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This Fashion Tech Start-Up Wants to Stop Stains Forever

Photo: Dropel Fabrics website

Messy eaters and drink spillers, rejoice.

New York-based start-up Dropel Fabrics has patented a nanotechnology that can be applied to any natural fabric to make it water, stain and oil repellent, while maintaining its softness and breathability.

“The idea here is that any fabric that has the potential to get stained is an opportunity for us,” quipped Sim Gulati, co-founder and chief executive of Dropel, speaking Wednesday at Wear Conference (May 24-26) in Boston. “Imagine for a moment all the clothes in your closet, all the clothes that you’re wearing. They look the same way, they feel the same way, and they drape the same. But now you can spill water, wine, beer, juice, or soda on your garments and [the liquid] will bead up to the top and come off. Not even soy sauce stands a chance.”

How did Dropel achieve this? By taking a technology that’s usually only seen in outerwear (think: Gore-Tex shell fabrics) and through material science managed to bond hydrophobic polymers with natural fibers on a molecular level during the dyeing and knitting process.

“We know things are going to happen. We know garments are going to get damaged, one way or the other. The way we see our future is: what can we do to enhance the fabrics that we wear on a day-to-day basis?” Gulati said. “It’s invisible, intuitive innovation that doesn’t require the customer to take a leap in their education, where it can be immediately applied to their day-to-day.”

“The extension of where this can go is quite massive,” continued Brad Feinstein, co-founder and president, pointing out the myriad arenas where he sees opportunities, including high-end fashion to medical scrubs to upholstery. “Gym wear is now being repurposed outside the gym. We see that as consumers and clients screaming that they want advancements in what they’re wearing and the industry is not moving fast enough to give these consumers what they want so it’s being repurposed.”

Dropel, which has already collaborated with New York labels Mister French and Area, considers itself an ingredient brand. Feinstein explained, “We build these recipes to our clients’ specific demands.”

As Gulati said, “In high-end fashion we may not need the technology to last 20 to 30 washes but we may need that in healthcare.”

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Whatever the “recipe,” Feinstein said a recent Cotton Incorporated study found that customers are craving odor resistance, moisture management and water repellency in their business and casual wear.

He added, “The study went on to conclude that people who have purchased clothing that offer those properties are so happy they’re actually willing to pay more.”