Nanotechnology, or molecular manufacturing, has been used in textiles for several years, but with the recent rise in demand for smart apparel, the branch of engineering that deals with very small things is becoming increasingly popular.
Nanotex, a leading fabric innovation company, uses nanotechnology-based textile applications to repel water, resist and release stains, manage moisture, control odor, eliminate static and keep fabrics wrinkle free without changing the hand or drape of a fabric.
“We have a consumer today that has become very accustomed to the advantages that high performance fabrics can bring in active wear,” said Randy Rubin, chairman at Crypton, which recently acquired Nanotex. “They expect that in all apparel categories. Unless we can deliver on that, we will see the same sluggish sales in the total apparel market that we see today. Innovation – as we have seen in technology – is what excites the consumer and drives sales. That innovation today in the apparel industry is in nanotechnology and it really represents the future for all segments in apparel – from children’s wear to sportswear and even dressier categories.”
In April, the company was acquired and relaunched by Crypton, a leading provider of performance fabrics in apparel and home furnishings, offering new benefits to Nanotex including the opportunity for the company to break into the apparel market, a category where the it said it saw great potential and room for innovation.
“We wanted to evolve from a traditional push-pull relationship with retailers to a mill level focus so that that we could do what we do best – build relationships with decision makers throughout the supply chain and work with mills to carry the Nanotex message forward to customers,” Rubin said.
Since the acquisition, Nanotex has expanded its technical transfer team to service the needs of top American brands, added DNA markers to its chemistry and developed new technologies like Wick+Block, which was designed for nylon NFL football uniforms.
The company said consumers are continuing to demand wrinkle and stain resistant technologies but that they want these qualities paired with the natural breathability of fabrics, especially cotton fibers—at an affordable price.
Experiencing temperature and moisture control, as well as odor resistance in athletic wear is leading consumers to expect these attributes in other apparel categories too.
“Technical textiles are on the verge of revolutionizing our industry. This includes textiles that can alert you to high sun exposure or that you can use as an interface with wearable technology. The consumer is going to increasingly expect clothing to do more, provide more,” Rubin added.
Some other interesting trends Nanotex has noticed in the market include, biodegradable and sustainable textiles, plasma technologies for outdoor apparel textiles, medical textiles for a growing healthcare market, wearable electronics and photonics and smart and interactive textiles.
The company has also noticed trends in technical textiles with functional fibers for performance apparel, specifications that meet military regulation for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear clothing, advances in apparel design through thermal insulation and smart ventilation and bio inspired textiles with fibers spun from natural proteins.
“While many in the apparel market say they are looking for sustainable products, unfortunately when it comes to an increase in price, many change their way of thinking,” Rubin said.
Companies today are expected to have a sustainability model, despite the higher price tag.
Nanotex said it is difficult to have a high-level product discussion with its mills and apparel customers without mentioning sustainability. The company works to obtain independent certifications and has always met the highest standards, claiming sustainability is critical to its process.
Looking ahead, Nanotex is working on a new performance cotton and expanding the capabilities of its Wick+Block technology to a range of fibers.
The company also plans to integrate DNA chemistry into all of its products in the future and is looking at bundling a third party technology like antibacterial, ultraviolet sunlight control and possible skin care technologies into its finishes.