FAR FROM THE SLOPES

Byline: R.F.

NEW YORK — No longer designed strictly for skiers, sales of high-performance outerwear have snowballed, thanks in part to innovative fibers produced mainly by DuPont and 3M Co.
And both firms said they are looking for continued growth as they develop more high tech materials.
In 1987, DuPont’s woven Supplex nylon emerged in ski apparel, but in the last three years it has crept into the mainstream.
“Many outerwear companies are looking for high-performance fibers,” said a Dupont spokeswoman. “They want the latest and the newest. They latch onto those trends.”
Micromattique polyester is becoming more popular among activewear manufacturers for its wind-resistance and water-repellent qualities. “Micromattique’s potential growth is great,” she said. “We haven’t even scratched the surface.”
Introduced by 3M in 1978, Thinsulate is a combination of olefin microfiber and polyester that was first used for skiwear, according to Beth Volkers, brand manager for Thinsulate.
For the last 10 years, 3M has supplied outerwear retailers such as L.L. Bean, Lands’ End and Eddie Bauer with Thinsulate, she said.
“The whole rugged outerwear category has grown in the past few years and our business has benefited from that,” Volkers said.
To capitalize on the trend last fall, 3M launched its first national ad campaign in four years and saw a “healthy increase” in sales, she said.
Thinsulate made from recycled polyester and polyolefin will be available at retail for fall of 1996. Priced about 5 percent higher than regular Thinsulate, the recycled product should be well received by consumers who are concerned about the environment, she said.
Ultimately, 3M would like to establish a program to recycle coats lined with Thinsulate, she said.

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