The apparel industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the rise in e-commerce, demand for convenience, functionality, supply chain management, and data analytics, and growing importance of technologies such as 3D printing, automation, and new manufacturing techniques. In the last three years alone, there have been over 57,000 patents filed and granted in the apparel industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in apparel: insulated composite fabrics. Buy the report here.

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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 stabilizing 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 36,000 patents, there are 20+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, insulated composite fabrics, and reflective fabrics are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. e-textiles, insulated composite fabrics, and AR-assisted measurements are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are functional undergarments and breathable fabrics, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the apparel industry

Insulated composite fabrics are a key innovation area in apparel

Insulated composite fabrics are designed to offer thermal insulation from the external environment. These fabrics are generally made of two or more layers of materials, one that has lower thermal conductivity and another material that provides strength and durability to the garment.

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 60+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established apparel companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of insulated composite fabrics.

Key players in insulated composite fabrics – a disruptive innovation in the apparel industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to insulated composite fabrics

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Teijin 165 Unlock Company Profile
Toray Industries 105 Unlock Company Profile
DuPont de Nemours 69 Unlock Company Profile
NIKE 64 Unlock Company Profile
Asahi Kasei 38 Unlock Company Profile
W. L. Gore & Associates 34 Unlock Company Profile
Noveko Trading 2008 31 Unlock Company Profile
Koch Industries 30 Unlock Company Profile
VF 26 Unlock Company Profile
Mizuno 18 Unlock Company Profile
Welspun Group 17 Unlock Company Profile
Southern Mills Inc (TenCate Protective Fabrics USA) 16 Unlock Company Profile
Kuraray 15 Unlock Company Profile
Sanko 15 Unlock Company Profile
Brrr! 12 Unlock Company Profile
National Safety Apparel 11 Unlock Company Profile
Nilit 11 Unlock Company Profile
Ten Medical Design 11 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Chemical Group 11 Unlock Company Profile
Albany International 11 Unlock Company Profile
3M 9 Unlock Company Profile
adidas 9 Unlock Company Profile
Kolon 8 Unlock Company Profile
Milliken 6 Unlock Company Profile
Toray Industries 6 Unlock Company Profile
Kelheim Fibres 6 Unlock Company Profile
Apple 6 Unlock Company Profile
Tecno Label 5 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 5 Unlock Company Profile
Kontoor Brands 4 Unlock Company Profile
Hyosung TNC 4 Unlock Company Profile
Toyobo 4 Unlock Company Profile
YKK 4 Unlock Company Profile
Joeone 3 Unlock Company Profile
Kolon Industries 3 Unlock Company Profile
Hanesbrands 3 Unlock Company Profile
Ventex 3 Unlock Company Profile
Komatsu Seiren 3 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Teijin is one of the leading patent filers in insulated composite fabrics, while Toray and DuPont stood in the second and third positions, respectively.

DuPont’s Sorona® is a polymer that is 37% plant-based and adds sustainable comfort and functionality to textiles as it combines durability, insulation and flexibility. 4Fstore offers men’s jackets made with Dupont Sorona®, which claims to be light weight and offers thermal insulation and comfort to wearer.

In terms of application diversity, Hanesbrands leads the pack, while W. L. Gore & Associates and Brrr! are in the second and third positions, respectively.

By means of geographic reach, Welspun held the top position, followed by Noveko and Albany International.

Insulated composite fabrics can be used in a wide range of apparel products including winter jackets, sleeping bags, and high-performance equipment for extreme environments. Their main function is to effectively balance temperature, breathability, moisture management, and durability.

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

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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.