Smarter Fabrics For Better Workouts

By: Jamie Bussin

Smart clothing are those garments that have been technologically enhanced to provide functionality beyond their originally intended use.  Giancarlo Beevis is the directing mind of iFabric, manufacturer of smart fabrics used by some of the most well known leisure wear and athletic wear brands in North America for over a decade. He’s also the CEO of VERZUS ALL, a new Toronto based brand of ‘athleisurewear” that is changing the health and wellness market by focusing the entirety of its offering on smart clothing.

TT: Is smart clothing a new concept? GB: Smart clothing and tech fabrics are not new concepts, however the field is evolving as quickly as technology itself. Take Gore-Tex for example. It was invented in 1969 and achieved its water repellent performance primarily through the structure of the synthetic textiles being used.  At VERZUS ALL, we can impart durable water repellent performance to any fabric, including natural fibres, enabling us to limit the use of non-recycled synthetic fabrics. Our techniques are much more efficient and are friendlier to both the wearer and the environment.

TT: To give readers some context, how big is the smart clothing market? GB: The global tech textiles market is expected to grow from $191.4 billion in 2022 to $201.36 billion in 2023. While professional athletes seek clothing that will help them perform their best, every sportswear brand is looking to provide additional benefits to their customers. Raising awareness regarding health and fitness among people will increase the demand for smart clothing as well as the need for garments that can be used for all aspects of your day, ie. work, shopping, working out, dinner out. Smart clothing is also seeing huge applications in other market segments like the healthcare industry who rely on tech fabrics to protect their staff and patients.  Military groups are also seeking high performance gear and are partnering with government agencies and leading companies to develop and financially support the development of smart clothing.

TT: How did you become involved in the smart clothing industry? GB: VERZUS ALL might be a new brand but our parent company iFabric Corporation has been honing and perfecting the smart fabrics used in all our garments for more than 14 years. An innovator in the field since 2008, iFabric is the supplier of intelligent fabrics to a roster of heavyweight clients and is responsible for shaping the standards of VERZUS ALL when it comes to performance-wear. Our goal is to raise the bar for athleisurewear in North America.

TT: What is athleisurewear? GB: Athleisurewear is athletic clothing typically worn as everyday wear. Outfits can include leggings and shorts, however, athleisure apparel is not confined to yoga pants. It is timeless silhouettes with trendy colour palettes. Athleisure is not new but is definitely one of the most famous and long-lasting fashion trends. It regained traction during Covid when people were spending a lot more time at home. The fusion of athletic and leisure aims to provide comfortable clothing that’s sturdy enough to work out in it while being comfortable enough to lounge and stylish enough to wear out! It’s really an unbeatable combination and nailing that style right now can include wearing leggings or sweat-pants with oversized, structured jackets to balance the look and add some flair.

TT: Why did you create another brand in the athleisure wear segment? GB:  We saw a whitespace that would benefit the most important person, the user!  Other brands utilize one or two  technologies throughout their entire catalog of products, sprinkled in as an almost forgotten add-on.  At VERZUS ALL we want the technology to be at the forefront, without compromising on style of course..

TT: How do you decide what sort of smart fabric you want to create? GB:  It’s really about starting with a problem or a need. Take our joggers for instance… if you ever spent time shimmed into a seat on the subway or a plane, you can appreciate the necessity of wrinkle-resistant pants to keep you looking presentable yet comfortable.  For people who sweat a lot, our tee shirt is an obvious solution as it literally stops those embarrassing sweat stains and wet patches, whilst cooling you down and keeping you dry in the hottest, most intense moments. VERZUS ALL is simply about bettering and enhancing everyday life.

TT: What goes into creating a new technical fabric? GB:   Our clothing is designed and developed in Toronto.  Then, our team of dedicated chemists, biologists, and environmentalists go on a mission to achieve smarter, better, more sustainable clothing without compromise.  Most new fabrics begin as a research project to see if creating a textile with specific performance characteristics can translate to a better whole-body wearing experience. The team then focuses on materials and engineering to create a prototype for testing. It’s a long and meticulous process that takes on average between 10 and 18 months before we can start even designing and producing garments.

TT: That sounds like an expensive proposition. Is there a  premium that is attached to a smart fabric? GB: As a forward-thinking label, we pride ourselves on being the first to offer a complete tech-infused wardrobe at prices that won’t break the ban. Having clothing that works for you shouldn’t be a luxury – it’s common sense.  The company is about cutting-edge tech fabrics and smarter design at lower prices than our competitors. 

