LYCRA® brand recently interviewed him to learn more about the advantages this platform offers businesses in the activewear segment.
What is LYCRA® SPORT technology?
It’s a fabric certification platform that combines the proven technology of LYCRA® brand spandex fiber with demanding testing standards that measure fabric performance and comfort.
Which LYCRA® fiber is used in LYCRA® SPORT technology?
The beauty of the platform is that any LYCRA® fiber can be used—it’s not based on one specific spandex fiber. You can also specify additional fibers to add more performance benefits like the durable true-black color and performance of LYCRA® BLACK technology or the moisture wicking properties of COOLMAX® fiber.
What made you realize that the LYCRA® SPORT technology platform needed a reboot? Market trends, customer feedback, or consumer insights?
All played a role, really. As the original pioneers who promoted the benefits of activewear made with spandex, we understand the market better than anyone. We realized we needed a more scientific approach to testing and fabric certification, but equally important, we needed a comprehensive index to help mills easily communicate a fabric’s performance levels to designers and brands. Specialized AO customers told us they needed more technical fabrics and they needed to be sure they picked the best performance fabric for the garment’s intended end use. Not all the brands have the resources to determine how a fabric will perform. They rely on us to provide the science and the branding to drive sell-through. Last, but not least, consumers’ insights showed high levels of consumer dissatisfaction with activewear comfort and performance, so we knew there was a market need for something better.
What was the cause of consumer dissatisfaction? Have their expectations about activewear changed?
Consumer insights showed us that people are much more knowledgeable about technical fabrics and the benefits they offer today. They want apparel that will help optimize their performance—whether it’s compression for muscle support or moisture wicking to stay cool. But we also learned they’re tired of sacrificing comfort to experience these benefits. It’s easy to find activewear offering comfort or performance. The real challenge for consumers is to find a garment that delivers both. We developed LYCRA® SPORT technology because we understand that comfort and performance matter. That’s why it’s our tagline.
How long did it take to go from idea to commercialization?
It only took about six months because we had everything we needed. We had strong knowledge and experience with stretch fabrics—we just needed to rethink our approach. We began to focus on using numbers in an index to more accurately rate its levels of performance and comfort.
Is that why you created the PCE™ index?
Absolutely. We’re a science-based company that employees top fabric scientists around the world, but amazing data about fabric performance isn’t very useful if the value chain can’t understand it. Converting science into something everyone can understand is a challenge, but we managed to accomplish it. I worked with technologists to create a simplified index using a 1-10 scale to rate a fabric’s Power, Comfort, and Energy. Then we developed a robust program to educate the value chain about the benefits PCE™ certified fabrics offered their businesses.
What is the PCE™ index and how does it work?
The index is a graphic representation of the fabric’s DNA and communicates its performance descriptors. The Power, Comfort and Energy indexes can be combined in a variety of ways to create fabric performance levels tailored to fit the garment’s end use. This index makes it possible for brands and retailers to choose the right fabric for the right sport every time, and to communicate that information to consumers.
• Power measures the shaping or compression force on the body when the garment moves. Fabric with a low power number is perfect for gentle activities like yoga, while a higher number is needed for more intense activities like cycling. High power keeps the muscle from moving around.
• Fabrics with a high Comfort index means the wearer will experience greater comfort when wearing the garment. This index is critical because this is what consumers complain about the most. Comfort can be perceived and expressed in many dimensions, and all are important. We tested and rated Comfort as “the second skin” effect. The higher the Comfort value, the more the fabric mimics your movements, like a second skin, so you almost don´t feel it and it’s extremely comfortable.
• We relaunched LYCRA® SPORT technology with an additional Energy index that rates the effort you have to apply to your garment to move it. The lower the Energy value, the lower the effort needed to move the fabric of the garment, which makes it ideal for competition garments. For example, world-class athletes in competitive sports like running want a fabric with a low E rating so they spend their energy running and not moving the garment.
What are the advantages of LYCRA® SPORT technology and its unique PCE™ index?
