The North Face made a captivating presentation at the Ispo Munich trade show of its new, highly breathable Futurelight technology, which uses nanospinning technology to create a film that is woven into the fabric and lets air move through the material while still remaining waterproof.

In its original press release, TNF claimed that Futurelight has enabled it to develop garments that are more breathable and less bulky than those made with other waterproof/breathable membranes, without mentioning any specific suppliers. These claims were supported at TNF's booth by two athletes sponsored by TNF, Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrisson, who climbed Mount Lothze before skiing down, showing the related video. They said they were able to keep the same Futurelight garments in icy conditions at the top of the mountain, and remained comfortable during the descent as the temperature warmed up to almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37° C) at the bottom.

An executive of TNF told us that Futurelight will replace Gore-Tex in its high-performance lines of tents and clothing for mountaineering, skiing and trail running from the autumn/winter 2019/20 season. Gore-Tex will continue to be used for the brand's more lifestyle-oriented products.

The new exclusive waterproof/breathable technology will be reserved for the brand's 700-odd premium dealers around the world before reaching out to lower-tier retailers, charging a premium of about 10 percent at the start. It will be applied to TNF's footwear from the spring/summer 2020 season, and it will be shared with other brands of VF Corp. in the future. VF has no intention to license it to anyone outside the group.

The company led a third-party factory in Vietnam to expand significantly and to install a sophisticated laboratory to produce the material, using sustainable practices, without the use of chemicals. Showing images of the plant and the way in which it operates, the management claimed that the solar-powered facility is one of the most ethical factories in the world.

TNF says that advances in the production process have allowed it to create what it calls the most sustainable three-layer garments produced by TNF through the use of recycled materials and working with partners who share a commitment to sustainability and responsible manufacturing. In particular, it is using plasma gas technology, which cleans and purifies the fabric to enhance dyeing rates for polymers. The process also uses less energy during manufacturing.

The Futurelight membrane is created through an electrospinning process that enables high levels of air permeability to be added. In this process, a polymer is mixed with a solvent to make it liquid, and pushed through a nozzle into an electrical field where the yarns are whipped to create nano-filaments. The process, which is also being used by Polartec for its highly breathable Neoshell fabric, creates nano-level holes in the material, offering high porosity, while still maintaining complete waterproofness. 

Prior to the Ispo show, the fabric was showcased at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (on Jan. 8-11) in partnership with a subsidiary of the BMW Group, Designworks, via a new camper concept and virtual reality experience to imagine the future of protection from the elements.