TT: Has the supply chain for smart clothing been impacted by Covid or current geopolitical events? GB: VERZUS ALL was supposed to launch in the spring of 2021, but as you can imagine during the pandemic every supply chain was broken in some way, shape or form.  Closures domestically and abroad (manufacturing) wreaked havoc throughout the apparel industry. We’re back on track for our official launch in the Spring of 2023. The present inaugural collection is to give Canadians a taste of what VERZUS is about.

TT: What are the benefits of smart clothing from a health and wellness perspective? GB: This class of apparel is designed for accomplishment, engineered for success, and endowed upon the world to inspire greatness – and that’s not exclusively reserved for the gym… it’s clothing that benefits and heightens the wearer’s experience and clothes that work for you not against you. For instance, if you sweat a lot, having our t-shirts featuring our proprietary technology will give you that confidence and the assurance to look cool even under pressure. 

TT: Let’s discuss some of the specific technologies. How do you make a fabric that is antibacterial? GB:  Through many years of research, we developed techniques that are seamlessly integrated into the “normal” textile manufacturing processes like dying and finishing, so as we make a simple t-shirt, we can also add antibacterial properties.  This goes for all of the technologies used at VERZUS but with sustainability as the core pillar of the brand. It’s important for us to ensure that we are not adding extra processing that uses excess energy, water, etc.

TT: What does antibacterial mean in the context of smart clothing? GB: The primary function of antimicrobial fabric and clothing is odor control. It’s a perfect fit for activewear. Laundering alone does not always combat the smells from your favourite gym clothes. The more it smells, the more you wash it to fight the growth of odor-causing germs, the faster it typically deteriorates. The PROTX2® technology that we use at VERZUS is a patented anti-odor, antimicrobial fabric, that offers (literally) a fresh take on feeling more confident to go from the gym to the coffee shop or from the blistering green to the clubhouse with your dignity intact by helping to prevent those odor-causing bacteria from ever taking root.

TT: How does the anti-odor technology work? GB: Ever noticed a pungent odor after wearing a freshly washed piece of clothing for only a short time?  It’s called permastink.  Even the most modern washing machines or special “fresh” scented detergents can’t fully remove permastink. Once it’s developed, the clothing smells unpleasant even before use. Polyester and other functional textiles are especially affected which makes sportswear a main target. The cause of this unwelcome effect isn’t sweat itself, but the sweat and sebum your body naturally generates becoming trapped in the fabric and attracting odor-causing bacteria. Our technology destroys these bacteria when they come in contact with the fabric and puts a stop to the B.O. and the B.S. thanks to an eco-friendly, anti-odor technology.  An added bonus is that our garments inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria, so garments need less washing, saving water, energy and wear and tear.

TT: How do you make a fabric that is UV protectant; and what level of protection does it afford? GB: Our UVTX technology provides the strength of sunblock without the use of sprays or lotions! Our sun protection technology utilizes UV absorbers and reflectors to significantly reduce your skin’s exposure to sunburn and long-term skin damages.  This can be found in most of our tees and polos and will provide UPF 50+ sun protection, blocking 93% of UVA and UVB rays.

TT: How does a fabric that wicks moisture work? GB: UnderCover is our revolutionizing moisture wicking technology. Sweaty or not, no one will ever know. It takes moisture-wicking to the next level by keeping wet patches under control and to a minimum by trapping excessive sweat into a ‘maze-like’ channel on the inside of the garment where it evenly distributes any excess, resulting in faster drying, eliminating the appearance of sweat stains and/or wet patches on the outside.

TT: What is the “next big thing” in smart fabrics? GB: Connectivity.  Smart apparel is ushering in the next frontier of performance training. With connected coaching, sensor-laden clothes can use real-time data to correct biomechanics and boost fitness.

TT: What is the long-term future of smart clothing? GB: As customers’ lives become increasingly intertwined with the digital world, many designers and brands must embrace the latest technologies to push the limits of manufacturing, production, marketing, and wearability.

TT: Is there a smart fabric that you’ve dreamed of creating but have been unable to do so? GB: Well, I’m blessed to be surrounded by a team that can take any of my ideas and turn them into a reality. Working on both sides of the equation – in manufacturing and retail – it allows us to have our finger on the pulse of the market and on what customers are actually buying. But stay tuned, VERZUS ALL is just beginning and our launch collection will soon be available at VERZUS.COM and it’s spectacular!