Antiviral functions are well-known and have been used in the sports and health sectors for many years. They were once considered superfluous in fashion. Since the pandemic, this has changed.

In 2020, the beginning of the pandemic was just starting, Naomi Campbell’s picture went around the globe. Naomi Campbell was photographed in white full-bodysuit and rubber gloves at an airport. Although it may seem exaggerated, the idea behind clothing as a shield against invisible enemies like bacteria and viruses is very simple. These technologies have been around for a long time. They are used regularly in healthcare workwear and sports collections.

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Antiviral equipment now available

These technologies have been improved and adapted to Covid-19’s requirements. Many textile chemistry companies have been launching new or improved antiviral finishes at an incredible pace. These include Polygiene in Sweden with its “ViralOff”, HeiQ from Switzerland, Affix Labs in Finland with its “Si-Quat,” Devan, Belgium with “BiOme AV”, and Toray, Japan with “Makspec V.” All of these manufacturers guarantee that their products will kill multiple viruses and bacteria in a matter of minutes to hours. This clothing protects the wearer against the spread of harmful germs and is therefore harmless for everyone.

Fashion can be a protective shield

Some fashion companies started to incorporate antiviral products in their collections, or treat entire categories, after the initial antiviral face masks were released by Maloja and Mammut. Diesel, an Italian denim brand, launched its first antiviral jeans in F/S 2021 just a few weeks after the pandemic. They used Polygiene’s “ViralOff” finish. Similarly, Warp + Weft and DL1961 denim brands teamed up to offer future models of denim HeiQ’s “Viroblock” antiviral treatment. Monobi Fashion of Italy, a menswear supplier, uses it to add antivirals in jackets and jumpsuits. BioRomper, a startup, launched in the U.S. in October 2020 with one product: an antimicrobial jumpsuit that prevents surface contamination during travel. High fashion also has early adopters: Phillip Lim, a designer, presented his antiviral “Live Free” collection in November. His goal was to make people’s life easier.

Antiviral collections are a hot trend

It is not clear if we will be using this equipment more often in the future. HeiQ had already supplied around 500 customers by the start of the year. The continued demand for ViralOff prompted a 141 percent increase in Polygiene’s sales in the first quarter 2021. Hoi Kwan Lam, Chief Marketing Officer at HeiQ, says that “we will likely have to adjust to living with the risk of viral infections,” and protective clothing will need to be a regular part of our lives. Brands are taking notice of this fact and adding antiviral protective gear in their textile products.

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The current legal frameworks in each country prevent an international rollout of antiviral fashion. Some products are not approved internationally. Toray’s Makspec V antiviral finish has been approved only in Japan. However, it will soon be available for international use. Toray’s Taira Kukrosawa says that Japanese garment manufacturers have given positive feedback, especially for uniforms used by staff at hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses as well as educational institutions. “We believe that antiviral material in uniforms for service and hospitality will continue to increase.”

New areas of application

Finishes can survive up to 30 washes. After that, they lose effectiveness if not renewed. Sprays have been developed by manufacturers like HeiQ or Affix to allow consumers to do this. They can be attractive for fashion retailers as well. “Studies have shown that viruses can stay active on textile surfaces for up to two days at room temperature,” Carlo Centonze, co-founder and CEO of HeiQ, says. “This is why, in certain countries like the UK, it’s now mandatory to ‘quarantine’ garments after every fitting. We have made HeiQ Viroblock a spray that customers can use to clean their products after they are tried on or touched them. Their applications go beyond apparel, as they can be used on mattresses, bedding, curtains, and tablecloths in hospitality. Our protection needs have changed significantly due to the pandemic. Textile surfaces are now being attacked by bacteria and viruses.”

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