A textile research center in Germany has developed garments that could do much more than just cover the body. They have developed T-shirts that provides the user vitamins, // underwear that can smell like vanilla and stockings with moisturizer.
These are all examples of bio-functional garments that have been developed since the textile industry followed the example set by the food industry when it came up with functional food.
The garments have some additional use beyond their usual functions of covering the body and keeping it warm. They either smell nice, as in the case of vanilla underwear, provide the user with some kind of personal care product, as in the vitamin C T-shirts, or they might absorb a bad smell.
However, whether the clothes keep their promise is a contentious matter. Experts also fear the garments could lead to allergic reactions.
"Various techniques are applied in the production of bio-functional textiles. One method involves simply putting the substance on the surface of the material," said Hans-Juergen Buschmann, a chemist at the German textile research centre in Krefeld.
Aloe vera, a plant-based product found in many lotions, or jojoba, used in cosmetics as a moisturiser, is applied to textiles in this way. The catch is, the substances eventually are washed out of the clothes.
"Therefore, the technique is used on nylon pantyhose, for example, because they tend to have a shorter life anyway," said Buschmann.
Clothing that has the active ingredient in its fibre is better able to maintain its function despite multiple washings. A Japanese producer has developed a fibre with a substance that transforms into vitamin C when it comes in contact with skin. In another process, algae are combined with clothing fibres, and when the clothing is worn, minerals, proteins and vitamins are released.
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