The apparel industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by safety, advanced materials, and technology, and the growing importance of technologies such as blended fabrics, UV-treated garments, and heat-reflector clothing. In the last three years alone, there have been over 32,000 patents filed and granted in the apparel industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environmental sustainability in Apparel: Electromagnetic radiation-resistant fabrics.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

20+ innovations will shape the apparel industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the apparel industry using innovation intensity models built on over 13,000 patents, there are 20+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, heat reflector clothing, UV-treated garments, and recycled material shoes are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Arylene nanofibre clothing and blended aramid fire-resistant fabrics are the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are anti-microbial undergarment fabrics and breathable sports garments, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for environmental sustainability in the apparel industry

Electromagnetic radiation-resistant fabrics is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Electromagnetic radiation has different forms, including UV rays, X-rays, and gamma rays. Prolonged exposure to any of these radiations can be detrimental to health. As a result, electromagnetic radiation-resistant fabrics are gaining ground.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established apparel companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of electromagnetic radiation-resistant fabrics.

Key players in electromagnetic radiation-resistant fabrics – a disruptive innovation in the apparel industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to Electromagnetic (EM) radiation-resistant fabrics

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Alphabet 20 Unlock company profile
Apple 17 Unlock company profile
Sanko Holding 16 Unlock company profile
VF 15 Unlock company profile
CEA 10 Unlock company profile
DuPont de Nemours 9 Unlock company profile
NIKE 8 Unlock company profile
NV Bekaert 7 Unlock company profile
Sensomedical Labs 7 Unlock company profile
Politechnika Lodzka 6 Unlock company profile
Toray Industries 5 Unlock company profile
Intel 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Alphabet is the leading company in the electromagnetic radiation-resistant fabrics space in terms of patents filed. It is followed by Apple, Sanko, VF, CEA, and DuPont de Nemours. In October 2022, Seaman, a fabric manufacturer, introduced new products to its Shelter-Rite Architectural Fabric product line. Shelter-Rite High Light Transmission fabrics come with DuPont Clear Tedlar film, that resists UV light and offers self-cleaning properties.

The leading players in this space in terms of application diversity are Alphabet, Sanko, DuPont de Nemours, Intel, and CEA.

The key players in this market in terms of geographic reach are DuPont de Nemours, Bekaert, Politechnika Lodzka, VF, and Sensomedical Labs.

With the fear of skin cancers and other health hazards that arise from exposure to electromagnetic radiation, the demand for these fabrics is expected to rise in the coming years.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the apparel industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Apparel.

GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.