UltraTech® is a range of high quality materials developed in collaboration with leading Taiwanese manufacturers. Designed to maximize performance across diverse conditions, UltraTech® fabrics are manufactured in fully controlled facilities, using ad- vanced processes: The technical outer shell is laminated with a fully waterproof and breathable membrane, then treated with a water repellent DWR (Durable Water Repellent) film. This process guarantees a high performance fabric that is rugged and robust. Manufacturers of UltraTech® materials have manufacturing processes and component compositions in accordance with bluesign® criteria, in order to optimize sustainability. Only sustainably produced materials can receive bluesign® certification.
I talked about Ultratech material with Pepe, our main designer at Horsefeathers.
Pepe, you are the main designer for Horsefeathers. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into Horsefeathers?
My path to designing clothes was not entirely straightforward. It was definitely not something I would have planned when choosing what to study. I got to it by going through the graphic design, which totally got me around the age of 13, when I started skating and then creating Graffiti. I worked for several companies as a graphic designer, then I designed and programmed websites and in my free time I drew prints on T-shirts. In 2003, Hanuš and I agreed on closer cooperation, and a year later I moved to Pilsen, where HF has its headquarters. My first big project was a complete redesign of the website and then, under the leadership of Pavel, I slowly began to dig in product design.
What are you in charge of at HF? And how long have you been there?
From 2004 to the present, I perhaps went through everything related to the design and development of clothing: web design, advertising and catalogs, product photography and post-production, collection design, editing, materials development, sourcing, merchandising, quality control, product presentation, pricing, ... Nowadays I focus only on the concept, design and development of collections. This work requires more and more specialization and therefore a closer focus on the product, but my previous experiences help me to keep the context. We have put together a great team of experts, everyone is in charge of their area of specialization and together it works perfectly.
As the main designer, together with Pavel Kubíček, co-founder of HF, you've been on several trips to Asia, in the factories where HF produces its outerwear. Can you tell us about the intention behind your travels?
This is an integral part of the work on the development of collections. We visit the factories regularly several times a year to make quality control, fine-tune technical details, look for new materials and technologies, but also maintain business relationships, which in many cases have grown into a real friendships. It is also important for us to see the conditions under which Horsefeathers clothing is manufactured. Personally, I would not be able to defend it morally if our products were produced in poor working conditions.
Now let's move onto the Ultratech. What exactly is it?
Ultratech is our own brand of technical functional material. You can find it on all our waterproof products from the Outerwear and Technical Apparel range.
Where is this material produced?
It is made in Taiwan, which is one of the world leaders in this industry. Several Taiwanese suppliers are parallely cooperating in the development of Ultratech material, and our long-term and extremely important connection in Taiwan - Franky helps us to coordinate everything.
How many layers does Ultratech material consist of and what is the purpose of each of them?
The majority is dominated by a two-layer construction of the material. The base is a fabric made of artificial fiber (polyester, nylon, or elastane). Each type of fiber has slightly different properties and is suitable for a different purpose. A functional membrane is laminated on the inner side of the fabric, which ensures waterproofness and at the same time provides sufficient permeability of the resulting vapors. In addition, the face of the fabric is equipped with a water-repellent DWR (durable water repellent) film, which causes water droplets not to soak into the fabric, but form so-called beads and flow down it. This film dries after some time of wearing and washing the product and the water starts to soak into the fabric. By no means does this mean that the fabric loses its water resistance, this is in charge of the membrane on the inner side of the fabric and water does not pass through it. The DWR film can be easily restored by any suitable spray impregnation.
What does the label on the jacket: water resistance 20,000 mm and breathability 15,000 gm mean?
It is a numerical expression of the functional parameters of the membrane. Water resistance indicates the height of the water column in millimeters that the membrane can maintain per unit time without water seeping through. Permeability, in turn, indicates the amount of grams of steam that a square meter of membrane can pass in 24 hours. Both parameters are measured according to JIS (Japanese Industrial Standard) standards, which have a precisely specified methodology.
Why choose a jacket made of this material? Under what conditions is it most suitable?
Ultratech is designed for adverse conditions where protection against water is necessary and at the same time sufficient permeability of vapors generated by physical activity is required. We have been raising the cloth for a long time, today even the lowest products from our collection have a functional parameter of 10K / 10K, which is commonly referred to as "highly waterproof".
Can you describe the process of its development and testing?
It always starts with the fabric, for which it is necessary to define many parameters: type of fiber, weave and structure, weight, touch feel, surface treatment, etc. In some cases we start with an existing fabric, which we have adjusted to our needs, in other cases we create a fabric from the very beginning. Only then we do solve the type and parameter of the membrane and then the DWR film, in which there is an intense development of environmentally friendly variants in recent years. After the material is made, it is tested both on the part of the manufacturer in professional laboratories, under the supervision of third-party certification agencies, and on our side in real conditions. Our team riders help us a lot with that.
Horsefeathers also has products in its range that are made of Ultratech recycled material. What can we imagine under that? How is Ultratech recycled different from Ultratech material?
It differs from the classic material by the use of recycled fiber in the fabric, in various proportions. Recycled fiber is obtained from plastic waste, most often from PET bottles, but technologies for processing other types of plastic are also slowly appearing.
Can Ultratech recycled retain the same technical properties?
Clearly, recycled fiber has no effect on the functional properties of the material.
What are the visions for the future in terms of: - Ultratech material innovations, - recycling and innovation of Ultratech recycled?
In recent years, there has been a significant shift in the development of membranes, where, for example, the boundaries of permeability limits are pushing rapidly. Especially in Taiwan, several specialized companies are dealing with this and the results are amazing. So far, these are very expensive technologies, but in the future this is the direction we would like to go. Another part of the development focuses on DWR film, where a fully ecological and at the same time functional version of impregnation is currently being sought. Although fluorine-free variants already exist, they unfortunately do not yet provide such high-quality fabric protection. With recycled material, it is quite simple, every year we increase the proportion of recycled fiber in the fabric and at the same time we expand the range of products from Ultratech recycled material.
Is there a room in the production and innovation of Ultratech and Ultratech materials to be even more ecological and sustainable?
Of course, development is constantly advancing and opens up more and more opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of production. It is great to see that both companies and customers are interested in this issue and thus motivate the market to look for new and environmentally friendly solutions. So far, it is still a relatively young industry, which carries a lot of extra costs, but it is a natural development that cannot be accelerated by any regulation from above. Before a PET bottle becomes a usable fiber, plastic waste must be collected, transported, sorted, cleaned, crushed, melted and subsequently processed. Compared to conventional fiber, the whole process therefore has a number of extra steps, which cost additional resources and thus, unfortunately, the final product becomes more expensive. However, we are convinced that this is the right direction and that the gradual improvement of this technology will optimize processes and subsequently reduce prices, which will enable the massive use of recycled fibers. But there is another aspect that can significantly reduce the impact on the environment: the quality of the material, which will extend the life of the entire product. The whole concept of Ultratech material is based on that, and I think we have been able to produce products that will last the customer for several years without losing their functional properties.