A Running Start: Tips for a Winning Performance Wear Promotion
Most end-users who jog, bike or do any kind of exercise will attest that they have their favorite pieces of activewear: The pants that fit just right and make them feel more confident on the running track, or the jacket that keeps them warm in winter and dries off quickly after summer squalls. A good piece of activewear can serve as motivation to continue exercising, while ill-fitting, uncomfortable garments can turn every fitness day into a slog.
The amount of fabric options available these days can be dizzying, from rain-repelling outerwear treatments to moisture-wicking performance fabrics. Apparel suppliers and decorators weighed in on the best choice of styles, fabrics and treatments to help activewear perform at its best.
To ensure that end-users will wear their apparel over and over again, consider comfort, performance and style as the highest priorities.
It’s hard to find a piece of athletic apparel on the market today that doesn’t make claims of performance fabrics working wonders. The trend is booming, and fitness aficionados are happy to have so many options. Stretchy fabrics, moisture-wicking materials and UV-resistant treatments make exercise more enjoyable and comfortable, and manufacturers are showcasing the capabilities of apparel technology.
Kevin Bloomquist, vice president of sales for A4 Apparel, Vernon, Calif., cited comfort and performance as the top reasons a piece of activewear is worn repeatedly. These are tied to the details in the fabric; and how the construction fits and functions for the end-user.
And those end-users want durability, Bloomquist said. Performance wear is put through much more stress than other types of apparel, and is used often by those who exercise daily. The material should be durable, and the decoration should, too.
“We use texturized threads in our seams so you have more flexibility while performing,” Bloomquist said. “We put in extra bar tacks for durability, flatlock stitching, etc. It’s important to know whether the fabrics’ performance features are topical or constructed. Topical treatments dismiss with washing and usually last around 20 washings. Dry cleaning is harsh on fabric and can strip the treatments even sooner.”
Performance technology shines when the weather gets rough. Bloomquist shared his go-to options for different weather conditions.
“When it is cold, I would start with a thin polyester interlock layering piece that wicks moisture,” he said. “Multiple layers trap air and add insulation. If you can keep your body from getting damp, you can stay warm when it’s cold. For the cool, windy days, you need to add another layer that will block the wind, a woven polyester shell will do the trick. When it’s hot, you also want a piece that wicks moisture away from your body, this process will help reduce your body temperature. It’s important to have a polyester fabric that is treated or woven to wick moisture. If not, that fabric will repel moisture and have the opposite effect. Plus, it’s very uncomfortable during and after your workout.”
It’s not hard to figure out, but the secret is layering. As the weather gets colder, adding layers of outerwear with different fabric technologies helps cover as much area as possible.
Decorating with Care
If performance fabrics have one drawback, it’s that they must be handled with care when decorating. Josh Ellsworth, manager of Stahls’ TV, Uniontown, Pa., said heat printing is the most used method for decorating activewear, but it’s also one of the trickiest to get right.
“Heat transfer vinyl is extremely durable,” Ellsworth said. “The challenge is scorching the fabric. With synthetic fabric and polyester, there is the potential for the heat-sensitive materials to be damaged.”
High heat can leave scorch marks and heat print boxes on temperature-sensitive fabrics, such as nylon, rayon and polyester, Ellsworth added. He said that when decorating athletic wear, a heat press should be set to a lower temperature and a lighter pressure.
Outerwear can be more complicated.
“The coatings can be unpredictable,” Ellsworth said. “You have things like UV resistance and rain repellent coatings, which are even more sensitive. These will only stand up to washing about 10 times before the treatment is gone.”
Ellsworth recommended a nylon adhesive heat transfer application when decorating outerwear that has these treatments.