WHEN THE FEDERAL government created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958, people were looking to venture into the most remote locations imaginable. The thirst for discovery was demanding and required vast sums of capital to invest in new technologies, inventions and enhancements. NASA contracted many businesses and manufacturing plants to create tools that would meet the needs of space travel. Once the new technology was in place, these companies had the building blocks to manufacture space-age products on a large scale and reduce prices, making them accessible to average consumers. NASA can be thanked for home smoke detectors, cordless drills and a plethora of other items used almost daily.
Similarly, many fabric technologies once used on explorations into the Arctic, Antarctic, and various mountain summit expeditions have descended from the high altitudes and extreme sub-zero temperatures and joined the ranks of the common consumer. From there, it is an easy step into the world of promotions.
“Basically, any trend that starts in the regular clothing market will ultimately filter downward,” said Bill Gardiner, vice president of Zorrel International, Grandview, Mo. He pointed out more valuable trends enter the promotional market more quickly, implying the saturation of performance and athletic garments in the market indicates a wide variety of possible uses. Like space, there are expanses of the performance promotional landscape that distributors have not explored.
Gardiner and his colleague, Sean Mahoney, a manager at Zorrel International, were quick to differentiate performance and athletic apparel. While athletic apparel does generally incorporate performance features, there are performance garments not necessarily designed for athletic activity. Mahoney shared the clever phrase circulating his company to describe the need for performance fabrics in non-athletic applications: “You don’t have to work out to sweat, you just have to work.”
“Why shouldn’t moisture transport work for somebody working in a kitchen or a hot outdoor environment,” Gardiner asked rhetorically. He said people in such conditions have the same “reason to want to stay cool and dry as any athlete who is working out in a gym.” Following this line of thought, Zorrel International now has performance garments designed not for athletes but for the regular workforce.