The apparel industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by safety and technology, and the growing importance of technologies such as fire-retardant fabrics, interlaced yarn fabrics, and synthetic polymer yarns. 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 Innovation in Apparel: Polycondensed fire-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, yarn chemical treatment, embossed protective clothing, and garment laser embossing are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Fire retardant garments, antistatic fabrics, and interlaced yarn fabrics are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are flat knitting machines and coated yarn fabrics, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the apparel industry


Polycondensed fire-resistant fabrics is a key innovation area in apparel

Polycondensed fire-resistant fabrics are a special kind of fabrics that act as retardants when in contact with fire. Wool is the best naturally available fabric that showcases this property and is even able to stop small fires from spreading on its own. Similar to wool, silk is another naturally available fabric that burns at a slower pace, making it difficult to ignite and reduce the spread of fire in most cases.

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 polycondensed fire-resistant fabrics.

Key players in polycondensed fire-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 polycondensed fire-resistant fabrics

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Noveko Trading 2008 27 Unlock company profile
Kimberly-Clark 18 Unlock company profile
DuPont de Nemours 18 Unlock company profile
Toray Opelontex 15 Unlock company profile
Kaneka 10 Unlock company profile
Toray Industries 8 Unlock company profile
Teijin 8 Unlock company profile
Royal DSM 8 Unlock company profile
Toyobo 7 Unlock company profile
Mizuno 6 Unlock company profile
First Step Holdings 6 Unlock company profile
Hyosung 6 Unlock company profile
Brrr! 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

The companies that lead the polycondensed fire-resistant fabrics space in terms of patents filed are Noveko Trading, Kimberly-Clark, DuPont de Nemours, and Toray Opelontex. In March 2022, DuPont announced the launch of its Nomex Xtreme Performance as its latest design of fire-resistant fabrics. The fabric provides superior protection from heat, fire, chemicals, and cuts, making it a better choice for next-gen firefighting equipment.

The leading companies in the space in terms of application diversity are Mizuno, Toray Industries, Toray Opelontex, and Hyosung.

The companies that lead in terms of geographical reach are Noveko Trading, Kimberly-Clark, Toray Industries, and Toray Opelontex.

Polycondensed fire-resistant fabrics are useful for scientists, military personnel, lab workers, industry workers, and firefighting units who have to work in situations where fire, electric, and chemical dangers are commonplace.

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.