What is proper Innovation?
To Innovate one must examine and accept a trigger that perpetuates change or
recontextualize the change that triggers the innovation process.
Innovations are often comprised of complex systems engineering and must be
diffused throughout society effectively.
Innovation, as it relates to the apparel industry, is a very popular 21st century term.
Many inventions are introduced into the market daily in regards to apparel. Yet, a
true innovation requires the formation of a complete system to introduce change.
It is through the use of Everett Roger’s “Diffusion of Innovation”, C.M. Crawford’s
“Invention versus Innovation”, John Law’s “Technology and Heterogeneous
Engineering: The Case of the Portuguese Expansion”, Eric Von Hippel’s
“Democratizing Innovation” and Clayton Christensen’s “Seeing What’s Next” that
we can examine the invention of compression garments that created the
innovation of performance apparel.
The Innovation development process of compression
In 1942, William Hanford and Donald Holmes developed polyurethane which
is the base for the elastomeric fabric that we contemporarily know as Spandex. The fiber
is a remarkable development due to it’s flexibility and recovery. DuPont developed
Spandex with polyurethane content in 1959, sparking many industries to use the
synthetic fiber in their products.
In 1959, a Sigvaris, a swiss manufacturer, partnered with Dr.Karl Sigg, a
renowned phlebologist to develop the first ready to wear compression sock. The study and
development of the compression sock is in direct response to a “Call to Action” requested by
the US Surgeon General of the time,
Steven K. Galson, M.D.,M.P.H to address the epidemic of deep
vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism of the era.
Dr. Karl Sigg
The Antecedents of Compression Garments
Rubber Foundation Garments
Prior to the development of high-tenacity stretch fibers, the 1950’s
foundation garments were made of rubber & latex. After the
invention of spandex by DuPont, all were replaced with spandex
material which allowed the wearer’s skin to breathe, the material
was more pliable and the build up of dirt and bacteria was minimal
in comparison to rubber reducers.
Compression socks for Lymphedemga
In the 1960’s compression socks developed to address patients
suffering from deep-vein thrombosis. The socks enhanced
circulation , reduced blood pooling & increased deep tissue
oxygenation . The socks also reduced the risk of a blood clot
forming during air flight. In the late 1980’s studies proved that the
socks lowered blood lactate levels in athletes, a common problem
after extensive exercise routines. The sports performance industry
quickly took notice of the advantages of compression apparel and
from that Lycra was developed. The innovation of compression
performance apparel was just on the horizon.
What drove diffusion for compression garments?
The US Surgeon General of the time,
Steven K. Galson, M.D.,M.P.H to address the epidemic of deep
vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism of the era.
The development of polyurethane spurred the development
of Spandex and Lycra.
Society’s need for compression garments was in
relation to the epidemic of lymphedemga. Once introduced to the market, the
sports industry & undergarment industry caught notice of the product and it’s
advantages as well as it’s medical benefits. Society accepted compression apparel
for a wide variety of uses: the ability to wick away moisture, increase the range of
motion, quick drying, muscle recovery benefits, light gram weight in comparison
to it’s antecedents, medically reducing blood pooling for DVT patients, lessens
muscle vibrations during activity, undergarments improve posture and enhanced
lactate removal for travel and performance.
Compression apparel is widely adopted and accepted in our culture due to
it’s multiple uses. Retailers understand
the need for compression garments for a variety of customers uses.
Medically, we accept this as a plan of treatment and
the diffusion of such has had a global impact.
Compression performance & undergarment apparel have brought garments
that are user adaptable for all season, climates and conditions. Modern
performance compression garments can cool and heat the body, wick away rain
and dry faster than any athletic garment used before.
The Performance compression apparel market is currently gaining rapid
global growth and potential long term growth forecasts many years of
opportunity in cases where the manufacturer continues to innovate product.
The invention of compression apparel is a radical innovation due to the direct relationship with
then invention of elasticized fibers.
