The apparel industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by rise in e-commerce, data analytics, digitalization, and supply chain management and growing importance of technologies such as integration with blockchain, automation, and virtual reality and augmented reality. In the last three years alone, there have been over 2,600 patents filed and granted in the apparel industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in apparel: reflective 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 41,000 patents, there are 20+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, reflective fabrics and body measurements AI are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Insulated composite fabrics, e-textiles, and personalized lookbooks are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are wearable computers and breathable fabrics, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the apparel industry

Reflective fabrics are a key innovation area in apparel

Reflective fabrics are fabrics with reflective properties, making them more visible in low-light conditions, especially when light is shone on them.

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 reflective fabrics.

Key players in reflective 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 reflective fabrics

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
National Safety Apparel 11 Unlock Company Profile
KH Feelux 1 Unlock Company Profile
Precision Fabrics Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
Tayho Advanced Materials Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
Jihua Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
Komatsu Seiren 3 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Gas Chemical 11 Unlock Company Profile
NIKE 8 Unlock Company Profile
The Japan Wool Textile 4 Unlock Company Profile
Hanesbrands 3 Unlock Company Profile
TOYOBO Specialties Trading 2 Unlock Company Profile
Albany International 11 Unlock Company Profile
Deutsche Bahn 4 Unlock Company Profile
Toray Industries 28 Unlock Company Profile
Compass Diversified Holdings 4 Unlock Company Profile
Standard Textile 1 Unlock Company Profile
Softronic 1 Unlock Company Profile
CEA 3 Unlock Company Profile
W. L. Gore & Associates 1 Unlock Company Profile
Koninklijke Philips 2 Unlock Company Profile
Seiren 7 Unlock Company Profile
Hyosung 6 Unlock Company Profile
Teijin 91 Unlock Company Profile
Kyodo Printing 6 Unlock Company Profile
Glen Raven 4 Unlock Company Profile
Mizuno 11 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 7 Unlock Company Profile
Lululemon Athletica 7 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 2 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Chemical Group 4 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 2 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 5 Unlock Company Profile
Jiangsu Sunshine Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
Burlington Industries 2 Unlock Company Profile
Virtuose 2 Unlock Company Profile
Heilan Home 1 Unlock Company Profile
Toray Industries 1 Unlock Company Profile
Coolcore 2 Unlock Company Profile
MTG 5 Unlock Company Profile
Welspun Group 17 Unlock Company Profile
Corteva 28 Unlock Company Profile
Dow 4 Unlock Company Profile
Advance Denim 1 Unlock Company Profile
Sensomedical Labs 6 Unlock Company Profile
Jiangyin Hongwei Qingshan Spinning 1 Unlock Company Profile
Jiangyin Huadong Plastic Products 1 Unlock Company Profile
Silveray 1 Unlock Company Profile
B&C Private Foundation 8 Unlock Company Profile
Zhik Pty 3 Unlock Company Profile
The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission 7 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Teijin is one of the leading patent filers in reflective fabrics. Some other key patent filers in the space include DuPont and Toray.

DuPont™ Tyvek® 500 HV comes in a fluorescent orange color with silver-grey reflective bands for day and night visibility. The garment is mainly composed of flash-spun polyethylene, providing an ideal balance of protection, durability, and comfort to the user.

In terms of application diversity, Welspun leads the pack, while Mitsubishi Gas Chemical and NIKE stood in the second and third positions, respectively.

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

Reflective fabrics have promising applications in the future as research and development in this space progresses with increasing awareness for safety and evolving fashion trends. These fabrics are typically used in clothing and accessories such as helmets and armband vests that provide safety to the user during fog and other low visibility conditions.

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.