2021 marks forty years since the creation of fleece came about through a partnership between outdoor clothing company Patagonia and textile manufacturer Malden Mills, (later known as Polartec). Through collaboration they came up with a soft, double-faced polyester fabric that didn’t pill and was softer than what was currently in the market. It ticked the box aesthetically too. Patagonia named it Synchilla and brought its first garments to market in 1981. Malden Mills called it PolarFleece and by the end of the 1980s, it had become the cornerstone for insulating materials. Today Polartec fleece remains a premier insulating fabric that most of us will have our own memories of wearing on outdoor adventures.
It’s hard to imagine what a game changer fleece was at the time. It totally transformed the outdoor clothing market. So much so that Time magazine listed Polartec fleece in its top 100 as “One of the 20th Century’s Greatest Inventions”.
But Polartec’s innovation didn’t stop there by any means…
1981 – The first ever synthetic fleece
With the invention of Polarfleece forty years ago, Malden Mills changed the way the world dresses for cold weather. Never before had anyone managed to knit, nap and shear synthetic yarns into a fabric for outdoor apparel. The results were transformative.
1991 The Polartec brand is born
1993 – The first fabric made from recycled plastic ever
In the mid-90s, Polartec turned its attention to environmental sustainability, pioneering the process of creating a knitted polyester out of recycled plastic bottles. Since then, 1.8 billion bottles have been diverted from landfills by Polartec.
1998 – The first extra-lofted fiber fabric
High Loft was the result of a reinvention of Polartec’s original fleece. A fabric was created that, thanks to thousands of tiny air-trapping pockets, could offer a supreme warmth-to-weight ratio, a luxuriously comfy feel and surprising compressibility.