Byline: Allegra Holch

NEW YORK — Activewear fabric designers have a challenge to meet: Combine high tech performance properties with directional fashion trends.
For spring ’98, they’re doing that with microdenier polyesters that are fluid or velvety, high tech nylons with a natural cotton look and feel, and moisture-resistant CoolMax. These were some of the ideas presented by Iris LeBron, fashion director of DuPont, during her recent activewear workshop at the company’s offices here.
LeBron presented three themes for the season, each named after a figure from Greek mythology — Poseidon, Mercury and Hercules.
Poseidon, the god of water, was the inspiration for swimwear and bodywear fabrics. “There is a changing of the palette for swimwear and bodywear,” LeBron said. “Colors are softening in these categories, with an emphasis on sorbet colors and pastel shades of blue, celadon and white.”
Fabrics such as “crystal sheers to use as insets,” embroidered stretch laces and tie-dyed prints on Micromattique were some of the looks LeBron suggested for this trend. Also important were “liquid-like, very fluid fabrics in Tactel nylon and Lycra spandex,” which LeBron recommended for “lingerie-inspired beach coverups.”
Mercury, inspired by the god of speed, focuses on performance-oriented, high tech fabrics for both hard-core athletics and fashion-forward street looks. Ease of movement is the primary goal, so Lycra spandex is an essential element of the fabrics in this category, said LeBron.
Performance features such as moisture wicking and quick-drying are achieved with CoolMax. Prints are important here, in looks that allude to motion with blurred colors and patterns. Surface textures such as a shantung surface on jersey, or the illusion of texture with prints, are also key. Textures combining matte and shiny yarns, mini ribs and puckers give a sense of movement. LeBron also suggested Supplex nylon as a softer alternative to cotton pique for a classic polo shirt silhouette.
Hercules focuses on fabrics that are strong and protective, with an emphasis on tough performance-oriented outerwear fabrics for shells, pants and shorts. Matte finishes come into play here with a recently introduced version of Cordura nylon that is made with a “dull, rather than shiny, yarn that gives a cotton look to the nylon,” said LeBron.
MicroSupplex, a new microdenier nylon that has a soft, cottony hand, with performance benefits such as wind, water and abrasion resistance, is another important fabric in this category. On the shimmery side, LeBron showed metallic knits, iridescent wovens and laminated coatings on polyester that add protection and a visual dimension to the fabric. Fabric story boards presented in the workshop can be viewed by appointment in DuPont’s fabric library here.

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