Lifa®: Evolving as the Best Technical Base Layer for almost 50 Years
This year, in celebration of our anniversary, we debutedThe 140 Collection. Tor Jenssen, Category Managing Director of Urban and Rainwear, said that he wanted to tell the story of Helly Hansen through the new collection. When you’re dealing with a 140-year-old company, how do you choose what story to tell? How do you break down such a long history into a few items? What made us into what we are today?
To answer these questions, we looked at the technologies that have been monumental over Helly Hansen’s history. After all, we have historically been innovators in fabrics as well as design. From the first supple waterproof garments in 1877 to today’s Helly Tech®, Helly Hansen has experimented with making materials better.
The 140 Collection features products from each of these landmark technologies. In anticipation, let’s take a deeper look at one of our most recognizable technologies: Lifa®.
The Heat at the Core
Why is a base layer so important? Many people’s primary instinct in the outdoors is to protect themselves from the rain and snow, but it can often be the moisture from within, our sweat, that can be the most dangerous. The right base layer will wick away your sweat when it’s warm and help you regulate your body temperature to stay comfortable during all activities. With Lifa®, an athlete can stay dry, even when they’re on the move. Helly Hansen identified the need for a sweat-wicking base layer years ago, and we invented Lifa® in 1970.
In 1970, Lifa® was a completely different technology than it is today. It’s evolved dramatically as Helly Hansen has been unrelenting in its continuous improvement. Over the last 10 years alone, Lifa® has been modified and improved over 50 times. According to Tor, this non-stop evolution is “the one thing that puts Helly Hansen in the forefront of base layers . . . we’ve mastered Polypropylene. Other companies have tried to replicate the same material, but can’t do it. There are so many different elements involved in the softness, thread, smell, stretch, and more. Lifa® is incredibly complicated.”
Every change has a chain reaction, so we are constantly evolving, and we have to in order to stay on the cutting edge of base layers
Why is this technology so complicated? Let’s take the thread, for example. The thread is hollow, so it holds air. The air is what keeps you warm and dry. “Also, we use a single filament throughout a Lifa® piece. Because there are less thread endings, fewer bacteria can attach to the shirt/pants. But the single thread will affect the softness, so we have to work on the brush of the fabric in order to prevent it from being too slick. Every change has a chain reaction, so we are constantly evolving, and we have to in order to stay on the cutting edge of base layers,” said Jenssen.
Even though the technology of Lifa® has been changing non-stop, the classic look has remained the same. The signature white stripe along the sleeves is synonymous with high-performance gear for athletes. You can spot the dry stripe on professional sailors, skiers, and mountaineers world over.