Nike's Flyknit Bra is a Game Changer
I need to begin this post with a big ‘ole disclaimer: I worked for Nike for ten years. I resigned two years ago but, due to long development lead times, I’m one of the inventors on the patent of the recently released Flyknit bra. However, I am no longer affiliated with Nike and I’m going to try to be as objective as possible. I’m writing about the Flyknit bra because it’s an exciting innovation in the sports bra space and I would be remiss to overlook it simply due to my past affiliation.
If you’re a sports bra geek like me, you heard about the release of Nike’s FE/NOM Flyknit bra this past summer, which uses the same technology as Flyknit shoes. What you probably don’t know is what exactly that means or why it’s important. I’m going to explain it in this post because it’s a truly ground-breaking innovation for sports bras. I’ll also share my thoughts about whom is best suited for this bra style.
Without giving away too much of the secret sauce, Flyknit is basically a type of engineered knit that allows precise areas of the fabric to be designated as areas of stretch, non-stretch, mesh, non-mesh, and some other cool things, all in one layer. And the bra is knit to the exact shape, size, and specification it needs to be, rather than being cut from a roll of fabric. If you have a T-shirt with a mesh panel, the super-stretchy material for the body of the T-shirt was cut from a roll of fabric, the not-so-stretchy mesh was cut from a roll of fabric, and the pieces were then sewn together. Imagine if your T-shirt magically transitioned from stretchy T-shirt fabric to less-stretchy mesh and back again without a single sewn seam, in one layer, and the entire garment was created all in one piece. That’s the power of Flyknit.
Here’s why this is monumental for sports bras:
This is the highest support pull-over-the-head sports bra I’ve ever evaluated.
There is one simple rule with regard to the success of performance sports bras: The more the bra stretches, the more the breasts will move. Most pull-over-the-head bras are very stretchy. That’s because the underband and bust/back area of these types of bras need to be stretchy enough to get over the wearer’s shoulders. If areas of non-stretch are added to the bra, like to the shoulder straps, then additional layers of fabric are sewn into that area. Due to the engineering of Flyknit, this bra has only just enough stretch to get the bra on while maintaining lots of areas of non-stretch. Less stretch = higher support.
Every piece of fabric sewn together in a bra creates a seam. And every seam in a sports bra is a potential area for chafing. The Flyknit bra only has four seams (one in each shoulder strap and one on each side) and no seams whatsoever in the bust area.
One Layer = More Breathability
As I mentioned, areas of non-stretch in sports bras are usually achieved by layering two or more fabrics and then sewing them, or gluing them, together. Or a non-stretch lining is paired with a stretchy outer layer. The problem with that is even if one of the fabrics being used is a wicking fabric, when those wicking fabrics are layered with other fabrics, the wicking goes away. This bra is entirely only one layer.
Zero Fabric Waste
Most garments, including sports bras, are cut from rolls of fabric and then the pieces are sewn together. Unfortunately, sometimes as much as 40% of that roll of fabric ends up on the cutting room floor which then usually goes straight into a landfill. Because this is knit “all in one” there is zero fabric waste.
Let’s face it, most sports bras aren’t going to be winning any Vogue awards for style. But this bra is both beautiful and functional.
All of that being said, this bra is not for everyone. Because this is a pull-over-the-head bra, it comes with the same limitations that affect all pull-over-the head bras. In order for a sports bra to have exceptionally high support it needs to fit the wearer like a glove–no looseness in the cups, underband, or straps. Pull-over-the-head bras without strap adjustment can provide that type of snug fit only for wearers whose bodies/busts match the bra exactly as it was manufactured.
No Strap Adjustment
Everyone varies in their shoulder to bust length. For those whose shoulder to bust length matches the bra, they will have great support. But if a wearer’s shoulder to bust length is shorter or longer than the non-adjustable bra strap, they will feel pain/discomfort or a too-loose fit.
S/M/L (Apparel) Sizing
Apparel-sized bras only work for those whose bust size matches their clothing size. Small bust/small band, large bust/large band, etc. If the wearer’s bust size doesn’t match their clothing size, like large bust/medium band, the bra won’t fit well.
No Underband Adjustment
Most of the support for bras, including sports bras, comes from the underband. The underband of a sports bra needs to be tight and sturdy and only pull out about a ½” when it is worn. Without an underband adjustment, this underband might be too loose for some wearers.
At $80, this is one of the most expensive pull-over-the-head sports bras on the market.
For those who prefer pull-over-the-head bras and whose bodies match the specifications of the bra, the Flyknit bra is an excellent choice. What Nike has done with the release of the Flyknit bra is set a new bar for what is possible in terms of support and performance in pull-over-the-head bras. To accomplish this feat takes a tremendous amount of R&D. This innovation is really impressive and I hope Nike continues to apply this technology to other types of bra styles, including styles with back closures and strap adjustment.
By Laura Tempesta
ABOUT LAURA TEMPESTA
Laura Tempesta is a bra expert, apparel innovator, and a designer of multiple patented inventions. After receiving her BA in Anthropology from Stanford University, she began her career in business strategy. Realizing her true calling was in product creation, she later pursued apparel design and development. During her tenure as Sports Bra Innovation Director at Nike, she helped guide and develop sports bra innovation, and is the only person in North America with a master’s degree in lingerie design (contour fashion). She serves as a consultant to the bra industry, and is the founder of Bravolution®, a consumer advocacy group and resource providing bra reviews and education.