Clothes for Wellness

It's no longer just what you put in your body that counts, but also what you put on your body. Wellness is fast emerging as one of today's most powerful lifestyle trends. World-renowned economist Paul Zane Pilzer estimates it to be US$ 200-billion industry with potential to grow to over US$ 1 trillion annually within the next eight to 10 years

Growing consumer preoccupation with physical and emotional well-being has created an attractive, sustainable market space that has already stimulated new business growth in sectors as diverse as cosmetics, nutrition, health, leisure and travel. Research has confirmed that both men and women are excited by the concept of well-being benefits in clothes, especially those worn close to the body.

The first success was perhaps tasted by Osaka-based manufacturer Teijin which saw 2 million pairs of its Amino jeans disappear from stores in less than 24 hours. Amino jeans were treated with arginine, an amino acid that is said to keep the skin youthful. Since then a number of manufacturers and chemical companies have started offering range of health giving finishes and textiles treated with them.

The micro-encapsulation process

Human skin or dermis is made up of cells, blood vessels and nerves in an extra-cellular matrix composed of fibrillated protein formations (collagen, elastin, etc.), which provide resilience to stretching, and a colloidal gel substance, which fills up the spaces between all the different dermal components. This gel substance is chiefly composed of water, mineral salts and glycosaminoglycans. Most wellness finishes on textiles use the time-tested technology of microencapsulation to deliver active ingredients like moisturisers, therapeutic oils, or even insecticides through the clothes onto skin directly where they are absorbed by the dermis.

Through microencapsulation process a liquid or solid substance can be encapsulated in sealed micro spheres of size 0.5-2000 microns. These spheres form a suspension of tiny droplets surrounded by a thin membrane/ polymeric wall protecting the active agent before it is released, and are applied to a fabric through a simple pad-dry sequence. During wear, simple mechanical rubbing of fabric gradually ruptures the membrane releasing active agent for cosmetic, therapeutic, energy boosting, stress busting, moisturising or deodorising effects.

There are also heat-regulating micro capsules that work on the principle of phase change. Fibre and fabric functionalities like protection, stretch, UV protection and enhanced thermal properties can also be combined with these specialised finishes to enhance the feeling of well-being.

Japan, the powerhouse of innovation recognised the growth in this sector early on. A number of manufacturers have introduced supplements like amino acids, vitamins, xylitol and other food additives into fabric to maintain pH balance in the skin or keep wearers cool. Amino acid manufacturer Ajinomoto teamed up with major sports goods firm Mizuno Corp last year to develop the "Amino Veil" brand. The amino acids in Amino Veil branded tennis and golf clothes dissolve into wearer's perspiration, enhancing the material's ability to absorb moisture and keep the skin's pH (potential of hydrogen) level balanced. The amino acid used in the product above is arginine, which helps to regenerate skin.

Clothes for wellness

Clothing manufacturers and food ingredient companies are hoping to boost profits with several new inventions. Sports clothing firm Yonex has launched a range with xylitol, the sweetener more commonly found in chewing gum. It absorbs heat when it comes into contact with water and is said to offer a cooling effect. Thus, xylitol-enhanced jeans can keep the wearer cooler if she or he begins to sweat.

Yonex Xylitol-impregnated Very Cool Polo Shirts lower body heat by 3 degrees for more comfort during the heat of play. This new Yonex development in high-tech sportswear is worn by tennis stars Monica Seles, Elena Dementieva, David Nalbandian, Jelena Dokic and by leading badminton players.