In the 1960’s spandex could stretch 100% it’s size. Today, high tenacity stretch fabric can stretch
and recover up to 600% it’s original size.
Radically speaking, the compression apparel market is vast.
Here are the currently impacted industries:
Surgery Healing Support
Compression Apparel’s entrance into the Athletics and Shapewear
Industry through Technology is currently groundbreaking in the Apparel
Under Armour - a leader in disruptive innovative apparel for athletes, by athletes. Entrant U.A .targeted
undershot mass market performance customers in professional settings. Both Football and Baseball have
benefited from U.A.’s original invention ARMOUR39, which today is on it’s 40th iteration.
Apple - Smart Garment Patent approval, through partnership with Nike the patent
relates to a “smart” running shoe & “smart garments”. The patented sensors in the apparel have the ability to track customer
usage, and to become a virtual trainer for the athlete. Compression athletic wear is a growing category within Nike and in
theory the patent could be directly related to this rapid growth category. For Apple, smart apparel is an entirely new business
Apple’s new apparel patents
Original Spanx patent
Spanx - Entrepreneur Sara Blakely founded Spanx by personally re-inventing her hosiery. She then targeted the
undershot customers of the Hosiery Industry. The Spanx product is defined as a disruptive innovation because in
introduced new benefits to an existing market. Spanx has also gained critical mass by attaining non-user customers of
hosiery that recognize their need for body reducing compression clothing.
What attributes of innovation have propelled the social
diffusion of compression garments?
Relative Advantage : Compression garment product development, despite the particular industry, take the shape of
past adopted apparel. Their design, construction and silhouette is very similar to prior products used for similar
intentions which increased their rate of adoption. Compression garments such as the Under Armour performance tee
were adopted by Lead users more easily due to it’s visual properties resembling the typical tee used for exercise.
Compatibility : Compression garments better served the needs of potential adopters that
were either undershot customers or non-consumers of the specific industry it was
introduced. The new products empathetically addressed need within their value proposition,
as well as similar price ,packaging , retail strategy and marketing.
Triability : Compression apparel is diffused by it’s availability to lead users. Many
developer’s have first introduced these products to users such as professional athletes,
medical patients or actresses.
Complexity : Innovative compression garments have a very low degree of complexity for
their user. The products generally visually resemble antecedents of the innovation and they
also rely on the technology of the fabric to imply the compression which keeps the look
Observability : Compression apparel in some cases has a very high degree of visibility.
Products such as performance tees and tights are worn within the context of their use,
therefore other potential adopters can gain knowledge of the innovation.
Compression Garments’ Categories and
Characteristics of Adopters
Many of today’s modern compression garment manufacturer’s have gained adopters in similar fashions.
Innovators: adoption as a result of product distributed to lead users that were typically part of the same social settings as it’s
Early Adopters : these adopters have been in some cases, professionals (ex: athletes,doctors) or role models using the innovation
and then communicating it’s effectiveness within their immediate society.
Early MajorityAdopters : Performance apparel’s early majority adopters can be detected in
reference to Under Armour and their initial product diffusion within the MLB or the NHL. Other developers like Spanx relied on
leading females to communicate the product. Blakely, the entrepreneur also targeted lead roles like Oprah Winfrey (with whom
she sent baskets of product to ) to market the product without financial contribution. Lower priced product lines ( a revised
business model ) also propelled Spanx into mass market retailers and helped the company reach critical mass.
Late Majority : The late majority of adopters to compression apparel is visible within geographic constraints
to purchase product. Mostly, given the accessibility of ecommerce and mass market retailers the products
may now be at a price point to motivate adoption. A great example of late majority adopters in reference to
Under Armour is in the recent youth sports adoption of the products.
Laggard Adoption : A great example of laggard adoption can be visible in the medical brace market. Antecedent braces
have a steel structure to them and many velcro straps that are difficult for the user. Yet, the structured braces have been
previously adopted and new compression fabric braces have been slow to adopt outside the athletic community due to
negligent marketing & perhaps reverse medical industry diffusion.
