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Hard-hit fashion industry is turning to ‘virus-fighting’ fabrics

Antiviral fashion seems like an inevitability.

Denim brands are developing jeans that use cutting-edge antimicrobial technologies to help protect wearers from the spread of coronavirus, while still looking stylish.

On Thursday, Diesel, which is worn by celebrities including Justin Bieber and Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Bradley Cooper, announced the introduction of an ultra-innovative denim treatment that physically “halts” 99% of any viral activity on fabrics.

Part of luxury retail specialist OTB Group, Diesel will implement the ViralOff technology, developed in partnership with Swedish chemicals company Polygiene POLYG, +4.82%, across a selection of the brand’s Spring/Summer 2021 denim styles, which will go on sale in mid-January.

Diesel has exclusive rights worldwide to apply the treatment on any denim fabrics, a spokesperson told MarketWatch. The brand said the technology is “always on,” and has the capacity to disable more than 99% of viral activity within two hours of contact between pathogens and fabric. It works by interacting with key proteins, inhibiting the virus from attaching to textile fibers.

Polygiene’s efforts in making garment protection began with the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic in the early 2000s. The ViralOff technology has also previously been used by producers of face masks like P&S Healthcare, Maloja and SilverTek USA.

Not much is yet known about how the new coronavirus interacts with clothing and fabric. In March, Dr. Juan Dumois, a pediatric infectious-diseases physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., told MarketWatch: “Coronaviruses in general last a lot longer on a solid, nonporous surface compared with porous fabrics.” He suggested they would survive better on “artificial fibers,” such as polyester, than on cotton.

The trend for antiviral technology is slowly spreading to high-end fashion. Italian luxury manufacturer Albini Group, which supplies dress shirt fabric to luxury fashion groups including Kering KER, -0.30%, Armani, and Prada, unveiled its ViroFormula fabrics in May.

Developed in collaboration with Swiss performance textile company HeiQ’s Viroblock, the antiviral and antibacterial textile treatment is applied to the textiles in liquid form during the laundering process to provide a sanitizing and germ-resistant surface.

Albini told Vogue Business that its new antiviral fabrics have the same look and feel of its other luxury materials.

Denim brands DL1961 and Warp + Weft are also working with HeiQ and said in June that from Oct. 1, all new collections by the two brands will use the company’s technology.

It uses silver-based technologies that generate antiviral reactions by attracting viruses and permanently binding them to their sulfur groups, reducing the risk and speed of contamination and retransmission.

Fabrics treated with HeiQ Viroblock, which has been tested by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, Australia, are said by HeiQ to stay active for up to 30 domestic washes.

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