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Guide to activewear fabrics

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

Picking the right fabric for your activewear collection can seem like a minefield. This is why we’ve written a handy guide to help you choose the right materials for your garments. 

Qualities to consider


If you want squat-proof leggings, then we would suggest going for a fabric that is about 260gsm+. GSM stands for grams per square metre and is essentially how much 1 square metre of fabric weighs. The higher the GSM, the denser the fabric. 


Stretch is also particularly important, requiring a high percentage of spandex, lycra or elastane. To test the stretch of a piece of fabric, mark out 10cm then measure how far you can stretch it. For instance, if the fabric stretches to 15cm then it has 50% stretch in that direction. 

Synthetic fabrics 

Man-made textiles that are usually made from inorganic materials, but can also be a mix of organic fibres and chemicals. The main advantage of synthetic fabrics is that they are usually more durable, less expensive and more readily available. The bad news is they are not biodegradable and therefore not sustainable, and can be prone to damage easily in the heat.   


Synthetic fabric that is stretchy, breathable and moisture-wicking. If your clothing is going to be worn for heavy duty workouts with a lot of sweating, then Nylon is the fabric for you, as it’s very durable and even stronger than polyester.  


The most commonly used fabric for activewear. Polyester is durable, lightweight and wrinkle resistant. Polyester works well with digital printing as it takes to the colour easier than other fabrics. Due to its low absorbency, it also dries very quickly leaving the wearer dryer for longer. 

Sustainable fabrics

Sustainable fabrics come from natural and/or eco-friendly sources. Often they’re grown from fiber crops or recycled materials and referred to as eco-textiles.  


The super soft, breathable fabric that won’t let you down during your workout. Bamboo is the perfect natural solution for those with sensitive skin. Thanks to its natural UV protection, odour resistance and thermo-regulation, you can stay comfortable whatever the weather. 


Made from beech tree pulp, modal is incredibly soft, lightweight, breathable and wrinkle-resistant. It is often blended with other fabrics to give a more luxurious feel and commonly used for loungewear, underwear and pyjamas. 


Made from the stalks of the Cannabis Sativa plant, hemp has a high absorbency, is very durable and holds its shape. It also has natural UV protection and the more hemp is used the softer it gets.  

Lyocell (also known as Tencel)

Made from sustainably sourced wood pulp, lyocell is biodegradable and breathable. It contains small hairs that help to wick away the moisture, keeping you feeling cool. It’s also really stretchy and durable. 

Brand names

Names that many think are the name of the fabric, when in fact they are the brand name - you’ve been fooled! 


Many think that lycra is a fabric in its own right, however it is in fact the brand name given by Invista and falls under the more generic ‘spandex’ umbrella of fabrics. It goes without saying that Lycra is extremely stretchy and can snap back into shape very quickly, offering great movement abilities. It is often blended with other fabrics to maintain shape and support. 


The trademark name given by Nike, Dri-Fit is a wicking polyester that is commonly used for race t-shirts. It has teeny tiny holes that help to evaporate moisture quickly and disperse evenly throughout the garment’s surface.  


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