In quite an unusual step, The North Face chose to unveil their latest fabric technology at CES in Las Vegas this week instead of during the usual outdoor trade show circuit. Called Futurelight, the new waterproof fabric is, according to the brand, their most breathable to date.
To create Futurelight, The North Face took two years to not only develop their own yarn, but also a new weaving process, along with new lamination and finishing techniques.
Futurelight is made using a process called nanospinning which other waterproof breathable fabric brands use such as Polartec NeoShell. Instead of creating a membrane film that comes out in a thin sheet, a polymer is instead sprayed through hundres of thousands of tiny nozzles to create a mesh-like membrane — almost like making Play-Doh spaghetti that stacks up a pile but on a nano scale. This construction method creates tiny nanoholes that allow air pass through and moisture to escape but they are not big enough for water droplets to get through.
The North Face can create five different membrane weights (depending on how many nozzles used in the process — they can use up to 220,000) that will create varying levels of breathability for different end use applications. The company also designed completely new face and backer fabrics to both protect the new membrane and to add versatility to the end use applications.
Starting next fall (Fall 2019) The North Face will introduce 37 different pieces made from FutureLight, including outerwear, single-wall tents, and gloves and mittens. And by Fall 2020, the brand hopes to transition all their high end product in their Mountain Sports lines away from third party suppliers and use Futurelight instead.