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Nike Forward to exploit needlepunching

Significant launch ushers nonwovens into the apparel mainstream.

9th September 2022

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Beaverton, OR, USA


Nike plans to move away from traditional knit and woven processes to needlepunched nonwovens for its next range of sustainable fleece garments – Nike Forward – with the first hoodie and crew styles to be launched globally next week.

Nike Forward – the result of over five years of research – is being hailed by the brand as its  most significant apparel innovation since Dri-Fit thirty years ago. The standard needlepuching process has been around rather a long time – the first patent for a needlepunch machine was published in the UK in 1859 – but presumably Nike has found undisclosed ways around the inflexibility of the process when it comes to drape in apparel.

By moving away from traditional knit and woven processes, however, the brand says it can simplify the process of material fabrication by reducing steps, moving away from the multi-stage creation cycle of spin yarn, knit, cut, sew etc.

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 first patent for a needlepunch machine was published in the UK in 1859. © Nike

“We believe this platform has the potential to reset the way we think about material and apparel,” said Aaron Heiser, Nike’s VP of global apparel product merchandising. “It has huge potential to transform the industry in the way that Air and Flyknit did for Nike footwear.”

“Nike Forward feels different because it is different,” added says Carmen Zolman, Nike’s VP of innovation apparel design. “It is not a traditional knit or woven, but a completely new material that drastically reduces its carbon footprint.”

Nike Forward debuts with a well established silhouette – the grey hoodie. In keeping with its sustainable aims, the hoodie forgoes embellishments and dyes, favoring raw cut pockets and zero water usage.

The platform is also purpose-built and created for future circularity – the first iteration of Nike Forward garments are made without zippers, aglets or extra trims, making it easier for the garments to be recycled.

Nike Forward can be made with a diverse range of layers, including industrial and post-consumer waste, and can be precisely tuned for athlete needs.

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