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THE ROLE OF ELASTANE IN DIGITALLY PRINTED ATHLEISURE AND PERFORMANCE SPORTSWEAR

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Professional Sportswear is designed and build for speed and performance, and Athleisure for your comfort. Both are designed to enhance the human physic for increased speed or shape.

Elastane is a vital fibre for both marketplaces it add the vital stretch necessary for function. Sportswear must be aerodynamically efficient and Athleisure visually attractive. 

Digital Print technologies increasingly address the growing requirement for customisation and personalisation in these ever expanding marketplaces. Historically the ink-set of choice for Digital Textile Printing was Dye-Sublimation, onto Polyester fabrics, however, in recent years great advances have been made in Pigment Printing technologies for both Athleisure and Sportswear Fabrics. 

Elastane, also known as Lycra and Spandex is a synthetic fibre known for its exceptional elasticity. 

First derived from a polyether-polyurea copolymer by Dupont in the 1950’s it gained its first trade name Spandex from an anagram of “expands”.  Elastane is used in all areas where a high degree of permanent elasticity is required, as, for example, in tights, sportswear, swimwear, corsetry, and in woven and knitted fabrics.  When stretched, often by four to seven times its original length,  it always reverts to its original form. Elastane has the highest stretch tension of all textile raw materials. 

As a result Elastane is widely used for fashionable or functional apparel which is intended to cling to the body, while at the same time remaining comfortable to wear. 

In its early days Elastane was used extensively in women’s support garments and underwear, and remains a constant fibre within lingerie production. DuPont reimagined Lycra as the aerobic fitness movement emerged in the 1970s.  Lycra, or by any other name, Spandex, or Elastane has been a vital component for all competitive sports wear garments since the 1960’s. 

Popularised by Dupont, the Lycra brand became an essential yarn for sportswear wear because of it’s flexible and lightweight material. By the 1990s, the fitness trend had reached its height in popularity and fashionistas began wearing shorts on the street.  Spandex proved such a popular fibre in the garment industry that by 1987 DuPont had trouble meeting worldwide demand.  

In the 2000s a variety of other items made with Spandex proved popular, shirts, denim, dresses, and even shoes were being made with spandex blends, and all mass-market retailers were using it for menswear.  

And so for the Millennial Generation, who’s expectations combine the ease of wear and comfort of Elastane garments, and a requirement for customisation and personalisation, the availability of Digital Textile Technologies which offer bespoke production, alongside the rise of the e-commerce retailer has led to a vibrant new era for Sportswear manufacturers.

The recent growth shown in the Customised Sports and Athleisure wear markets has been astounding, underpinned, as it has been, by widespread celebrity endorsement and a demand for customisation and design diversity.

Customised garments, with Sports Club’s Logos and Individual Names have driven the market surge for on-demand, short run, bespoke garment production. 

Digital Textile Printing is particularly suitable for sensitive and stretchy Elastane Fabrics, because there is no contact between the Printing Machine and the fabric. The transfer of the print takes place in a 30 second burst, in a heat press, where the Elastane fabric is subjected to no physical stresses, and is processed without any detrimental effect on the fabric. 

The colours achieved are bright and vibrant, and all the fastnesses and performance criteria are excellent. 

As a result of this technological marriage, Elastane, through its popularity and comfort, and Digital printing through its practicality and ease of design and manufacture, have come together to form the backbone of the modern customised Sportswear and Athleisure wear market.