An introduction to fabric selection for your sportswear brand

This blog isn't just for individuals who are new to manufacturing. It's for anyone who's in the process of building a streetwear, or sportswear brand and requires a bit of help on fabric selection (from a UK based sportswear manufacturer). In this blog we are going to hone in specifically on cotton, polyester and blended fabrics; breaking down the specifications of each one, it's best customisation options and then general care, durability and "pros and cons" if you will for each.


It therefore makes sense to kick off with the most popular- Cotton:


Cotton is the most widely produced natural fibre and as a fabric, it's relatively well known for it's comfort and durability and therefore so widely used by many different streetwear and sportswear brands. It's a staple element of tracksuit sets and tees.


All fabrics that comprise of cotton are soft and breathable, but one thing to note (in an activewear scene anyway) is that cotton is usually utilised as a blended fabric for sportswear. A great example is the ever so popular 95% cotton/ 5% elastine (spandex) blend that makes up most of the muscle fit gym wear tees on the market now-a-days. Generally speaking, 100% cotton tends to be great for streetwear brands approaching the oversized tee fit as cotton is naturally a more relaxed fabric anyway, but takes a little longer to dry!


A great example of this is our Oversized Tees within our catalogue. Head over to OUR CATALOGUE to leave your contact details for a free PDF copy to see what we stock and store here in the UK, with low MOQs of 25 units and a 10 working day turnaround time.


The best customisation options:


As we've already written a blog about customisation options on fabric, we will keep this part very brief for you...


The best customisation options for cotton tends to be DTG (direct to garment) which creates a very crisp finish for large, detailed graphics and generic screen print!


Durability:


Provided you've sourced a good manufacturer to produce your sportswear, or streetwear and they're using high quality cotton then it tends to be very durable- although not as long-lasting as polyester, or polyester/cotton fabric blends.


The one downfall of cotton- particularly high composition cotton fabrics is their sensitivity to heat when being washed, which will inevitably lead to shrinkage for most products! Unless they're pre-shrunk, we'd suggest washing cotton products on a cold wash!



Now, it only makes sense to jump the next fabric: Polyester


Did you know? Polyester is actually a man-made fibre that is synthesised from petroleum-based products? And the fact that polyester cloth has actually only been around since 1941!


Although it's fairly new compared to cotton, it's becoming increasingly popular within the sportswear market due to it's durability and it's ability to withstand harsher conditions for a prolonged period of time; resulting in much more longevity in garments that contain polyester fibre. Polyester is also lighter and has a silkier feel than cotton, meaning it actually tends to trap sweat against the skin; hence why it feels cooler in warm conditions and warmer in cold conditions and is the main reason it's used in Under Armour fabrics and base layers!


How about customisation?


Interestingly enough- printing on polyester was quite difficult, but with advancements in printing technologies, prints and dies it has now (somewhat) become easier. That being said, due to it's difficulty it generally becomes a bit more expensive to print on polyester compared to cotton!


Durability:


As previously mentioned, polyester is much more durable than the likes of cotton and it's also less likely to shrink, wrinkle or fade so general wash instructions usually include washing on a medium temperature and leaving to dry.


Last but not least, let's very briefly touch basis on fabric blends:


There are so many different types of fabric blends, but you've probably guessed that! Fabric blends are when two, or more types of fabrics are blended together to build a fabric. The most popular types of fabric blends you'll see in the sportswear industry will be cotton/ elastine, polyester/ cotton, polyester/ elastine and polyester/ cotton/ rayon.


That sounds complicated, but I can promise you that it isn't! Rather than listing each one and boring you to death, I'd rather approach this in a generic way.


Fabric blends tend to be more durable than individual fabrics due to the fact that they include properties from different types of individual fabrics. Every fabric blend has it's individual pros/ cons and is more down to personal preference and is something we'd suggest based on each clients needs and requirements. For example, elastine/ polyester fabric is best for leggings and base layers; due to the fact it's durable and sweat-wicking but also retains it's original shape, regardless of how stretched out it is... which makes it perfect for say women's leggings. That being said, the actual % breakdown very much depends on the specific clients requirements.


As always, I hope this has helped you in one way or another- whether it helps shine light on which fabric you'd like to use for your sportswear manufacturing needs, or if you'd still like some further assistance then feel free to drop us an email! Our emails are always open to help.

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