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Home / Interviews / Interview with Michael Kamm
Michael Kamm
Michael Kamm

Interview with Michael Kamm

One major challenge in protech segment is to be able to recycle finished products

Sympatex Technologies GmbH has been one of the leading global suppliers of high tech functional materials in clothing, footwear, accessories, protective workwear (Contract & Workwear) and technical applications (Tection). Sympatex develops, manufactures and sells membranes, laminates, functional textiles, finished products and bespoke end products for a range of applications with selected partners all over the world. Michael Kamm - CEO joined Sympatex Technologies GmbH in January 2010. He has over 25 years of experience as entrepreneur and business manager in the field of textile, sportswear and consumer goods industry. Earlier he was CEO at Etienne Aigner AG, CEO at Mistral Sport Group and CEO and owner of North Sails Windsurfing Group. He holds a Diploma in Business Administration from Ludwig-Maximilian University – Munich.

TT: What are membranes and how different are they from similar raw materials (used in same applications as membranes)?

A membrane describes a thin isolating layer. In contrast to raw materials, in functional textiles the use of waterproof and simultaneously breathable membranes ensures on the one hand that the textiles will reliably keep out wind and moisture whilst on the other it ensures a wicking effect, in other words the removal of sweat, which in turn ensures excellent wearer comfort. The ‘guaranteed green’ Sympatex membrane is 100% water- and windproof as well as optimal breathable. A real plus for the Sympatex membrane – it has no pores and instead works on a purely chemical and physical principle. The hydrophilic (water-attracting) components of the Sympatex membrane absorb moisture from the body and transport it to the outside so that it can evaporate. At the same time the poreless structure of the membrane prevents the ingress of rain. This means clothing which features Sympatex products are extremely easy to look after. Since unlike porous membranes, the Sympatex membrane cannot be blocked by either sweat (salt crystals) or dirt.

TT: What are your views on sustainable textiles?

Eco-friendly products are our way to differentiate ourselves, it is our biggest competitive advantage compared to other big global players. As already mentioned above, the Sympatex membrane is ‘guaranteed green’, in other words 100% recyclable like a PET bottle. It is made of completely safe polyether/ester, a combination of polyester and polyether molecules and is therefore completely eco-friendly as well as kind on the skin. In contrast to other membranes, the Sympatex membrane contains absolutely zero PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) and zero PFCs (per- and polyfluorinated compounds). Moreover, Sympatex was the first pioneering functional textiles specialist to coat functional clothing fully with fluorocarbon-free treatments in 2008. Actually, we see an increasing demand for sustainable textiles and garments all over the world. There is already a strong movement in Europe and other markets are slowly starting to follow. As we are combining top performance with maximum ecology, we are perfectly prepared for the years to come. It is fantastic to experience that sustainable fashion can still be very functional and can have great designs. The variety of these combinations will grow a lot and in a few years time, it will be a hygienic factor that textiles are sustainable. In addition, Sympatex is constantly expanding its commitment to sustainable and ecological procedures. As a long term Bluesign system partner, Sympatex meets the most stringent environmental protection, health and production safety guidelines in the world in relation to its production processes. Sympatex is also a founding member of the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 testing and certification system and therefore satisfies with wide-ranging quality requirements for safe textile products.

TT: What newer applications of protective textile will contribute significantly in coming years?

For sure, especially the demand for environmental friendly materials and solutions will rise in the near future. Especially fabrics using 100% recycled polyester and water repellent treatment without fluorocarbons.

TT: Which areas of protective textiles still need a lot of improvement?

One of the major challenges in our market segment is to be able to recycle finished products (jackets for instance) made with 100% polyester and to find valuable applications to reuse these materials.

TT: How has the market for functional wear textiles grown in recent years?

In the last couple of years, the market for functional textiles has grown mainly in Asian countries like Taiwan and Korea. The European market has been saturated after a huge growth three to five years ago. Nevertheless, we still see a growth in hybrid products like mixing fashion with function.

TT: What are laminates and what are their applications?

A laminate is a material which is made up of several layers. For functional textiles these individual layers are generally one or more textile layers which are combined with a membrane. Sympatex Technologies develops 2, 2½, 3, and 4-layer laminates to suit the specific technical requirements of the users or customers (usage, performance and properties). The Sympatex membrane is the thinnest membrane (5 µm – 25 µm thickness) and the most stretchable one (up to 300%). It is connected to a wide range of possible base materials such as woven fabrics, knitwear, fleece, foam or leather to form a laminate for a specific application. The application of tapes tailored to the specific usage of the laminates is what makes the end product (for example a jacket of shoe) into performance functional textiles. Uniform high quality is assured by the interplay between the laminate, tape and technical processing guidelines. This is the only combination that sets a licensed Sympatex product apart from the rest.

TT: What is your outlook for the Asian market?

There are huge opportunities in Asia: We see strong growth potential in markets such as China, Taiwan and especially Korea. For this reason, we’ve recently opened our own office in Seoul/Korea in order to extend our activities and to boost our popularity in this important distribution area. Also in China we still recognize considerable developments towards a strong market with many Chinese brands being founded. Whereas US brands mainly have stopped growing, the young Chinese ones still do. India is interesting for us, too – even though there is currently a strong low and middle-price market, and not so much a top range market in which we usually operate.

TT: What global growth do you foresee in protective textiles in developed economies and why?

In mature countries, equipment and personal protective equipment norms require using adapted and advanced materials like Sympatex. Of course, the growth rates might be lower than in emerging countries but there is still room for increase and further development since there is a wide range of needs to cover and a large population of people working for Industry, governments or authorities with regular needs. For sure, cost efficiency as well as further concentration on the market remains growth factors to get a critical size allowing activities at international scale.

Published on: 10/12/2013

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of


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