Current User Visibility
Surgery recovery garments
Race Horse Compression Suit
Medical compression sleeves
Military Compression Gear
Compression Sports Brace
Hunting Compression Apparel
Theories for Compression Garment recontextualization:
In the future, it is possible that performance compression garments will help to
accelerate and soothe the wearer. Further studies are developing focusing on controlling
the vibration characteristics of muscles, on exploring their proprioceptive sensation ( the
feeling of body and movement, relationship to gravity from sensation ), determine
neuromuscular control (to reduce injury) and overall increase in performance.
The shapewear compression industry is experiencing incremental
possible ideas like anti-cellulite shapewear introduced by Playtex.
Shapewear has also faced criticisms within the medical community.
Wearing compression garments can lead to infections, nerve
damage and blood clots.
Yet, it has been proven that compression garments can help to
improve posture and therefore the product may recontextualize into
the chiropractic community.
In addition to these recent developments in regard to compression
apparel, it is also speculated that the growing Geriatric Industry will
benefit from the increased blood flow created by compression
Also, compression garments can help burn victims in third world
countries. There are many charities with this very initiative today.
The emphatic need and successful diffusion in various markets defines Compression
Apparel as a radical innovation.
Innovations themselves take time to evolve and diffuse. In this case study we have examined the developmental history and scientific
discovery that foundationally support modern day compression wear.
Compression apparel came with a “Call to Action” from it’s political forces to solve lymphedemga.
The marriage of medical need and the invention of spandex helped to solve societies epidemic.
The cultural acceptance of compression apparel is related to it’s resemblance to clothing it innovated which is also it’s relative advantage.
Today’s climate also engages environmental needs of the consumer to regulate temperature through clothing, hot or cold.
In certain markets compression apparel targeted undershot or non existent consumers.
Entrant targeting of a market asymmetrically lead to Incumbent co-opting and defensive barrier strategies in regards to Performance &
Shapewear compression apparel.
In the future it is very possible that adopters will experience incremental product improvement for performance and shapewear
It is also possible that may new markets will benefit from the evolution of compression science. Compression apparel’s total consumer
needs have not yet been achieved and with the development of technology these products will continue to re-invent and thrive as
Fu Yu Liu and Ying Fang, Research Advancements in Humanoid Compression garments in Sports, (http://
cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/42291/InTechResearch_advancements_in_humanoid_compression_garments_in_sports.pdfWeijie) International Journal of
Advanced Robotic Systems - Intech 19 Jul 2012.
Clare O’Conner, How Spanx became a billion dollar business without Advertising,http://www.forbes.com/
Clare O’Conner, Top Five Startup Tips from Spanx Billionaire Sara Blakely,http://www.forbes.com/sites/
Mary Monroe, Sweat Couture : A User’s guide to Performance Apparel, http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/
sweat-couture-a-user-s-guide-to-performance-apparel, Idea Fitness Journal,Volume 5, Number 10, Oct 2008
Jack Purcher, Apple Wins Smart Garment and iphone circuit board patents,http://www.patentlyapple.com/
Meghann Flynn, Sigvaris, http://www.inside-healthcare.com/index.php/health-solutions/1460-sigvaris
Tawanee Prazak, Under Pressure:Does Compression Apparel Work? http://triathlon.competitor.com/
2011/08/gear-tech/under-pressure-does-compression-apparel-work_32884 , 08/28/11
Rogers, Everett M. (2003) Diffusion of Innovation
Von Hippel, Eric (2006) Democratizing Innovation
Gloor, Peter (2006) Swarm Creativity: Competitive Advantage through Collaborative Innovation Networks,
Clayton Christensen’s “Seeing What’s Next”, Harvard Business School Press
John Law ,Technology and Heterogeneous Engineering: The Case of Portuguese Expansion, MIT press, 1987
C.M. Crawford’s “Invention versus Innovation”,1983
Aidenn Mullen [ dmgt 702 ] winter 2013