Nike has created a material called Nike Forward that requires fewer steps than traditional Nike knits or woven, which significantly reduces the environmental impact of the material. In comparison to typically knit fleece, Nike Forward has a 75% average carbon footprint reduction, is much lighter in weight, and contains 70% recycled material overall.
A sustainable approach: Changing the future of the product
According to Nike, the new Forward fabric will do for its apparel line what Flyknit did for footwear a decade ago. They also think that developing an entirely new fabric material offers a future-focused perspective on environmentally friendly products.
Nike Forward material isn’t a knit. Or a weave. It doesn’t even use yarn. Instead, the manufacturing process creates fibers from recycled plastic flakes and attaches them together using needle-punching machines mostly found in the automotive and medical industries. From there they can connect these multiple thin layers using the needle-punching process, crafting a garment’s layers how they choose.
“Nike Forward feels different because it is different,” says Carmen Zolman, vice-president of innovation apparel design at Nike.
“It is not a traditional knit or woven, but a completely new material that drastically reduces its carbon footprint.”
The biggest breakthrough
Calling it the biggest breakthrough the brand has had in apparel since Dri-Fit, Nike plans to turn Nike Forward into a platform used across the entire brand, much the same way Flyknit started in 2012 with two shoes and now runs across the company’s entire footwear line.
“We believe this platform has the potential to reset the way we think about material and apparel,” says Aaron Heiser, vice-president of global apparel product merchandising for Nike.
The big change
The needle-punching procedure is where Nike Forward sees the biggest change. Taking machines from outside the apparel space, Nike Forward’s patented method of creation overlaps thin layers of fibers and mechanically entangles them to create a new material.
Nike can decide to alter the composition of the material layers for new performance qualities despite the initial goods having five composite layers.
The first generation of products focuses on lightweight softness with a warmth meeting Nike’s Therma-FIT ADV performance standards because of the product’s warmth-to-weight ratio.
The brand says it comes in the construction, as the material density necessary to achieve the desired warmth is much lower than that of the brand’s traditional fleece.
The five-year process to develop Nike Forward included a focus on sustainability
The premiere product’s natural feel draws attention to the recycled material and increased carbon reduction. The environmental advantages of not using dyes or water in the finishing process were increased, and the design emphasizes the possibility to produce goods without trims.
Nike Forward will have a distinct appearance and feel, even when piled. Nike Forward breaks in through use, similar to a cherished pair of jeans or a heavy-weight hoodie, and Nike advises less washing as part of the maintenance of the brand’s new material.