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Water sports apparel: environmental sustainability and performance features are key

Water sports apparel: environmental sustainability and performance features are key

Sales of water sports apparel will grow substantially over the next five years–but success isn’t guaranteed for all brands. The brands which stand to gain a competitive edge must address environmental sustainability and consumer demand for apparel which is lightweight, is more comfortable, and has improved performance properties. These are the findings of a report in issue 64 of Performance Apparel Markets from the global business information company Textiles Intelligence.

Water sports activities require specialised clothing with high performance properties, including thermal insulation, waterproofness and breathability. Examples of such clothing include exposure suits, hard wearing sailing jackets and boardshorts.

Manufacturers have responded to these and other requirements by developing innovations such as quick drying hydrodynamic shoes, inflatable vests for surfers who have been submerged by heavy waves and specialist pattern designs for apparel applications which reduce the wearer’s risk of a shark attack.  


There has been a particular focus on the development of wetsuits. As a result, modern wetsuits provide greater insulation, stretch and flexibility and therefore extend the amount of time the wearer can spend comfortably in the water.

That said, consumers are growing increasingly critical of the environmental damage caused by the apparel industry and therefore more work needs to be done to develop wetsuits which address the potential environmental damage caused by the use of neoprene, a key component of many water sports garments. In order to succeed, brands must embrace the challenge and develop environmentally sustainable products without compromising on the performance of their products.


In the case of sailing wear, efforts have focused on enhancing protection against the elements and providing comfort features such as articulated elbows and fleece linings in pockets and collars.


Innovation in the water sports apparel market has so far been dominated by major brands–including Musto, O’Neill and Sheico. Such brands have made huge strides to advance the performance of water sports apparel but they must continue their efforts or face stiff competition from new, niche and emerging brands–a number of which are the brainchildren of surfing or diving enthusiasts.

In order to gain a competitive edge, brands must develop products which provide improved comfort, advanced lining fabrics and even greater insulation and stretch. Seamless garments and safety features should also be prioritised in order for brands to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Alternatively, brands may benefit by offering casual water sports wear and lifestyle collections alongside their more technical product ranges. This approach may prove to be popular, particularly as the athleisure market is set to continue to grow.   


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