Today’s consumers are more demanding than ever – thanks to the access to the world of information they have through the internet and other media. They can now pick and choose from a wide variety of clothing and apparel products competing with each other not only in price but also unique properties being offered. All this choice is available to consumers at a time when they have curtailed their spending on apparel. Instead thay are spending their disposable income on healthcare, electronics, education, and travel and leisure. This consumer and market scenario has compelled producers to innovate in order to capture today’s elusive consumer. A variety of new and novel fabric and garment finishing technologies are now being offered to the consumers of today who want their clothes to do multiple tasks just like their smart cell phone and other electronic gadgets. Consumers want their clothes to be durable, comfortable and stain resistant, all at a time. Fortunately, textile chemists are responding very quickly to their demands with finishes that are unique and worth paying extra for. Leading retailers and brands got to differentiate their product from the plethora of others in the market through value addition in order to attract today’s well-informed consumers. However, there are host of challenges in developing unique fabric and garment finishes which must be durable during the fabric finishing process; stable in the presence of other auxiliary chemicals; wash-fast; and evenly and consistently applied. Finishes also need to be cost effective and environmentally friendly so as to be globally acceptable.
Odor control is a hot topic in the apparel and hosiery sectors. Odors are formed as a result of bacterial growth. Odor can be controlled by applying an antimicrobial finish, removing the odor molecules as they are formed or covering up the odor with a fragrance. This prevents bacterial growth – ultimately eliminating the odor. Cyclodextrin based finishes are generally used to remove odor. Micro encapsulation technology is being widely used cover up odors with fragrances. Microcapsules containing fragrances are applied to the fabric to provide a slow release over time.Stain resistant finishes are no longer considered a niche market. Consumers not only want their work wear to perform, but their casual and evening wear as well. They are even willing to pay extra for stain resistant apparel. New technological advances have made the heavy stain resistant fluorochemicals-based coatings a thing of the past. Nanotechnology is increasingly being used to develop unique and permanent stain resistant finishes. Nanotechnology enables a precise manipulation of individual atoms and molecules to create layered structures that exhibit unexpected properties – dramatically different from those of the bulk material. The nanoparticles spread out evenly and bond to the fibers. Treatments do not jeopardize the aesthetic characteristics or mechanical/comfort properties of the fabric.Micro encapsulation is one of the latest technologies used to impart an array of unique characteristics to a garment. Particles filled with active ingredients are applied to the fabric or garments for long lasting effects. Micro encapsulated particles are anchored onto the fiber. As the wearer moves, the capsules are activated producing a slow release of the active ingredient. Active ingredients run the gamut including moisturizers, aloe, vitamin E, therapeutic smells and insect repellent. Micro encapsulation technology is also being used to create garments with built-in temperature control systems. Phase change materials or PCM’s – originally developed for NASA – have become the buzzword in the textile industry. They are now guiding the industry how to develop and exploit new technological finishes not only to survive but also to thrive in these difficult times.