Functional activewear is in high demand as consumers want efficient, fashionable and comfortable clothing. It is no longer just for working out but has become a lifestyle choice for health-conscious consumers. Technology for functional textiles has advanced to the point where it allows unique finishes in functional clothing, such as moisture-wicking, breathable and temperature-regulating materials, some of which are even muscle-relaxing, allowing them to withstand strenuous physical activity while providing maximum comfort.
“With today’s trend of actively playing sports or living an active lifestyle, performancewear has gained traction among fitness enthusiasts, athletes and outdoor adventurers who need high-performance apparel for their active lifestyles. In light of this trend, brands like us are focusing on developing products that are durable, comfortable and high performing with functionality enhanced by advanced textile technology,” explains Sunil Jhunjhunwala, Founder, Techno Sports India.
D2C brands and manufacturers are quick to capitalise on the growing market
D2C brands have been quick to capitalise on the growing market for performancewear, with many of them offering their own ranges that incorporate cutting-edge fabric technologies. As the competition in this market increases, brands are looking for ways to stand out and one approach is investing in innovative fabric technologies that offer superior performance properties.
For instance, Baller Athletik, a ‘Made in India’ brand, incorporates bioceramic minerals into its fabrics, emitting Far Infrared (FIR) energy that has been scientifically proven to enhance athletic performance and recovery. It is constantly researching and experimenting with new technologies, fibres and fabrics to ensure it stays at the forefront of the industry. Another example is Zymrat, whose fabrics are infused with innovative finishes like SuperSilva™, which uses activated silver ions to combat sweat-induced odour and SuperCotton™, which improves durability and colour resistance of cotton garments. EvenTemp™ is another technology it uses which employs microcapsules with phase-change materials activated by body heat for temperature regulation.
In addition, manufacturers like NG Apparels and Techno Sports are actively working with brands to help them achieve their desired results with fabric technologies. These manufacturers are focused on rapid and steady growth, with some aiming for 15-20 per cent growth and others looking to double their business in the next 3 to 4 years. Innovation, quality and quick turnaround are key factors that set them apart in the market.
|“There are various options for finishes on garments and fabrics, depending on the desired outcome. These may include water-repellent, stain-resistant, antimicrobial, flame-retardant, UV-protective and wrinkle-resistant finishes, among others.” Arpit Aryan Gupta, Partner and Business Development Head of NG Apparels|
Arpit Aryan Gupta, Partner and Business Development Head of NG Apparels, based in Ludhiana, states, “Our finishes include water repellent, stain-resistant, antimicrobial, flame retardant, UV protection and wrinkle-resistant options, among others. These finishes provide superior functionality and durability for various applications. Our research-driven approach ensures we stay at the forefront of the industry, pushing boundaries in special finish fabrics. We work with renowned brands like Evemen, Zero Tolerance, The Aurora Band, Little Zips, Drip Galore and more, showcasing our commitment to high-quality products for valued customers.”
On the other hand, Techno Sports India, based in Tirupur, known for integrating fashion and technology, aims for five times growth with a current revenue of Rs. 200 crore. Sunil Jhunjhunwala plans to start a fabric unit to further drive innovation in fabrics based on extensive research and customer needs.
Sunil avers, “Over eight years, we’ve collected data on fabrics and fibres to enhance garment development. Through our observations, we found that spandex is not suitable for activewear due to its negative impact on air permeability and compression. As a result, we have shifted to using polyester and have also developed mesh clothes with improved air permeability.” These examples highlight how D+M2C brands and manufacturers are constantly striving to innovate and utilise cutting-edge fabric technologies to create performancewear that meets the evolving needs of consumers in this growing market.
|“With predictive analysis, we identify ideal materials for specific purposes. Polyester has emerged as a viable alternative which has created high permeability performancewear.” Sunil Jhunjhunwala, Founder, Techno Sports India|
Continuous R&D by brands helps to develop better products, but technology plays a greater part in development
Continuous research and development (R&D) by brands are crucial for developing better products, but technology plays an even greater role in product development. According to Ujjawal Asthana, Co-Founder of Zymrat, technology is foundational in everything done for product development, allowing brands to solve challenges and hurdles in collaboration with the community.
“Technology enables us to elevate user experience and unlock performance potential in various aspects such as fabric construction, mineral infusion and knitting techniques, making it a true game-changer in multiple industries,” mentions Ujjawal.
|“We’re researching new technologies for muscle recovery (body heat to infrared) and moisture management (permanent solution for natural fabrics) to aid athletes and improve fabric performance.” Ujjawal Asthana, Co-founder of Zymrat|
Despite significant progress in utilising performance textile technology, there is still room for improvement. Brands are investing in R&D to further enhance the performance and functionality of their products. This includes exploring new fabric blends, incorporating sustainable materials and integrating smart technologies such as sensors and wearables to provide real-time feedback to users. These efforts are aimed at addressing the evolving needs of consumers and staying ahead in the competitive activewear market.
Brands like Techno Sports India and Zymrat typically allocate around 2 per cent of their annual turnover towards R&D activities, reflecting the importance they place on innovation to drive growth, develop new products or services, enhance operational efficiency and stay competitive in the ever-evolving business landscape.
Competition is tough but activewear firms strategise to stay afloat
As per industry estimates, there are over 1,000 activewear brands in India, and this number is steadily growing, making the market overcrowded. Mojostar, a Mumbai-based company that focuses on co-creating authentic indigenous brands in the lifestyle space, has recently introduced the Prowl brand.
According to Abhishek Verma, the CEO of Mojostar, there is a gap in the activewear market for products that cater to hyperactive young Indians. Traditional activewear brands tend to over-specify their products, but young consumers seek simplified functional products that offer both style and versatility. The market demands products that help individuals look amazing, are suitable for multi-functional movement and are easy to maintain.
Nowadays, brands are well aware of the power of community and prefer to use social media and community-focused marketing instead of traditional methods.
“Our marketing approach involves building an organic community on our social media channels. We strive to feature individuals who genuinely love our products and have become an integral part of our community. Additionally, we support our community members in promoting their message and values related to fitness, mental health and societal issues such as bullying. While advertising is a part of our approach, we make sure that it is done in a non-invasive manner as our platform is built on trust and keeping engagement high. We do not force customers to purchase our products, but rather showcase them and allow our community members to decide if they wish to buy them. Our aim is to maintain a high level of trust within the community and provide a positive experience for all our users, thereby increasing customer retention rates,” states Tanveer, Founder of Baller Athletik.
Similarly, the Zymrats are known for their community-building activities. “As a brand, we are big believers in the power of community. We proudly call ourselves #BuiltByTheCommunity. It dictates pretty much every strategy that we implement, not just at the brand level but even when it comes to product. Our continued efforts of working closely with the community has enabled us to record industry-leading retention,” states Ujjawal.