© Arun Sreenivasan
Luxury fashion brands bet on anti-virus fabrics to revive fortunes amid COVID-19
Can your clothes protect you from something as serious as COVID-19 at the very extreme, or at least from other germs and viruses at the very least?
The luxury industry has been abuzz with the news that a leading Italian fabric manufacturer, Albini Group, has developed an anti-viral fabric that was being snapped up by fashion industry behemoths.
How big? Think Kering (Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Saint Laurent, et al), Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna and Prada, to name a few. Named ViroFormula Fabric, it is the result of an innovative collaboration between Albini and Swiss textile innovation firm, HeiQ.
The process involves applying chemicals to textiles during the production process. The efficacy tests, Albini tells us in a statement, was conducted with a virus called 229E, said to be similar to SAR-COV-2 (WHO has strictly banned the use of the SAR-COV-2 virus, which causes COVID). They proved that the anti-virus textile can destroy the virus with a few minutes of contact.
Speaking about the technology, Carlo Centonze, CEO, HeiQ, says, “HeiQ Viroblock is a special combination of our advanced silver and vesicle technology that has proven effective against coronavirus 229E, with a 99% reduction in virus load in 30 minutes.”
The recent news that the coronavirus can stay alive on a garment for as many as two days has hastened experimentation with such technologies, particularly in the luxury segment. Albini’s CEO, Fabio Tamburini, says that the fabrics and textiles have the same feel as any luxury fabric. “We have received several orders from the big brands,” he adds, without naming them.
The technology used works at targeting the fatty chromosomes that surround viruses when they touch the fabric, destroying them within a matter of minutes. However, this innovative technology works for the first 30 washes, after which it stops being as effective. Quite a hefty price to pay for a garment that can cost at least a few lakhs.
Among another global fashion textile manufacturer laying claim to innovative anti-virus textile is Austrian brand, Lenzing Group, which produces wood-based viscose fibres. It is targeting couture brands and runway shows with its eco-friendly, anti-viral luxury fabric options. “Most anti-viral finishes have limitations—they can only be used on certain fabrics and often hamper comfort and hand-feel. Ecologically-responsible and circular fashion have always been mainstays for Lenzing and the H+ Technology was developed along with Ruby Mills, with this in mind,” says Avinash Mane, Commerical Head – South Asia, Lenzing.
Albini and Lenzing were among the first major luxury fashion players to enter this sphere. However, others are working on similar technology. Like GRADO in India, which, has launched Neo-Tech fabrics, said to be anti-viral and anti-microbial.
Rajendra Agarwal, Mentor, GRADO has said, “Using the NEO TECH® techniques, GRADO has designed anti-viral and anti-bacterial fabrics that inhibit growth and retention of micro-organisms, fulfilling the criteria of being safe and hygienic. We have been investing in R&D for a very long