The ongoing pandemic has led to many innovations in the apparel industry as brands have introduced new clothes and accessories that supposedly stop viruses. Diesel launched a new range of antiviral fabrics that disables over 99 per cent of viral activity within two hours of contact. Similarly, London-based Apposta launched a fabric for dress shirts’ that claims to reduce the speed of contaminations, transmissions by destroying bacteria and viruses on contact.
Fashion companies believe antiviral clothing is the next big innovation in the industry. As consumers have reduced apparel spending by almost 30 per cent this year, retailers are using every trick in the trade to lure them back to stores. McKinsey and Business of Fashion’s ‘State of Fashion Coronavirus Update’ says antiviral clothing is one of the many ways retailers are trying to woo shoppers back. Diesel is using Swedish firm Polygiene’s fabric treatment to stop viral activity in fabrics while Swiss firm HeiQ uses Silver to destroy viruses.
Complications due to regional regulatory discrepancies
Mats Georgson, Chief Marketing Officer, Polygiene points out, the term anti-viral fabric has been made more complicated by regional differences in regulation. Europe has separate standards for fabrics labeled antibacterial or antiviral, while US labels only medical products as antiviral fabrics. Other fabrics are labeled antimicrobial, which means though they pass antibacterial tests, they do not necessarily kill viruses.
Labeling a fabric as antimicrobial can bring legal problems for brands. Hence, brands need to be careful before making any such claims, says Susan Scafidi, Founder and Director, Fashion Law Institute, Fordham University's School of Law. US government agencies like the Federal Trade Commission and Environmental Protection Agency are looking out for more such questionable antimicrobial claims.
Treatments induce behavior changes, control waste
Sarah Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer, DL1961 and Warp + Warp believes, fabric treatments can induce long-term behavioral changes amongst consumers and make clothes more clean and appealing. As of October 1, the brand plans to treat all its new products with an antiviral chemical softener from HeiQ. Georgson says, antiviral treatments can also help control water waste by convincing consumers not to wash their clothes as frequently, much in the same way antibacterial treatments have for activewear.
Diesel has also invested in the Polygiene treatment. Massimo Piombini, CEO says, the brand has an exclusive licensing deal on denim in combination with an anti-odour chemical, to make customers’ lives easy during a complicated time. However, as Lucy Shea, CEO, Futerra opines, fashion brands offering antimicrobial treatments should not use this as the next fashion craze but be careful while creating clothing items using this technology. For keeping their consumers healthy, they can use other simpler design innovations, like T-shirts with built-in masks.