While revising gathered research for Ponyoception, the possible avenues to aid taking the idea further became more attainable; a strict timetable was constructed to further test the brands feasibility, ideas to launch a brand and what the aims and objectives of PonyoSquid should be.
THE RESEARCH TOPICS LISTED;
• Aesthetics – Technical and performance fabrics such as Gore-Tex and key requirements snow apparel
• Natural vs. Synthetic – Comparing arguments between natural and synthetic fabrics
The most important aspect of sports apparel is performance; this covers a broad spectrum of features such as ventilation, functionality, fit, water tolerance, comfort, accessibility and life span. Summarized from consumer feedback the most important aspects a good shell should encompass are:
• Breathable Fabric – Insuring hot sweat vapour escapes while providing protection from outer elements
• Efficient Water/Wind Tolerance – Down or synthetic thermal core
• Taped Seams – To avoid weak points and imperfections in the shell
• High Collar – To protect your face on a run or lift
• Long Sleeves -Ensuring length covers gloves with long-life hook and loop adjustable cuffs
• Under-arm Ventilation – Mesh vents for instant relief in warmer temperatures
• Easily Accessible Pockets and Lift Pass
• Large Hood – Helmet friendly
• Snow Skirt – To ensure maximum shell coverage
• Safe Guard Pockets – Valuables storage or a jack output for headphones
All of these found requirements are instrumental in shaping a high performing snow shell.
Fabric ventilation is one of the most important features of a ski jacket but it is commonly overlooked. Proper ventilation can prevent both overheating and hypothermia; superior shells are layered with a synthetic thermal inner core which insolates the wearer and also has vents throughout to keep the wearer cool simultaneously. A coated membrane strategically placed throughout the garment allows sweat to escape while keeping rain and snow out. Gore-Tex is a manmade synthetic which is comprised of three core layers, membrane coated layers are impregnated with water repellents which are usually oil based and follow the same principle as non-stick kitchen utensils with ‘bead-off’ water proofing.
THERMAL / OUTER CORE
There are two options for core insolation are synthetic or traditional goose down. Based on more extensive research, goose down has become outdated compared to the man-made rival; synthetic insolation is more efficient for performance. Goose down is the most efficient for its heat insolation however is more suited for mountain trekking whereas synthetics are aimed to create temperature equilibrium. While skiing a wearer will be cold at first but during exercise and exertion the wearer’s body temperature will rise naturally and can result in overheating and fatigue without proper ventilation, which can lead to accidents.
Outer shell materials, or face fabric, vary however are redundantly synthetic fabrics such as Polartec, HellyTech and other specialized popular brand names which protect the wearer from the elements without suffocation.
NATURAL VS. SYNTHETIC FABRIC
Superior waterproof fabrics are completely synthetic however there are natural alternatives such as waxed cottons which claim to perform just as well. The definitive difference between an organic and manmade fabric (from a textile printing perspective) is the inability to dye synthetic fibres. Natural fibres such as cellulose (plant sourced: cotton) and animal fibre (wool) are porous which react with acid or reactive pigments. Synthetic fibres are smooth with no imperfections for a dye to cling to, manmade fabrics can only be masked or coated with a pigment/opaque or disperse binder.
There are three techniques to transpose a design into a waterproof fabric;
Screen Printed Opaque
Waterproofed Natural fabric
DIGITAL PRINTED FABRIC
Screen-printing digitally or by hand is a time consuming and costly task leaving digitally printed fabric as the most popular method for mass manufacturing in the textile industry. Screen-printing is the cornerstone of a textile designer’s skillset; it gives designers an understanding of textile chemistry, aids in development, colour analysis and pattern understanding, yet as a manufacturing process is extremely limiting.
Digitally printed fabrics have the upper hand for time and cost, particularly for shorter sample runs. Manual screen-printing is regarded as expensive for many factors; the need for a studio, a large selection of chemical polymers, various chemical dye ingredients, pigments and requires a large range of hardware for baking and steaming. Digitally printed fabrics also eliminate preparation costs for: masking, run off, wasted pastes, photosensitive ethialon plastic and screen mesh. The biggest argument against digital printing is the loss of control however, for accuracy and quality there is no alternative; efficiently programmed printers are able to replicate any colour. Additionally, editing with programs such as Photoshop manipulating any aspect from scale or design are quickly changed, which is extremely difficult to amend when printing manually.
The textile industry has a terrible reputation regarding the environment specifically for synthetic fabrics. This environmentally unfriendly stigma is due to the non-renewable resources, huge amounts of expended energy and CO2 emissions during fabric construction. Despite its reputation, synthetic fabrics remain the number one choice for outdoor sporting apparel due to endurance, technical attributes and water tightness. Arguable all fabrics are harmful to the environment due to short shelf life, chemical run off, energy consumption and growing demand for production.
The entire life cycle of organic fabric tends to be overlooked; growing cotton alone uses over 90% of water used in the entire synthetic fibre production process. Natural fibres are biodegradable and renewable however extensive amounts of water used during the extended ‘grow-life’ have a detrimental effect on local environments. Bamboo and aloe are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to cotton because of the speedy grow-rate however, adapted as performance fabric simply does not have the structural integrity to withstand waterproofing and the endurance required in an outdoor performance shell.
There are several techniques for waterproofing fabrics, most employing a water retardant ‘bead-off’ chemical spray: these methods are preferred in industry but are highly toxic and harmful for local eco systems. Less harmful and eco-friendly options like waxed cotton, made popular by Barbour and Halley Stevenson, is a 200 year old method developed for sailcloth. Cottons are tightly knitted before the waxing process to provide a tough foundation which is then exposed to molten wax recipes, then processed through hot mangle to remove excess product. The Halley Stevenson website claims the cottons perform just as well as synthetic fabric and chemically coated natural fibre; with proper care and attention waxed cotton will last a lifetime but is extremely costly.
The cotton is densely knitted to make loops and knots smaller, this decreases the chance of the wax cracking while wearing. For greater understanding PonyoSquid tested a sample of the waxed cotton. When exposed to low temperatures (frozen) wax contracts and shrinks. When vigorous movement is applied the wax cracks showing the fabric is vulnerable in generated mountain conditions. In a garment this would cause problem areas around the inner elbow and under arm, with these imperfections water would penetrate the outer shell. Therefore results indicate waxed cotton is an unreliable option as an entirely waxed performance shell. The shell integrity of the waxed fabric can be revived if the affected area is exposed to dry heat to re-melt the wax.