Imagine if apparel manufacturers could manufacture clothes with the ability to protect the wearer from COVID-19? Well, Italian luxury manufacturer, the Albini Group, has developed an antiviral fabric with the ability to do just that. Developed in collaboration with Swiss textile innovation firm HeiQ, Albini’s game-changing innovation has managed to capture the attention of forward-thinking luxury labels who see the benefits of a fabric that demonstrates rapid antiviral action against COVID-19.
Antiviral Protection Clothing, Not Just A Thing
Before COVID-19 changed the business of fashion, the antibacterial fabric was offered as a textile that required less washing and was better for the environment. Marketed with the function of reducing odor-causing bacteria, customers were told that washless clothes had a longer life. These properties are probably some of the reasons why brands like firm celebrity favorite Pangaia grew in popularity. The sustainable clothing brand came up with an $85.00 t-shirt made with seaweed fiber and treated with peppermint oil, which gave the tee antibacterial properties that meant it did not need regular washing. Fast forward to today, and the pandemic has led to these same protective qualities peddled as having the potential to destroy coronaviruses a few minutes after contact. Although an exciting discovery, I do wonder whether this garment innovation can influence the wearer’s overall chances of catching the illness.
According to HeiQ, the treated material can likely destroy coronaviruses a few minutes after contact. They revealed to Vogue Business that using a similar process used to make fabrics waterproof, they applied chemicals to the textiles during the production process. Following this, they then ran tests on a virus identical to Covid-19 called 229E, another strain of the virus in the Coronavirus family. They proved that the treated material has the potential to destroy coronaviruses.
In a recent press release, the Swiss textile innovator explained how they managed to destroy viruses, including coronaviruses, by combining silver antimicrobial technology and vesicle technology. Their technology targets the fatty chromosomes that surround viruses when they touch the fabric, destroying them within a matter of minutes. On the results of the research project Dr. Julie McAuley, Senior Research Officer at the Doherty Institute, stated: “Testing the action of different disinfectants and surface treatments is one way that our research can help provide insights towards helping to stop the pandemic.”
Yes, All Apparel Manufacturers Should Think About It
Research has asserted that clothing can be a transmission route for viruses, so relying on substantial evidence, that has shown that infectious material can linger on fabrics, Albini invested in new antiviral textiles. With the same look and feel of its other luxury materials, Albini CEO, Fabio Tamburini told Vogue Business: “The fact that my travel suit is not just good for avoiding wrinkles, but also protects me from viruses… this is a very nice-to-have feature.”
Fashion manufacturers ready to invest in antiviral protection, will not only be producing garments with the ability to protect workers when they return to work, but they will also be working with brands to target everyday consumers. On whether it makes good business sense, Director of Consumer Product at Stylus Emily Gordon-Smith said: “We believe that consumer demand for this kind of product and material innovation is already there.” The one thing garment manufacturers need to remember is that the product still needs to attract enough that consumers want to purchase it, which means keeping the look and feel the same.
Although there are some positives to clothing manufacturers adopting antibacterial fabrics, there are a few shortcomings that come with this innovative clothing idea. Albini revealed that HeiQ tests showed that the solution used is quite likely to deactivate after 30 washes. So how do we wash antimicrobial fabric? On this, Tamburini, whose company has worked with the likes of Prada, Armani, and Kering, hopes to come up with a way to restore the antiviral properties when necessary.
There is doubt that antibacterial fabric has the power to change the game for apparel manufacturers. It could be a financially rewarding investment in the long term. “It will grow exponentially in the next year or two — so it’s something that brands need to be looking at,” believes Gordon-Smith. That said, it is worth noting that Tamburini mentions that at the moment, their product should be treated as added protection. He advises: “The antiviral fabric does not fully block infection. You still have to wash your hands, wear your face mask and do… social distancing.”