Your New Favorite Sports Bra Is Made From Nike’s Fancy Flyknit – WIRED
To design a sports bra is to design for a constantly moving target. Breasts rise and fall with every jump. Run forward and they arc like a figure eight. “Breast tissue movement goes in many ways,” says Nicole Rendone, a Nike designer who spends most of her time engineering bras to mitigate those movements. “The number of components that go into a high-support bra is immense.”
Nike’s high-support bras can include upwards of 40 parts—things like supportive straps, elastic underbands, and stabilizers hidden in the exterior fabric panels—all designed to create stability without squishing what’s inside. Which is why Nike’s newest sports bra, the Fe/Nom, seems like an architectural anomaly. The whole thing consists of two pieces of fabric stitched together. The secret? It’s made from Flyknit, the material best known for Nike’s kicks.
First introduced in 2012, Flyknit combines weaves of various tightness to create fabric that’s simultaneously flexible and sturdy. On Nike’s shoes, the weave is looser where the foot needs less support (near the toes) and tighter where it needs more (on the sides). The result is a fitted, unibody upper without extra stitching, and a shoe that feels more like a sock.
The Fe/Nom uses the same technique. It’s not unibody—the front and back are stitched together—but the bra functions like a single piece of fabric with six different weaving zones. The tightest stitch is reserved for the underband, which carries most of the load. The back of the bra uses a more open stitch to create more flexibility and ventilation. Each of the black lines on the bra represent a “lockdown” zone, where the knit is much tighter and more supportive, sort of like a fabric underwire.
In recent years, designers have explored how a sports bra should ideally look and feel. Some companies, like Lululemon, believe that sports bras should allow for some range of breast motion. Nike (and much of the research) takes the opposite tack, focusing on compression and encapsulation of each individual breast. “We definitely do not want breast tissue moving because when it’s moving, it’s stretching out,” Rendone says. “That means those ligaments are going through damage.” A knit fabric might seem like an unlikely material to keep that damage at bay, but Flyknit offers a surprising amount of support—and not in the I’ve-strapped-duct-tape-to-my-chest kind of way.
While the $80 Fe/Nom is Nike’s first piece of apparel to use Flyknit technology, it likely won’t be the last. Flyknit is a brand in its own right, and it’s safe to assume Nike will explore how the material could create new products in the future. For now, though, a super soft bra that hugs your chest without squeezing it? Not a bad place to start.