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Surfwear and surf-inspired clothing
published in Issue 18, 3rd Quarter 2006
The market for surfwear and surf-inspired apparel is large and has significant potential for growth. It is thought to be worth US$13 bn a year although its size is difficult to estimate because of variations in definitions. Only about half of those purchasing surfwear are thought to be participants in boardsports themselves. The other half are buying into the image and lifestyle that the brands represent.
An essential garment for all regular surfers is a wetsuit. This is a tight-fitting outfit made of neoprene—a stretchy, synthetic rubber developed by DuPont. The wetsuit, which was first created in the 1950s, works on the concept that the wearer does not need to stay dry to stay warm.
Also critical for surfers are boardshorts, which are swimwear items for wearing in warmer conditions. Boardshorts are generally worn long and baggy, and are made from quick drying technical fabrics such as those made from polyester or nylon.
Boardshorts have also achieved considerable success outside the surfing community as fashionwear. As such, they are considered to be the “killer product” in the beachwear market.
Three major brands dominate the surfwear market: Quiksilver, Billabong, and Rip Curl. All three originated in Australia, although Quiksilver, the largest player, is now US-owned and USA-based.
The growth of the surfwear industry since the 1990s is largely attributable to the increase in the number of female surfers—and those who aspire to be like them. However, in a fiercely competitive market, surf brands have had to diversify into other boardsports such as snowboarding and skateboarding with the aim of generating sales all the year round.
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Performance apparel represents one of the fastest growing markets in the global textile and clothing industry--and market growth is being fuelled by an emergence of new fibres, fabrics and innovative materials. The market's growth prospects are also being spurred by increasing demand for performance properties in mainstream fashion.
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