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29th January 2016, Geneva

Lycra Hybrid technology – Knitted denim jeans that move with you

Elizia Volkmann interviews Jean Hegedus - Global Segment Director – Denim, for Invista and Ralph Hermann from Willy Hermann Fine Knitting, Austria.

Denim has been a hot topic in fashion over the past two years or so, undergoing not just a renaissance in popularity, but a bit of a revolution thanks to the innovative work of companies like Invista who have created Lycra Hybrid technology, a knitted denim that washes and wears like high performance active leggings. 

Jean Hegedus Global Segment Director – Denim at INVISTA describes the new fabric: “It is a circular knit that looks like a woven but gives you the quality of knit.”

Stretch denim is nothing new and would not be possible without the super stretch and recovery of Lycra fibre, so why make the leap from woven to knit?

“In looking at industry mega trends, it is no secret that active wear garments have been increasing, particularly yoga wear, and sales of denim have been declining as a result.  We really wanted to do something as part of the denim industry so that denim could capitalise on the active trend.”

Fabrics made with Invista’s new knit denim technology can qualify for different Lycra brands. Shown here are everyday jeans made with the Lycra brand. ©  Invista

Female fashion consumers have had a love/hate relationship with denim - women want to wear it, but the classic jean is not necessarily an accommodating garment, Hegedus says.

“We know one of the issues is that jeans are one of the more difficult garments to fit and a woman will typically try on about seven pairs of jeans before she finds one that fits.”

Consumers’ lives have changed, and women in particular need clothes that look good, suit their style, and perform well in all the moments of her life, from professional, to active, family and social life.

“We saw that consumers needed to simplify their lives – since they’re frequently multi-tasking, there’s a need for clothing that is multi functional.”

Responding to this market need has resulted in a patent pending textile innovation, Hegedus says.

“We look at consumer needs and then brainstorm how we can meet those needs.” Development has been multi-track. “We’ve worked with several mills to develop technology and it seems to be working.”

One of the mills that has developed fabrics with Lycra Hybrid technology with is Willy Hermann, the Austrian mill famed for its Superfine knitted fabrics. Ralph Herman commented:

“The Lycra Hybrid technology is a concept of using both Lycra fibre and Invista’s Lycra T400 fibre in one fabric together with a natural fibre. The machines need to be adapted for the needs of the three different fibres to work together in a delicate balance and finishing needed to be adapted dramatically for the Lycra Hybrid technology.”

He adds that development required: “some proprietary machine adjustments and additional devices were installed and adapted to provide the necessary technical fine-tuning for the knitting.”

Once this was done we proceeded with “a number of finishing trials - we developed processes and recipes to provide the best possible outcome of the fabric made with Lycra Hybrid technology  After testing, the final hurdle for the new fabrics has been finishing. Ralph Hermann states that: “in addition a lot of post processing trials were done on test garments to prove usability in post-treatment (laser, stonewashing, overprinting, garment dyeing).”

Once fabrics were developed, Invista tested them to see how they performed: “We made garments and put them on our fit models.  Sensors on the fit model’s body measured the force she was feeling as she wore the garments and performed different moves, such as squats. A comparison [was made] between active wear leggings, conventional jeans and Lycra Hybrid technology.”

Fabrics made with Invista’s new knit denim technology can qualify for different Lycra brands. Shown here are athleisure jeans made with Lycra SPORT fabric. © Invista

Jeans made with Lycra Hybrid technology have wear force comparable to an active wear legging, which has less than half the wear force of a conventional jean. “So the wearer can move easily and feel comfortable while wearing a garment that looks like a traditional jean,” says Hegedus. 

The new technology also offers an added bonus it that it creates a smooth line on the body, “You can use this technology to create a very smooth and comfortable shaping garment which can qualify for our Lycra Beauty brand.

Hegedus says that Invista is currently working on finishing, applying new textures and finishes to the Lycra Hybrid fabrics, so they look like a woven.  “At the same time, we also want to make the Lycra Hybrid fabrics look unique - so we are striving to provide both functionality and visual appeal.”

The final ingredient that will make Lycra Hybrid technology a success in the market place is how it looks in a fashion garment. “I think on the ready to wear side you can make something that fits like a jean or something that looks like a standard woven, you can make a piece dyed fabric, it can look like a khaki or a twill fabric it does not have to be denim,” says Hegedus.

“We have customers looking at this in the ready to wear area and the active wear area.”  To push the boundaries of creativity Invista engaged with fashion design students.

Hegedus says: “We thought we would go to the students who are up and coming designers and entrepreneurs, so we went to the jeans school in Amsterdam http://denimcity.org/#jeanschool and another university in the U.S.

“We gave jeans with the Lycra Hybrid technology to the students and asked for their honest feedback. We also asked them what they thought they could you do in these jeans that they wouldn’t typically do in other jeans. The results can be seen on the video from our You Tube site.

The earliest that the market will see garments made with Lycra Hybrid technology will be Fall 2016 and Spring 2017, Hegedus says that: “we have a number of denim and activewear brands who are looking at this now and sampling fabrics.”

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