Warmer climates all over the world are encouraging Italian engineers to develop innovative fabrics — and the machinery to produce them — that can span seasons.
One of the most cumbersome things Paolo Bodo, founder of Sixty Group’s Asian subsidiaries, has witnessed during his long career in the apparel industry is the feathery blizzard that occurs during the production of down.
This September, Bodo revealed that his company teamed with goose down expert Ron Reuben, a Canadian entrepreneur who, with a group of international engineers, developed the technology that has the potential to eradicate the process of down quilting and encumbrance of flying feathers, using a machine called NIPI R40.
The result is an almost weightless, airy trans-seasonal fabric called Thindown, a fluid sheet of neat, fluffy down that can be cut with scissors. The material is a Made in Italy product that can be styled and shipped to apparel-makers all over the world.
“Only 5 percent of apparel companies in Italy have the capacity to produce down,” Bodo said in an interview. “The machinery is assembled in a small town in Abruzzo called Chieti. It could really change the lives of many people in that town.”
Bodo noted that by 2016, Natural Insulation Products Inc. (NIPI), the company he cofounded with Reuben and other investors, is expected to produce 300,000 meters of down fabric and has the potential to bring 200 new jobs in the region in the near-term.
Versatile, trans-seasonal fabrics that save on energy and water costs and whose final product represents a bargain for the rising number of consumers looking for designs that can be worn for several seasons, are among the factors driving revenue for Italian fabrics machinery, said the Association of Italian Textile Machinery Manufacturers (ACIMIT).
In 2014, sales of Italian textile machines were in line with 2013. However, the U.S. and EU countries such as Germany remained among the consortium’s key markets and apparel-producing countries like Bangladesh emerged as a important new markets.
“Anything that represents a savings — [whether with] sustainability, in economic terms or in more versatile fabrics — is what our clients are interested in,” said Mauro Badanelli, ACIMIT’s Economics and Press manager.
With unpredictably warm winters and the rising number of consumers residing in perpetually warm climates just north of the equator and the Middle East, trans-seasonal collections, as well as expansive resort collections, are crucial for the luxury industry’s survival.
In terms of finished product, trans-seasonal collections are the fruit of innovations in yarn production, engineered by Italy’s top wool mills, explained Fabrizio Servente, global strategy adviser for The Woolmark Co.
“Wool has become finer and finer, and now we have treatments implemented in the finishing process that allow wool to be softer than it once was,” Servente explained, adding that such treatments involve removing scales from individual wool fibers.
About 40 years ago, before synthetic fibers offered a cheaper alternative to natural wool, it was common to make soccer, football and cycling attire out of wool, Servente said.
The return of wool in sportswear has been fueled by consumer demand for more sustainable, biodegradable materials.
“The global market is very interested in new products in wool and fashion. Wool is naturally elastic, it is breathable, isothermal, sustainable and biodegradable,” Servente said.
At the forefront of trans-seasonal fabrics is Biella-based textile-maker Reda 1865, which recently introduced its Reda Rewoolution line. Crafted with wool fibers, Reda Rewoolution’s “Next to Skin” line consists of articles made with lightweight textiles that provide elevated thermal protection. Ergonomic designs guarantee optimal comfort in contact with the skin. Heat regulation, fast drying and light weight make them suitable for sports, facilitating optimal performance regardless of out temperature outdoors.
Within the luxury arena, companies such as Ermenegildo Zegna are pioneering the trans-seasonal movement. The company’s accessible sports brand Z Zegna’s spring collection introduced a summer coats group, which the company said is one of the key protagonists of the trans-seasonal trend. The summer coats lineup, comprising flexible and easy tech-driven outerwear and more tailored peacoats and jackets, reflects Ermenegildo Zegna’s push to make the new Z Zegna line a leader in performance apparel.
Like wool, quilted down is a key in the growing trans-seasonal trend. Outerwear producers have been successful in making down styles more comfortable and versatile.
In the same vein, sporty Italian brand Peuterey introduced non-seasonal looks within its current fall line that included trenchcoats, peacoats and field jackets made with innovative down fabrics, as well as PrimaLoft, a performance fabric that wicks moisture away from the skin.
Moncler’s footprint in trans-seasonal outerwear has involved the constant innovation of classics like its Longue Saison jacket, which was introduced with its fall 2008 collection.
Longue Saison is produced using an intricate technique that injects down feathers into each section or compartment. The high-quality down, called duvet neuf, a four-tuft down, undergoes a strict cleaning and sanitizing process that concludes with drying in ovens at over 100 degrees. It remains a preferred item because it’s an all-season product that’s made with down, is water repellent and breathable, and can be worn year-round.
The updated Moncler Longue Saison collection includes the new Moncler Longue Saison Cuir, made with ultrathin napa leather that’s just 0.3 millimeters thick, while the Doudoune Legére jacket from fall is made with ultralight nylon weighing just 33 grams per square meter. Crafted with down, the jacket is also water resistant and the quilted sections are of a thicker width than other puffers in the Moncler collection.
Looking ahead, industry leaders are waiting for pointers from the upcoming international textile and garment machinery exhibition ITMA. Founded in 1951, ITMA takes place every four years. An industry reference for change and competitiveness, ITMA will be held at Milan’s Rho Fiera fairgrounds from Nov. 12 to 19.