New technologies in fashion, is this the way through Covid-19?

Anti-viral future

A pandemic like Covid-19 has a way of urging you to think outside of the box. This shakeup is currently happening within the fashion industry from face mask demands to ideas around new technologies and anti-viral or anti-bacterial clothing.

Many brands already focus on neutralising bacteria in clothing, in particular sports brands where it is important to consider antimicrobial fibres to reduce sweat odours. Lululemon, in particular, shows interest in technical performance and innovation and say they “live at the intersection of form and function”. Their product “Silverescent releases positive ions that are attracted to the bacteria’s negatively charged ions, when they get all together, then bacteria stops reproducing and kicking up a big stink.”

Then there are brands that have gone a step further to fight against germs hitching a ride on your clothing altogether. HeiQ the Swiss company is one of many that developed anti-virus technology as early as 2011, the technology draws viruses to the surface and essentially breaks it open. Results indicate fabric treated with HeiQ Viroblock achieve 99.99% reduction of a virus on fabrics.

Ex Huffer employee, James Hunt has managed to find success in this area of Covid-19 fashion using anti-virus technology. With his previous textile skills, he’s looked into several ideas after realizing his daughter had to wash her clothes immediately after every shift as a healthcare worker. He saw the opportunity to create ‘anti-viral’ clothing and Hunt’s startup company Aviro was developed within two months.

So, it begs the question: Is there a place for anti-viral products in high-end fashion and textiles? It’s a question worth investigating says Woolyarns’ General Manager, Andy May. “We are looking at developing new and innovative yarn products all the time and constantly searching for the next fibre to create market-leading products. It seems these properties on a final garment could be in demand for a while as we get a handle on this pandemic.”

Antimicrobial fibres to reduce sweat odours for activewear is becoming common.

Technology mixes with fashion

This demand for more sophisticated fabrics drives the need for the use of Nanotechnology. We have already seen the likes of fashion and technology mixing such as Fitbits and smartwatches and more companies experimenting with anti-viral and anti-bacterial clothing.

As yarn engineers, Woolyarns constantly look to innovate and improve their textile manufacturing machinery, processes and products to make finer counts and more distinctive yarns suitable for today’s fashion market. The month-long journey of turning fibre into yarn starts with selecting the best raw materials available and with nanotechnology becoming more readily available in both natural and synthetic fibres, it will be interesting to see whether the effects of Covid mean the industry moves towards using more anti-viral fibres. “Nanotechnology offers a new approach for the processing of fabric materials. Unlike topical treatments (which wear off eventually), the effect of nanotechnology in fabrics will be long-lasting because the chemicals used in nanotechnology results in a molecular bonding with the fabric materials.”

If ‘anti-viral clothing’ becomes the new normal, is the space of fashion also being mixed with medicine? Who knew the most fashion item in demand would become a face mask?

Medicine mixes with fashion

Face masks saw more than 600,000 companies seeking high volume weekly orders, not for PPE essential workers but for large corporate businesses. This upsurge could become in more demand in New Zealand due to mandatory face masks on all public transport when in Covid 19 levels 2 and above. Masks are becoming increasingly compulsory in other places around the world, Paris for instance, “in order to help curb the surging rate of coronavirus infections.” It raises the thought, are masks the start of a new age of textiles, where anti-viral treatments will become the norm?

Fashion designers are jumping on board the mask trend and using their time during the lockdown and slower business flow to also supply an ever-increasing demand. Kiwi designer, Anna Stretton has kept sustainability in mind by creating reusable masks. She is putting any profits back into mask production. Anna Stretton’s masks “aren’t medical or surgical grade “they are designed to be washed and re-worn. Available in a range of patterns and colours, Stretton is passionate about making sustainable face masks part of everyday life,” as she believes this “may just become our new normal.”

There is currently a range of masks from standard paper masks, which are not suitable for various workers to fabric and PPE. Electricians can’t wear a standard mask due to health and safety regulations like fire precautions. Fabric masks, on the other hand, may need consistent washing. The ministry of health in New Zealand has a list of regulations for masks and on wearing them correctly. Will antiviral technology work if people are touching their face, surfaces and then the mask?

Overall, perhaps Covid may drive innovation in the fashion and textile industry through new safety demands, experimenting with technologies and through the merging of other industries. If you have any ideas on other new combinations of this technology in textiles/fashion, we would love to hear from you, find us on Instagram and make a comment on the cover photo from this post. Alternatively, connect with Woolyarns, the manufacturing company behind Perino yarns and lets discuss making a customised yarn for your next project.