The North Face's new "FutureLight" fabric is claimed as a huge advancement in the outdoor apparel world. Will it prove effective?
The North Face is a brand name that's as well-known in the outdoor space as any other. The brand's latest announcement could set them up for even more acclaim, if their affirmation crystallizes.
Unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Futurelight won't be officially available until the fall of 2019. But to recognize the launch, The North Face teamed up with Designworks (owned by the BMW Group) to create a virtual reality experience that will let CES 2019 attendees see exactly how the technology was developed. Folks can see the exhibit at CES 2019 starting January 8, 2019.
"Nanospinning" is at the core of these advancements, which has allowed the brand's designers to add air permeability (at levels never before reached) into the membrane of a fabric on a sub-microscopic level. It creates nano-level holes, making room for impressive porosity characteristics without losing total waterproof capabilities. The air moves through the fabric, creating a better venting effect than ever before, while still maintaining the essential security against moisture.
Another advantage of nanospinning is the customizability that it awards designers to adjust weight, stretch, breathability, durability, construction (knit or woven), and texture to match an activity or environment. That means aerobic wear can have increased breathability, or something meant to be worn in a harsh, wet climate can have increased water protection.
That adjustment is what's setting FutureLight apart; never before has apparel fabric seen this level of customization while still withholding the breathable/waterproof features that would normally contradict each other.
FutureLight is helping The North Face establish a new standard in sustainability with innovative improvements in the fabric creation process. The brand is working to responsibly create three-layer garments through use of recycled fabrics through a production system that cuts chemical consumption, all while being done in a solar-powered factory.
"Right now, the expectation from a waterproof product is something loud, crunchy, muggy and unpackable. With FutureLight we can theoretically use the technology to make anything breathable, waterproof and for the first time, comfortable," Global General Manager of Mountain Sports at The North Face Scott Mellin said. "Imagine a waterproof t-shirt, sweater or even denim that you actually want to wear. Today we start with jackets, tents and gloves, but the possibilities could be endless."
The fact is, if the allegations The North Face are making take effect, this could signal a shift in outdoor gear. In a way, this could make Gore-Tex a thing of the past. Gore-Tex material is great at keeping water out, but fails at letting moisture out. Work up a sweat in the rain or fog, and you could wind up as soggy as you would if you weren't even wearing a waterproof Gore-Tex rain jacket.
"During the past two years, our world class team of climbers, skiers, alpinists, snowboarders and trail runners has been rigorously testing FutureLight across every discipline to prove this technology in varying weather conditions and climates all over the world," Nelson, The North Face athlete team captain, said. "In all my years in the mountains, I've never experienced a product that moved and performed as well as FutureLight. It is creating a new paradigm for what I expect out of a waterproof material."
We'll await the arrival, and price tag declaration, of FutureLight as the season moves along. For now, we've got more reason to be excited about the revolutions happening in the outdoor gear industry.