For thousands of years, humans have relied on the merits of natural textiles to survive. Certain examples pre-date recorded history, when animal skins were crafted into crude coverings as protection from the elements. More recently in the last 200 years, fishermen relied on tightly knit wool to protect against the hazards of working at sea, while at the turn of the century American laborers of all types placed their trust in 100% cotton, loom-spun Levi's denim.
In 2016, the market is worlds apart and the scope of functionality has broadened massively when it comes to the utility of what we wear every day. The bar is higher now and many of your favorite brands are in the lab cooking up the next big thing. Looking beyond adidas Primeknit and Nike Flyknit, here are the brands excelling in modern fabrics that you should keep an eye on.
Spider silk is one of the most resilient and amazing natural fibers. Certain types of spider can even produce silk that is more durable and elastic than any natural or synthetic fiber, including Kevlar, while also being six times stronger than high-grade steel per weight.
Humans have been striving to recreate a synthetic version of spider silk for years, including outerwear brand The North Face. Teaming up with a Japanese company named Spiber the so-called Moon Parka is made out of QMONOS, an all-new fiber made from bioengineered bacteria that has the same look and feel as spider silk.
nanamica strictly works with the best and most forward-thinking factories in Japan. A close partner with The North Face, nanamica designer Eiichiro Homma - and THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL designer - has been given access to the most advanced functional fabrics, and even shares technical factories with TNF.
Japan is still one of the best places for sourcing next-level fabrics, so nanamica is able to produce designs with very authentic fabrics paired with the benefits of skillful hands-on production. Particularly, nanamica is known for its well-liked GORE-TEX products.
Arc'teryx's mainline offerings fall in a similar category to The North Face or Columbia, however, the brand's Veilance division is where Arc'teryx innovation truly bubbles to the forefront. Every Veilance garment is engineered practically to perfection, benefiting from features like watertight zips, seamless construction, impermeable lamination and more. Arc'teryx also works directly with names like GORE-TEX, Schoeller and other three-layer fabric experts to develop the smartest clothing solutions possible. Of particular note, Arc'teryx's integration of down construction is worth reading about, as well as their futuristic new Lithic glove.
Stone Island doesn't hold back a single iota when it comes to next-level fabrics. The brand's notoriously rare cloth is thanks to a philosophy of ongoing investigation into materials and production techniques that differ from the norm. Careful not to get lost in the jargon - the Stone Island catalog contains items constructed in nylon monofilament that will filter out water particles, reflective or thermo-sensitive fabrics that change color with the variation of temperature, polyester that is coated with a stainless steel film used in aviation technology, and one of our favorites; the liquid reflective jacket that is coated with thousands of glass micropsheres for a unique finish.
If you're not familiar with Stone Island's sister company CP Company, check it out here.
Working often in partnership with Swiss textile manufacturer Schoeller, Acronym stays ahead of the curve when it comes to functional fabrics. Schoeller's many patented fabric technologies not only combat but actively adapt to adverse weather.
Examples from the Schoeller labratory include "NanoSphere", which mimics the natural self-cleaning effect of certain plants whose leaves always remain clean, because dirt simply cannot adhere to the textured surface, as well as the "c_change" membrane, which imitates the way of a fir cone opens and closes in response to hot and cold weather conditions.
Herno Laminar is a sartorial urbanwear concept brand hailing from Italy. Staunchly maintaining an ongoing focus on textile research and development, the brand makes use of processes like heat-bonding and ultrasonic stitching to create the finest, Italian-made goods. The brand is designed under the direction of technical outerwear expert Errolson Hugh, who also heads up design for Acronym.
Born from necessity, Outlier was founded on the idea of a single pair of pants that would stand up to the rigors of daily cycling, without looking out of place in a business environment. The so-called "OG Pant" was born thereafter, merging properties of durability, water resistance and breathability.
Since then, founder of the disruptive Outlier brand and DIY hero Abe Burmeister has kept his eye trained on practicality, introducing a wider range of functional, cycle-friendly goods for the urban commuter, much of which relies on the finest merino wool for superior performance.
Japanese brand Montbell's claim to fame is its "Light & Fast" concept. Creating products that are clearly defined by inspiration from mountaineering and backcountry gear, Montbell has you covered for the most arduous, month-long expeditions. Montbell's almost impossibly featherweight products - including tents, sleeping bags and apparel - are a testament to the legacy of founder Isamu Tatsuno, who is renowned for his ascension of the most challenging mountains on the planet.