Emerging Trends In Advanced Textiles and Their Scope in India

Since the birth of sewing and weaving, technology has always led to developments in fashion. The industrial revolution mechanized manufacturing- enabling mass production. In the 1960s synthetic material like polyester and nylon were born, creating new possibilities for fashion. Now, the confluence of new technologies and fashion is opening up previously unbelievable opportunities. 

The future of fashion is a mixture of combining new material and information technologies with new forms of business models.

1. New sustainable forms of production of silk and leather

1.1. Microsilk

Bolt thread spider silk

This biotech innovation start-up in Emeryville, USA, is the creator of micro silk, which is synthetic spider silk that is engineered by water, yeast, and spider DNA. “Spider silk is a much stronger natural fiber than traditional silkworm silk,” said Jamie Bainbridge, the vice president of product development at Bolt Threads. Traditional silk is produced by silkworm larvae that form cocoons. But rather than relying on these insects. Bolt Threads is creating silk in tubes. Bio-fabricated materials remove the need for animals and insects and are more sustainable and efficient for producing raw materials. The silk production can speed up and the producers can have more control over how to create the raw material.

A great many things can go wrong when making synthetic silk proteins. The problem with this artificial silk production is its fermentation process. Not too dissimilar from making beer, and subtle changes in temperature, pH levels, and the viscosity of the liquid protein can ruin the entire batch. And the risk of something going wrong increases when you try to scale-up, says Dan Widmaier, co-founder, and CEO at Bolt Threads. The expectation of success for synthetic spider silk mass production in the future comes with the knowledge that once the process is perfected, all that’s needed to make larger quantities of silk is more fermentation tanks.

1.2. An alternative for leather-Mycelium



Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a network of fine white filaments. It can be grown in almost any kind of agriculture waste. Mycelium resembles underground root structures of mushrooms that can be grown synthetically in the laboratory. Mylo™ is the mushroom textile that has been developed by Bolt Threads (USA). It is a flexible yet durable material that has the potential to biodegrade and could replace real and synthetic leather. The material can be produced in days rather than years, which significantly reduces environmental impact. In 2018, Bolt Threads collaborated with Stella McCartney to create a Mylo leather version of McCartney’s Falabella bag.

Another company MycoWorks has been using molded mycelium since the 1990s. Since its inception in 2013, Philip Ross, co-founder of MycoWorks has used Ganoderma, a species of mycelium, to grow dense sheets called “Reishi” which can be treated and manufactured like leather.

2. Smart Garments- The future game-changers


Smart garments

Smart garments can radically change the relationship between the customers and the clothes that they wear. Mayant is a Toronto based pioneer of smart garment manufacturing or textile computing. They create garments that can monitor every move of the wearer. Tony Chahine, the CEO of Mayant, says these interactive fabrics can sense data from the wearer. Smart textiles are touted as the next frontier of wearable technology. Yarns are paired with electronic sensors so that essential data can be captured from the body. Mayant has created a monitoring men's boxers, commercialized under the brand Skiin to capture medical-grade biometric data across numerous form factors for both adults and elderly populations. 

The garments can monitor and display the status of ECG, body temperature, movement, and respiration. Mayant has created a team of developers having diverse backgrounds like scientists, AI engineers, software developers, garment technologists, fashion designers, pattern makers, etc for collaboration and interaction to develop a successful "smart garment".Heath monitoring garments are being made and sold in the USA, Canada, and Japan majorly and these countries are also a hub of research and development of new concept fashion.


