Sustainability & Smart Tech Dominate the NE Materials Show

The NE Materials Show is smaller than its counterpart held in Portland, Ore., but this year’s winter exhibition, which took place March 6-7 in Wilmington, Mass., showcased a number of sustainable and technological advances that will soon appear in footwear collections ranging from sneakers to dress shoes.

“People are looking for fabrics that can detect body temperature, movement, sweat,” said Hisham Muhareb, trade show owner of the NW and NE Materials Shows. “We’re seeing fabrics that lie closest to your skin and that can provide information that can then be read with a phone app.”

Such smart material was seen at Zhor-Tech, a technology company that works with brands to create “connected footwear.” Whether monitoring mobility issues, tracking performance or adjusting temperature for outdoor activity, the technology can be embedded in various footwear styles to create shoes with additional function while not compromising on design.

Another innovation launched at the Materials Show was Matmarket’s Contoura Insoles. Derived from 120,000 custom orthotic prescriptions, the insoles use a patent-pending shape algorithm from Matmarket brand Insite that is designed to promote healthier movement patterns. Rather than trying to soothe existing fit or comfort issues, Contoura products work to correct these issues.

“There is a lot of focus on one-to-one custom products right now, but if I make something designed exactly to your foot then I’m not helping you develop better habits,” said Tarik Kaddouri, product line manager at Matmarket.

A vendor explains a product at the NW Materials Show in 2018.
The Materials Shows enable brands and manufacturers to see the latest innovations from the industry.
CREDIT: Cora Lindholm

“Improvement” was a common theme throughout the show, with many companies focusing on upgrading existing products into sustainable versions. Recycled materials were displayed at Coats in the form of dye-free recycled threads that take their color from the plastic they were made from; the red comes from ketchup bottles, the yellow from mustard bottles. At Atko Planning Inc., the leather is entirely sustainable and derived through a patented process that doesn’t use water, conserving additional resources.

The biggest brands in footwear are continuing to make greater commitments to sustainable practices, such as Nike’s recent commitment to sourcing 100 percent renewable energy in Europe. Therefore, it isn’t a surprise that this focus on sustainability is reflected in the current state of the materials industry; every representative FN spoke with stressed the demand from brands and manufacturers for eco-friendly textiles that retained their performance attributes.

“Sustainability is not a fad; it’s here to stay,” said Muhareb. “Our show has been a great resource for a lot of these design and development teams, so we work with the sourcing calendars of the brands; whenever they’re sourcing materials for the next 12-to-18-month product lines, they start here.”

Following the success of the trade shows in Portland and Boston, American Events will launch its inaugural EU Materials Show in London, held May 1-2, 2019. The show will also include a celebration of SATRA Technology, a UK-based research and technology center that specializes in footwear testing, and its 100 year anniversary.

“We are growing fast and barely keeping up,” said Muhareb. “The industry is now catching on to what we’ve been doing over the years.”

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