“Goldwin” has a product with a unique name, “Paper Fiber Socks,” in its high-performance socks collection. As its name says, these socks are made from paper fiber that were developed using cutting-edge technologies and Japanese craftsmanship through series of trials-and-errors. This product truly represents Japan-made quality. Below is the story behind the development of such unique high-performance socks.
Edited by PAPERSKY
Goldwin’s R&D department receives daily updates from factories and textile manufacturers all over Japan on new materials and technology innovations. Soichi Hirayama, Manager of Product Development, heard about this new material from a knitting factory in Nara 5 years ago for the first time.
“What I heard was about a material with an excellent dryness that moisture from sweat or other elements would almost be unnoticeable. This information came from a knitting factory in Nara, which specializes in manufacturing high-performance sports socks. Although they are trustable manufacturing partner with superior knitting skills, I must admit that I was a little skeptical about this material at first. I wondered, is it really possible to maintain the dryness inside the shoes despite of humidity from environments and our sweat during an exercise?”
Hirayama was surprised when he tried the sample socks made with this material for the first time on his trail running. He purposely stepped one foot into a puddle but couldn’t even identify which foot got wet within 10 minutes. The sock was soaking wet when he took off the shoes, but his foot felt completely dry.
“That unique material was the Paper Fiber. The raw material is Manila Hemp (Abaca) fiber from Philippines and has a unique stiffness and ruff texture. It has a Hemp fiber-like feel with textured touch, which seems to give this dry-feel. It is not necessarily fast-drying material, but this Paper Fiber might be able to significantly reduce the discomfort cause by the stuffiness inside the shoe… That’s the potential I saw in this material.
Paper Fiber is a material which has been widely used in traditional Japanese houses because of its excellent anti-bacterial and deodorizing effects ideal for humid climate of Japan. This might suggest that this material could be perfect to use in products for summer. This thought got me serious about developing Paper Fiber Socks.”
In the production of Paper Fiber Socks, the knitting factory in Nara-prefecture, KITAI, turned to Toyo Sangyo for their long history of experiments in twist yarn processing. Generally, soft yarn with an appropriate stretch is suitable for weaving socks; therefore, stiff and nonflexible Paper Fiber is absolutely not an ideal material for knitting. Thus, an advanced knowledge and technique on plied yarn was required to turn Paper Fiber into a yarn suitable for knitting.
“The durability of this material translates that it’s nonflexible; therefore, weaving this material as is would be extremely difficult. The solution was to mix Paper Fiber with nylon yarn to add nylon’s excellent stretch which makes it much easier to weave, and significantly increase the durability of a yarn.
But making an even twisted yarn from two yarns with completely different durability was not easy at all. Paper Fiber is fairly new material that started to develop in the last 15 years or so. And the reason why it is not widely applied into goods is because its durability was not up to par. After numerous trial and error, we finally succeeded in creating a yarn that offers both softness and dry-feel.” (Manabu Ando, factory manager of Toyo Sangyo)
Kitai is the factory that knits this yarn made by Toyo Sangyo. Kitai was the one who originally provided the information about Paper Fiber to Goldwin, who keeps developing one-of-a-kind sports socks.
“We knew how difficult it would be to weave this, since we were the one who presented the idea of developing a product using Paper Fiber in the first place. The yarn became much easier to handle because of the help we got from Toyo Sangyo, but we still needed to give this yarn many additional attention and processing, that are never needed for other materials, in order to make this a sellable product. We did things like changing the way of getting the yarn through the machine when weaving, having our craftsman constantly adjust the tension of yarns, and more…” (Satoshi Kitai, Kitai)
But he says that this project became to be monumental for Kitai in terms of its R&D, and their pursue in discovering Paper Fiber’s potential.
The result of these efforts coming together is the “Paper Fiber Socks,” a high-spec product that offers superior durability and comfortable dryness.
“Kitai suggested to increase the softness for better feel. But we decided to purposely focus on its durability. And the reason for this was all the feedbacks we receive from athletes saying that they look for durability in socks.” Goldwin’s wear resistance test showed that Paper Fiber Socks are 5 times more durable than ordinary sports socks. Paper Fiber Socks also ensure comfortability by applying two different materials in appropriate places such as the use of Paper Fiber on the sole and heel, where maintaining dryness and durability are favored, and soft nylon on sock opening so the opening feels good to skin.
The uniqueness Goldwin brought into Paper Fiber Socks is the arch support technology. Adding arch support taping construction enabled the socks to offer a function similar to suspension that mitigate impacts on foot, which eases the burden on knees and hips, and works as a spring to move forward.
The highly sophisticated twisting and weaving technique, the traditional craftsmanship and skills of a Japanese manufacturing factory, and Goldwin’s dedicated attention to details… Paper Fiber Socks were developed in collaboration of all such elements.
High practicality like this is favored by world-class athletes. Nordic combined skier, Akito Watabe, is one of them. Akito tells us that besides Summer jumps and roller skiing to strengthen endurance and competing techniques, he trains in many different sports during off-season such as trail running and road biking. And he says Paper Fiber Socks work great in these active situations.
“Socks wear off really quick during off-season trainings such as running and biking rough trails. Since it’s a daily item, I not only look for durability but also for comfort. Paper Fiber Socks last long even worn every day and keep freshness and dryness despite of high humidity and sweat.”
He said, “I imagined Japanese Washi when I learned the socks is made of paper, which got me worried,” but once tried, “I felt the stiffness at first but started to fit just right as I kept it on. Its durability truly makes you wonder if these are really made of paper. The socks feel very secure and comfortable especially when running trails.” Just like that, Paper Fiber Socks earned an absolute trust from him.
Such feedbacks from athletes motivated Soichi and the entire development team even more.
“We are now developing summer apparel using this material that would offer cooling freshness and avoid stuffiness from humidity inside an outfit. As a start, we are planning to release recovery apparel for summer made with Paper Fiber.”
Development team at Goldwin is looking to utilize the effects of Paper Fiber not only in sports, but also in many other situations. Please stay tuned for the potential of this one-of-a-kind Paper Fiber.