3. Functional clothing- An emerging sector in technical textile utility


Technical textiles

Functional fabric materials and products are manufactured primarily using specialized technical textiles. These fabrics are highly technological and cater to the specific requirements of the end user. They are made for programmed performance properties rather than their aesthetic or decorative characteristics. Technical textiles are being used in diverse sectors categorised into 12 major fields of application. For functional clothing, technical textiles are being used in following sectors, as defined by Techtextil - 

  1. Protective clothing (Protech)- Garments providing protection against cuts, abrasion, and other types of severe impact, including stab-wounds and explosions, ire and extreme heat, hazardous dust and particles, nuclear, biological and chemical hazards, high voltages, static electricity and extreme cold. High-visibility wear also comes into this category.
  2. Sports-functional clothing (Sporttech)- Garments providing high-level of breathability and moisture/vapour transfer combined with heat insulation and/or wind-proofing, waterproofing, and UV protection
  3. Medical-functional clothing (Medtech)- Healthcare/hygiene clothing,
  4. Surgical clothing, Therapeutic clothing,Intelligent functional clothing
  5. Clothing for special needs- This category of clothing is concerned with improving the quality of life for people with special needs or disabilities

4. Scenario of technical textile in India

As per the baseline survey of the Technical Textile Industry in India, around 2100 units are manufacturing Technical Textiles in India. Most of the units are concentrated in Gujarat followed by Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. According to the 2019 conclave report by the Ministry of textiles. The technical textile sector is projected to reach a market size of Rs. 2 lakh crores by 2020-21.

Despite showing impressive growth over the years, the per capita consumption of technical textiles in India is very less in comparison to other developing countries. This lower consumption in the Indian market is because 41.6 percent of the technical textiles in India focuses on Packtech (Leno bags, soft luggage, jute hessian and sacks, shopping bags, etc), which is primarily low-value low-technology product. High-value product segments such as Indutech, Mobiltech, Sportech, Meditech, Buildtech, etc., have low market penetration. However, segments such as Clothtech, Sportech, Meditech, etc., have significant growth potential with changing demographics and consumption patterns of Indian consumers and the tendency of Indian buyers to adopt technologically advanced products for their inherent advantages.

The SWOT analysis stated below further pin points the positive aspects and challenges of technical textiles usage and innovation in India:

  • S-Strength: 
    • Strong textile value chain
    • Abundant manpower
    • Existing infrastructural facility for the production
    • Government support:
    • Scheme for growth and development of technical textiles (SGDTT),
    • Technology mission on technical textiles (TMTT)
    • Scheme for promoting the usage of Agro-textiles in the northeast region,
    • Scheme for promoting the usage of geotechnical textiles in the northeast region,
    • Technology up-gradation funds scheme (TUFS) and Scheme for integrated textile parks (SITP).
    • Recently the government has signed an MoU with Japan for cooperation in technical textile.
    • Centre approves creation of National Technical Textiles Mission (September 18th ,2020)

  • W-Weakness:
    • Low awareness among masses
    • Low youth participation (especially research, technical, and design students from institutes of national importance)
    • Technical textile machinery needs to get imported
    • No significant production of indigenous technical fibers: Currently, the majority of specialty fibers are imported in India, thus making India globally uncompetitive in high-value technical textiles products.
    • Lack of standardization: Currently, several technical textile products do not have Standard Benchmarks, resulting in the availability of sub-standard cheaper products.

  • O-Opportunity:
    • Untapped market (huge scope of R&D explorations)

  • T-Threats:
    • Already powerful and established global markets (China, Japan, USA)
    • Easy to import from other countries

To assure affordability, higher adoption of these products across the population, increasing awareness is of ultimate importance. India is currently witnessing a boom in entrepreneurial spirit with fresh graduates from IITs, IIMs, NIFTs, and NID opting for entrepreneurship. The government needs to work with various entrepreneurship development institutes for creating courses and awareness projects for technical textiles. This would help in creating a pool of energetic youth transforming the sector - from Mobiltech to finding avenues in Clothtech, Sportech, and Meditech. Incentivising research and development in the field of technical textiles shall help in nurturing the culture of indigenous research, instead of depending only on joint ventures and technology transfer for manufacturing.

The technical textile industry in India is import-dependent. Many products like specialty fibres/yarns, medical implants, sanitary products, protective textiles, webbings for seat belts, etc. are mostly imported.

To obtain the growth potential, the technical textiles ecosystem in India needs to grow significantly with a focus on research and innovation.

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