Sports and activewear companies in Asia are adopting high performance yarns and fabrics

Sports and activewear companies in Asia are adopting high performance yarns and fabrics

Taiwanese firms are continuing to cultivate their lead in functional fibres and fabrics for performance apparel, with future growth assured by trade agreements signed with China and the EU.

The technical superiority of Taiwanese producers over other Asian countries was demonstrated at the Taipei Innovative Textile Application Show (TITAS), recently held in Taipei, Taiwan. The exhibits attracted visitors from a number of leading Western brands, including Levi’s, Marks and Spencer (M&S), Puma, Red Fox and The North Face.

The Taiwanese industry is likely to be boosted further by the signing of the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China in June 2010, according to a new report in Performance Apparel Markets.

The ECFA means many Taiwan-made textile end products can be exported to the Chinese mainland duty free, thus providing a big boost to their competitiveness – and more products will be added to the list in the coming years.

The industry is also keen to help European companies to enter the Chinese market by forging alliances. To facilitate such cooperation, it signed a trade cooperation agreement with the European textiles and apparel body Euratex in October 2010.

And to assuage fears among European companies that their ideas may be copied, Taiwan now has an intellectual property agreement with China.

Among the highlights at TITAS were garments manufactured from fine filament yarns which had been made from recycled polyester, polypropylene and nylon. The yarns were as fine as 5 decitex, and had been developed by a number of Taiwanese companies, notably Formosa Taffeta.

Each of these products is lightweight and ultra-thin, and has an interesting handle. Some of the yarns have shape memory properties. The fabrics are waterproof, breathable and anti-bacterial, and can be made flame resistant.

Above all, they are being widely adopted by sportswear and activewear companies across Asia.

Huge savings on water and energy consumption, amounting to 80%, are now achievable thanks to the perfection of solution-dyeing processes for colouring polyester. The coloration additive is introduced at the fibre extrusion stage, which means that the dyeing process can be cut out entirely. This also leads to savings in effluents and waste gases.

Nan Ya employs the solution dyeing process to produce Chromalux gradient dyed fibre. Incorporation of this fibre results in activewear fabrics with an attractive smooth hue-changing effect.

Far Eastern New Century is manufacturing 100% recyclable laminate membranes from its TopGreen recycled PET materials as well as FETretch and FETex breathable and waterproof films specifically for activewear and performance apparel.

Far Eastern New Century has also perfected the low temperature solution dyeing of polypropylene. This has environmental benefits while allowing end products to retain their functional characteristics.

Li Peng’s Libolon Ecoflying recycling system is being used to make RePet recycled PET, recycled nylon fibre and Ecoya solution-dyed yarns.

Shinkong Synthetic Fibers has become the first company in Asia to acquire certification from the Intertek Recycled PET Management System.

More developments will follow, according to the secretary general of the Taiwan Textile Federation (TTF), Justin Huang.

Admittedly, Mr Huang points out that there are still labour shortages in Taiwan but adds that there are positions within Taiwanese companies "which can be filled by the talented young people in China, taking advantage of our research and development infrastructure."

"Fast track: Taiwan leads Asia in sustainable high performance fibres and fabrics for performance apparel" was published by Textiles Intelligence in Issue No 34 of Performance Apparel Markets.