The health and wellness conversation has been trending exponentially over the last several years; even before Covid, consumers were clamouring for products that are both sustainable and health driven. We’ve seen this occurring in months and years in the beauty industry as brands at every price point have been releasing ‘all natural’ and ‘vegan’ product lines, exemplifying our concern with what we put in and on our bodies.

Lately, Australian beauty companies are reporting a surge in demand for lemon myrtle and tea tree oil, both natural occurring compounds that are filled with antiviral and antibacterial properties. These types of consumer shifts often start with the food and drug industry, making their way into the beauty and health sectors then onto the apparel industry. For example the rise in demand for organic, locally sourced produce, natural drug alternatives such as CBD, and all natural skin and beauty products have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic. As Covid-19 continually changes the way we view our personal health and wellness routines and needs, the denim industry has upped their focus on ‘antimicrobial denim’ and fabric developments that put the environment and people first.  As the apparel world continues to grapple with the unforeseen effects the pandemic brought on,  a renewed focus on comfort and wellness sweep across the fashion industry and denim mills are ushering in new opportunities in stretch and antimicrobial fabrics, designed to provide the end consumer with peace of mind. This rapid release and popularity of innovative fabric development may be the first step in revamping the denim industry during a time where many of us have switched out our favorite jeans for our favorite sweats. 

The ‘Fibra Therapy’ jean by Naveena Denim featuring active bio-ceramic crystals, collagen peptides, antimicrobial technology and hygienic protection.

By now we’ve all heard that famous statement by Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh that he “never washes his jeans” and if you’re anyone other than a denimhead it may have been alarming to hear that spot cleaning is all you really need. But the question of germs has come into play with even more relevancy during these confusing times. The fact of the matter is, indigo already has naturally occurring antimicrobial properties which have been intensively studied over the years and the most recent and promising research regarding indigo’s naturally defensive properties was published in the International Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2018. Another study by the University of Alberta tested a pair of jeans worn almost everyday by a student for 15 months without washing and researchers concluded that there was no more bacteria on his jeans than on a pair straight out of the washer. Sarah Ahmed, the creative director of DL1961 Premium Denim, admits that she too never washes her jeans, and has the “technology to back it up.” She also points out that all denim is naturally antibacterial and in DL1961’s FW21 capsule collection ‘Better by DL’ is one of the most sustainable denim collection to date and features HeiQ Antimicrobial Technology. In addition to the ‘Better by DL’ range, the company has started treating all new product arrivals with ‘Viroblock’.

Better By DL, a fall capsule range for women and girls that features its most sustainably made denim garments to date. Fabric and trims featured in the collection are made with recycled and renewable fibers and made with pre-consumer recycled materials. The trims used throughout the line are made with recycled and non-electroplated hardware and the garments are also rivet-free. All fabrications are treated with HeiQ’s antimicrobial finishing technology while maintaining innovative and aesthetically driven styles.

Antimicrobial textile finishings with antiviral properties have been on the market for years and were most commonly used in medical uniforms and PPE up until the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the last several months denim mills and brands alike have been launching and actively marketing a variety of antimicrobial collections and products that feature this now coveted fiber finish. Diesel’s new ‘Upfreshing’ collection features what the company has trademarked as the ‘Protector Shield.’ Developed in partnership with Swedish firm Polygiene, Diesel retains exclusive use of the new ViralOff treatment on denim. Polygiene began working on garment protection during the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s, with ViralOff serving as a result of its efforts. The fabric technology has the capability to disable at least 99 percent of viral activity within two hours of contact between pathogens and the fabric. It works by interaction with key proteins that prevent the virus from attaching to textile fibers. The treatment has proven to be effective against a range of viruses including COVID-19.

Diesel’s new ‘Upfreshing’ collection features innovative, antimicrobial fabric finishing called ‘Protector Shield’.

However, Diesel isn’t the first denim brand to release product lines with built-in defences against viruses.  In 2011 Levi’s took their “Live in Levi’s” moto to a new level with the Commuter Series. Designed in conjunction with Sanitized AG, another leader in antimicrobial hygiene protection, the collection, designed for the urban commuter cyclist, not only offered advanced upgrades in mobility and comfort, but also protects commuters from common hazards on their daily route, including antiviral protection. A number of notable mills and brands have all begun offering an increased number of fabrics that are sustainable and will be treated with antimicrobial finishings including new FW21 collections such as Calik’s ‘Washpro’ line, Isko’s new ‘Vital’ collection and US Denim’s ‘Safe for Us’, Artistic Milliners ‘Safe to Touch’, along with others, including new fabrication lines from KG Denim and Candiani.

Calik FW21 collection features Washpro technology and Functionage fabrics, the jeans feature self-cleaning properties that last up to 50 household washings and keep them fresher for longer.

 

ISKO’s new FW21 Collection ‘Vital’ uses antimicrobial material from Sanitized.

With an abundance of antimicrobial fabric finishings flooding the market this year we could potentially see a shift in how we view functionality in clothing, to protect us from the elements but also from harmful microorganisms from Coronavirus to the flu or even the common cold.