AWI’s technical team has been working closely with wearable technology company KnitWarm to develop wool-rich garments that incorporate electric self-heating technology.
Imagine standing watching the footy in the chilly depths of winter – be it in Manchester or Moscow, Melbourne or Manjimup. You’re wearing your woollens but the wind feels like it’s blowing straight from the polar ice-caps. So you flick a switch inside your jacket and, hey presto, the fabric starts to warm up.
T his can now be a reality, following the development of ‘wearable technology’ that is set to revolutionise the industry. The global wearable technology market is forecast to be worth more than US$67 billion by 2024, with an increasing trend for brands to add digital technology to enhance the performance and functional capabilities of a garment.
AWI has been working alongside wearable technology company KnitWarm to implement its eponymous patented knitting technology into wool apparel. KnitWarm is a first-of-its-kind, self-heating textile, with unique softness, flexibility and breathability. It will heat up within 30 seconds to offer instant warmth after plugging into a portable 5V/2A power bank, which can be controlled by a mobile phone app and can also be made to be machine washable.
Using 3D knitting machines that create seamless garments, special Merino yarns from Woolmark licensees Suedwolle and Xinao – along with woven wool fabrics from Chia Her and Nanshan – are knitted together with an innovative silver conductive yarn which heats up when a charge is passed through it.
The benefits of KnitWarm products are two- fold. Firstly, they can keep the wearer warm in extremely cold temperatures, which coupled with Merino wool’s natural benefits such as moisture management and odour resistance will be of particular use to outdoor and mountain enthusiasts. Secondly, KnitWarm complements the health and wellbeing sector, with the fabric heating up to 40oC, replicating a hot spring or sauna and improving blood circulation and muscle relaxation.
“In jackets using this technology, simply heating the upper back is enough to warm the wearer’s entire body according to medical practitioners,” explained AWI’s Hong Kong Technical Manager Brenda Yang. “KnitWarm is now reaching out to groups such as airlines and elite athletes to use this innovative technology. Perhaps even woolgrowers or shearers would benefit from the muscle relaxation after a long day on the farm.”
AWI’s marketing arm The Woolmark Company debuted KnitWarm technology at Taiwan’s TITAS trade show in October 2018. And at the recent ISPO trade show in Germany (see opposite page), The Woolmark Company also showed KnitWarm’s capability in jackets using the latest OptimTM spinning technology. The resultant jacket is a wind and water- resistant outer-shell jacket, with sections which can be heated up to 40oC.
“Reports from ISPO have been very positive, with major outdoor brands and even a car brand interested in the technology,” said Brenda.
Suedwolle and Taiwanese mill Chia Her also showcased KnitWarm technology in a wool- rich 4-in-1 jacket, winning a prestigious ISPO Award in the urban apparel category. The next generation of consumers has demonstrated that they are prepared to spend more on these garments as they view them as better meeting their needs. With an awareness of sustainability and the eco- credentials of a garment, consumers are also demanding that these technical advances in garments incorporate natural elements to offset the technical ones, which makes wool the perfect choice.