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Nike Creates a 'Game-Changing' New Innovation

TheStreet logo TheStreet 9/10/2022 Daniel Kline

The company spent five years developing what it has called "its most significant clothing innovation since Dri-Fit."

Nike (NKE) - Get Nike Inc. Report began its existence by building better shoes for runners. That was the mission when Phil Knight founded the company and he created a niche in the highly-competitive sneaker market, by serving high-performance athletes.

That mission has been lost a little bit, at least in public perception as the company has become a trend-setting fashion brand. People don't line up (in person and digitally) for the latest Air Jordan sneaker drop because the shoes will help them play basketball better.

Despite that evolving perception, Nike has remained a brand focused on athletes and performance. Yes, lots of non-athletes wear the brand, but that does not make its shoes and clothing any less innovative.

Now, Nike has unveiled a new fabric, and the company promises that it's a game-changer.

Stephanie Keith/Getty © Provided by TheStreet Stephanie Keith/Getty

Nike Goes Forward With New Fabric

Nike has numerous athletes around the world under contract and it listens to their wishes and needs. The company shared that many of those athletes have said that "climate change is a barrier to sport." Those comments led to Nike developing Forward, a new material it called its "most significant apparel innovation since Dri-Fit."

A new take on fleece, Forward moves away from traditional knit and woven processes. "Nike Forward revolutionizes apparel creation by hacking punch-needle machines for the purpose of making premium, sustainability-minded products," the company explained in a press release.

Nike spent five years researching and developing what would become Forward. It explained how the new material is created and why it's better for the planet.

The innovation, shifting from knit or woven, simplifies the process of material fabrication by reducing steps. Rather than follow a multistage (spin yarn, knit, cut, sew and more) creation cycle, Nike Forward turns fiber directly to textile through needle-punch. Fewer steps means less energy consumption, contributing to an average of 75% reduction in the carbon footprint for this first generation material compared to traditional knit fleece. Nike Forward material also has a lighter density than traditional knit fleece, which is crucial to reaching 75% carbon reduction, and the finished product is comprised of 70% recycled content by weight.

The new material will debut in a grey hoodie that "in keeping with its sustainable ethos," forgoes embellishments and dyes, favoring raw cut pockets and zero water usage.

“Nike Forward feels different because it is different. It is not a traditional knit or woven, but a completely new material that drastically reduces its carbon footprint,” said Nike Innovation Vice President Carmen Zolman.

Nike Responds to Athletes

The new material can be manufactured with a range of layers using industrial and post-consumer waste. Forward can also be "be precisely tuned for athlete needs," Nike shared.

“We believe this platform has the potential to reset the way we think about material and apparel. This is the biggest Nike apparel innovation since Dri-Fit 30 years ago and has huge potential to transform the industry in the way that Air and Flyknit did for Nike footwear,” said Nike Global Apparel Vice President Aaron Heiser.

Forward represents Nike trying to serve the performance needs of athletes while also addressing their concerns about sustainability and the planet.

"The platform is purpose-built and created for future circularity — the first iteration of Nike Forward products are made without zippers, aglets or extra trims, making it easier for the garments to be recycled. In total, Nike Forward is an unlock as we work to achieve our impact targets," the company explained,

Nike Forward's first hoodie and crew-style shirt will be released globally on Sept. 15.


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