categories, more colourways, and apparel.

 Kangaroos' Slam Dunk basketball boot.

The Italian tennis and soccer brand Lotto is concentrating on tennis footwear this season. It claims that the T-Max tennis shoe is the lightest weight on the market, at just 330g for men and 285g for women. The upper is nylon /polyester with microfibre inserts, and a low profile sole is in ultra-light EVA

Kangaroos showed total replica retro shoes, recreations of successful styles from the 1970s like the Slam Dunk basketball boot in white leather with a top touch and close strap. Other retro inspired ladies' joggers on thin outsoles appeared in pretty dark and faded denim with studding.

LA Gear is now also a dedicated women's shoe brand, with light soles and streamlined looks. Uppers include styles inspired by boxing boots, very lightweight and summery.

Prada was at ISPO again, with shoes and sunglasses only on display this time. There is still a sports clothing collection, but the company decided not to show it. Two different ranges of men's shoes were on show, one with an asymmetric toe and more casual feeling, the other with a narrow almost pointed symmetrical toe with bowling cuts and leather and suede combinations.

Salomon won the Outdoor Category at ISPO this year with its water sports shoe with open mesh upper and sticky rubber sole. Last season, IceBug won this award with its revolutionary sole with retractable steel spikes for ice running. The same technology has proved good for running on loose and uneven surfaces in the summer too, so there is a summer IceBug collection as well.

The OrangTiger Company took part in the DuPont-sponsored BrandNew category. Its Brani Belts look nothing like normal belts; they are made of Hytrel, a high performance elastomer from DuPont. Unlike traditional leather belts, there is no loose end as the tail disappears behind the head. The belt adjustment can be tightened notch by notch, and fixed to fit the user. Release is simple, with a single button.

Meanwhile pocket socks, launched 2 years ago in Australia, are already in the shops in Germany. A vertical pocket in the sock closes with a zipper, making it ideal for holding keys and money. The Pocket Sock was one of the finalists in the BrandNew competition.

By Penny Leese.