Besides offering comfort and performance to consumers, it offers other benefits to the value chain. Textile players don’t necessarily have in-house fabric scientists to tell them if a fabric is suitable for its intended use, so we perform that function and share our expertise. Without the right information, brands often choose fabric based on cost or aesthetics instead of performance first and end use second. This results in underperforming activewear and disappointed consumers. LYCRA® SPORT technology takes the risk out of fabric selection because we’ve tested the fabric for them. Each certified fabric comes with an easy-to-understand report that shows brands exactly how it will perform.
Doesn’t taking the risk out of fabric selection offer brands other benefits?
Yes, ultimately it saves time and money. Knowing exactly how a fabric will perform enables brands to simplify prototyping altogether and increase speed-to-market. This is why picking a fabric based on cost or appearance would be the wrong approach—it usually ends up costing more. We consider that fabric performance should always be the first consideration in activewear.
What are the benefits of choosing LYCRA® SPORT technology fabrics versus competing products?
There really isn’t an equivalent competing product when you look at everything you get with LYCRA® SPORT technology. INVISTA is unique in that we’re always thinking about the fabric, the garment and the consumer’s needs. I believe that if the entire value chain always focused on satisfying the consumer, everyone will benefit. LYCRA® SPORT technology is the best way to accomplish this in the activewear segment.
• For mills, we provide outstanding technical support and work closely with our customers to solve problems. We also provide sales tools like one-pagers and videos to explain the benefits to brands of picking the right fabric for the right sport every time. We also work with mills to map their PCE™ index numbers to show where they can improve and make better fabrics. This not only reduces returns, but also builds customer loyalty. The ability of a brand to leverage the LYCRA® brand name through hangtags and other marketing materials to accelerate purchase intent adds to LYCRA® SPORT technology’s appeal.
• For brands, knowing exactly how a fabric will perform reduces risk so they can make better and quicker choices and we’re happy to help them with that. This means they can simplify prototyping and increase speed-to-market, which saves time and money. The PCE™ index tells brands how the fabric will perform, which takes the guesswork out of fabric selection. They can easily identify the perfect fabric and request it from their suppliers. If brands follow the right process, it will work and they ‘ll potentially experiment fewer product returns and complaints, as well as an increase in consumer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Best of all, they’ll save money in the long run. LYCRA® SPORT technology drives online or in-store sales thanks to its high brand name recognition and reputation for quality among consumers.*
• For consumers, this technology delivers the comfort and performance they desire in their activewear from a brand name they know and trust. If they are satisfied they may buy more apparel from a brand or share their positive experience with friends. This results in more sales that feed back up the value chain.
Why was the merchandising toolkit created?
We like to leverage our brand power to help our customers drive sell-through as everyone in the value chain benefits. The toolkit includes a variety of POS items designed to communicate a garment’s technical benefits to drive consumer sales. When a consumer buys a pair of leggings, it sets up a chain reaction of sales back up the value chain to the mill that needs to make more fabric to replenish sold inventory. Everyone wins.
What has the customer response been since the relaunch?
The feedback has been very positive. Adoption and an understanding of the index are growing and we’re expanding the platform. Mills see the value in this platform and in our technical and marketing support so they’re sending more fabrics for testing. Interest in the program is growing especially among brands and retailers trying to meet the increasing consumer demand for more technical fabrics and garments. They see the value in knowing exactly how a fabric will perform, so they can create apparel that optimizes wearer functionality, comfort and performance for a particular sport.
How difficult is it for brands to source high performance fabrics today?
Highly technical spandex fabrics are readily available, even if it could be harder to find sources in some regions than in others. However, I think that as the trend for high performance activewear continues to grow worldwide, it will be easier to find it in more markets. Brands can always contact us for a list of the mills in their region.
How does a brand adopt LYCRA® SPORT technology?
We work with mills around the world, so brands and retailers may be able to request certified fabrics directly from their current supplier. If your preferred mill partner doesn’t carry fabrics certified PCE™ indexes, contact us to learn where you can source PCE™ certified fabrics. In addition, if a mill doesn’t have fabric with the performance levels they are looking for, we can work with them to source exactly what they need.
Contact David or the representatives below to learn how to add value to your collection, increase speed to market and consumer satisfaction when you choose LYCRA® SPORT technology for your collections.
* Learn more about consumer perceptions about the LYCRA® brand here.
LYCRA® and PCE™ are trademarks of INVISTA.