Nike Forward Is A New Material Made Differently, Sustainably - Forbes
The debut sweatshirt of Nike Forward, a new layered material that took five years to create.
Nike believes the new Forward material will do for its apparel line what Flyknit did a decade ago for footwear. And they believe creating an all-new fabric material also offers a sustainably minded approach to the future of product.
Nike Forward material isn't a knit. Or a weave. It doesn't even use yarn. Instead, the manufacturing process creates fibers from recycled plastic flakes and attaches them together using needle-punching machines mostly found in the automotive and medical industry. From there they can connect these multiple thin layers using the needle-punching process, crafting a garment's layers how they choose.
"Nike Forward feels different because it is different," says Carmen Zolman, vice-president innovation apparel design at Nike. "It is not a traditional knit or woven, but a completely new material that drastically reduces its carbon footprint."
Nike says its new Forward material offers a sustainable way of making fabric.
Launching Sept. 8 in a grey sweatshirt, the debut Nike Forward product also uses no embellishments (zippers, aglets or extra trims) or dyes to highlight what Nike calls an ability to offer a 75% reduction in carbon footprint during the manufacturing process compared to a traditional fleece, mainly because Nike Forward eliminates multiple steps and focuses on turning fiber directly to textile through needle-punch.
Calling it the biggest breakthrough the brand has had in apparel since Dri-Fit, Nike plans to turn Nike Forward into a platform used across the entire brand, much the same way Flyknit started in 2012 with two shoes and now runs across the company's entire footwear line.
"We believe this platform has the potential to reset the way we think about material and apparel," says Aaron Heiser, vice-president global apparel product merchandising for Nike.
The Nike Forward material offers a singular feel for the brand.
The big change for Nike Forward comes in the needle-punch process. Taking machines from outside the apparel space, Nike Forward's patented method of creation overlaps thin layers of fibers and mechanically entangles them to create a new material. The debut products have five composite layers, but Nike can choose to change the makeup of the material layers for new performance properties.
The first generation of product focuses on lightweight softness with a warmth meeting Nike's Therma-FIT ADV performance standards because of the product's warmth-to-weight ratio. The brand says it comes in the construction, as the material density necessary to achieve the desired warmth is much lower than that of the brand's traditional fleece.
Nike Forward's launch products are at least 70% recycled content by weight, using the same recycled polyester featured throughout the brand, largely created from recycled plastic bottles. Nike hopes to expand the types of recycled materials, including using manufacturing waste.
The five-year process to develop Nike Forward included a focus on sustainability. The completely raw feel of the debut product highlights the recycled content and improved carbon savings. Using no dyes or water in the finishing process added to the environmental benefits and the style highlights the ability to make product without trims.
Nike Forward will look and feel unique, including with the expectation of piling. Likening it to a favorite pair of jeans or a heavy-weight sweatshirt, Forward breaks in through use and Nike suggests less washing as part of the care of the brand's new material.
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