Many brands are beginning to make jeans or other clothing items with antimicrobial technology that treats fabric in such a way as to “stop” viral activity once it hits the fabric. These antiviral treatments work by keeping viruses from attaching to textile fibers via interaction with key proteins on the fabric. Virus fighting fabrics have been used before on things like face masks, which makes the use of the technology on clothing seem like a viable next step.
The use of antiviral technology to create clothing seems to be of particular interest to luxury brands. Companies like Diesel, Warp + Weft, and the Albini Group which supplies fabric to Kering, Armani, and Prada, have all jumped on board and begun experimenting with antiviral fabrics and technologies.
The Brazillian technical textile company, Dalila Têxtil, created a fabric with a finish that can help destroy the outer layer of the Coronavirus. Silver particles in the fabric attract the virus and bind with sulfur groups on the surface of it. This stops the growth of the virus by keeping it from binding with host cells, but the treatment may only be effective for up to 20 washes. In contrast, the Albini Group applies chemicals to fabric during the production process, similar in nature to water-proofing processes.
While both of these methods may be promising in terms of virus protection, it’s difficult to label them as sustainable. If the virus-fighting effects of a fabric wear off after 20 washes, then a new item of clothing would have to be purchased. In terms of the chemicals used by Albini Group, one can only hope they aren’t harmful for humans or the planet. The big question is whether or not the trade-off in terms of being non-sustainable is worth the potential antiviral properties of the fabrics being made.
It’s still largely unknown how the Coronavirus interacts with fabrics, so until more research is done, the effort on behalf of brands to make virus fighting fabrics may be preemptive. It will be interesting to see how well these fabrics work, or if they’ll simply go down in history as a Coronavirus-related trend. While the fashion industry is notorious for its changing trends, this doesn’t mean that everything that comes from the industry is destined to fade away. Perhaps virus fighting fabrics will have an important role to play looking forward.
Jessy Humann lives and writes out of Spokane, Washington. When she's not writing about sustainable fashion and why it's important, she loves to write poetry and do other types of creative writing. Her first children's book comes out next year. Connect with Jessy on LinkedIn.