WHEN ATHLETIC WEAR BECOMES FITNESS EQUIPMENT
Pommello founder Calvin Ng discusses the product evolution and technical properties that led him to create the patent-pending Heat Reflect fabric.
Fabric technology in athletic apparel is constantly being evolved. Antimicrobial agents minimize the growth of odor-causing bacteria; thermal fabric helps to maintain body temps in frigid conditions; and compression fabrics support muscles and joints. These advancements have all resulted in more functional apparel, to help athletes improve their workouts and push themselves deeper into the wilderness or closer to the top of the podium. But nothing has fundamentally changed how our bodies respond to physical activity, until now.
Calvin originally set out to create a unique fabric that offered all three major tech properties (antimicrobial, thermal, compression) and was evolved to assist with weight loss efforts. After nearly three years, he had developed his patent-pending Heat Reflect fabric, and crafted it into the first prototypes of Pommello Sweats. Calvin used the gear in different fitness settings and noticed an unintended result—his muscles never got sore. As Calvin says, “I always try to do a warm up before I workout. When I wore the Sweats and began lifting weights my muscles felt invigorated under the heat I was generating from moving. I was working out six days a week and pressing heavy weight and never once did I feel any muscle soreness.” Calvin expanded the field test and recruited a few friends, from professional athletes to casual joggers. “I gave prototypes to different people who all felt the same result, their muscles didn’t get sore when they trained.” But Calvin says it was the elite athletes that were the most impressed. “They all told me the Heat Reflect fabric accelerated their warm ups. They were able to warm up in less time, with less effort, and stay warm through their workouts.”
Calvin is incredibly proud of the level of time, passion and dedication that went into developing a fabric that produces such a consistent result among athletes. As he says, “I’ve been in the garment industry my whole life, I’m a second-generation business owner who’s learned that everything in the fashion business, fast fashion and globalism have given fabric a bad rap. Consumers view fabric as a cheap resource where, originally, developing fabric was sacred as producing a fine loaf of bread or vintage of wine. Trying to develop a new type of fabric that hasn’t existed before is incredibly challenging.”
Heat Reflect is made with a proprietary form of neoprene known for its insulative properties. It’s similar to that of a wetsuit, but unlike most forms of neoprene, it’s not made from petroleum gas, which can be toxic to the skin. It’s also much thinner and impressively elastic, offering a far greater range of motion then you would find with any other neoprene in the world. As Calvin explains the process: “To optimize its insulation properties, we added nitrogen gas into each cell membrane. We also added a thin film of titanium sheeting—the same alloy used by NASA—to act as a heat generator when you move against it.”
This combination of heat-insulating and heat-generating is what Calvin calls the secret sauce of the fabric. “The heat layer surrounding your body dilates blood vessels and opens capillaries to allow for more efficient circulation of blood and nutrients. So it’s actively decreasing body fatigue and improving performance in those muscles. Our special form of heat also stimulates the lymphatic system, with the same dilation in the vessels from the heat. So the lymphatic system works faster, siphoning lactic acid away from inflamed areas and allowing for faster recovery.”
Calvin admits that the creation process was not always a smooth one. “You first have to find a fabric mill that’s willing to produce it. There’s no incentive for a mill to start such an arduous process without the promise of significant volume on the project, which we couldn’t guarantee. But we wanted to do this the right way, and we weren’t going to settle for anything less.” Calvin searched the world over and finally found the mill, a three-generation family run business that still makes their fabric by hand. Producing Heat Reflect fabric is incredibly labor-intensive, but the attention to detail is evident in its durability. That’s why every piece of Pommello gear comes with a lifetime warranty.
Standing at a workbench in the company’s Toronto facility, Calvin handles a pair of Pommello Sweats and comments, “Heat Reflect is built like a tank. You can stretch it, yank it, try to poke a hole with your finger. What you’ll notice is that the fabric moves like elastic. That’s really valuable when you consider that athletes are hard on their clothing. Most of us are moving in very general ways as we go through our days. Athletes are constantly challenging their bodies and pushing their range of motion and our fabric has to be able to move with them and still be durable over time.” Here, Calvin touches on a feature of the fabric that he’s most proud of, it’s made to last. In the age of sustainability, Pommello is certainly doing its part to minimize waste and extend the life of daily-wear workout gear. As Calvin says, “Unlike other brands of athletic clothing that will only last a few seasons before you can feel how old the clothing is, with Pommello Sweats it feels as good and looks as fresh as the first time you bought it. I’ve had my initial prototype for seven years. but you would think I just got it.”
As we’re wrapping up our conversation, Calvin points out a few more qualities of note, “Another unique thing is that the elastic composition of the fabric allows it to wrap around the body like a second skin. Our fabric has a unique cell memory that molds to your body shape the more often you wear it, instead of getting loose and wearing out over time, which is typical of athletic clothing made from circular knit fabrics. We’ve also added antimicrobial properties to the fabric, allowing you to wash it less often without the worry of lingering odors when you sweat in it. We’ve also added UV-protectant and wind-resistant qualities which allow the gear to be just as useful for outdoor sports as indoor.”
Calvin’s passion is unmistakable as he discusses the science and technology of Heat Reflect fabric.The key takeaway is that Pommello returns your own natural body heat back to your muscles and joints, so you warm up faster and stay warm longer without the need for additional layers. Move comfortably, perform naturally and get the most out of every moment of your workout.