Robb Young – NY Times
The darker the fabric, the more light is absorbed and the hotter the wearer becomes.
But a new fabric treatment on the market may make Indian women, as well as millions of Middle Eastern women, corporate executives and anyone else wearing black in a sunny climate, feel cooler and perspire less.
Schoeller Textil, the Swiss company that developed the Coldblack finishing process, says tests show that the skin temperature of a person wearing treated fabric is 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) lower than that of someone wearing the same, but untreated, black fabric. It also guarantees a minimum ultraviolet protection factor of 30, a scale similar to the sun protection factor used for sunscreen lotions.
Originally introduced last year for the auto interior and outdoor furniture markets, Coldblack textile technology quickly sparked interest among specialist apparel makers and has now been licensed for use in leisure sportswear fabrics for BMW’s motorcycle wear, golf clothes by Bogner and mountain climbing gear by Mammut.
“But it also has great potential in the fashion market since it opens up a wide range of new opportunities for designers and product developers,” said Hans-Jürgen Hübner, chief executive of Schoeller Textil. “Now they can choose any color they like for summer clothing without having to avoid dark colors anymore.” He also noted that the treatment has no effect on the feel or texture of the fabric.
Hugo Boss used Coldblack late last year for the Davis Cup tennis team outfits that it provides annually and Ermenegildo Zegna’s Lanificio mill treated some of its blazer fabrics with Coldblack for Zegna’s last two spring/summer collections. But, so far, few other fashion brands have taken advantage of the technology.
“It would be very short-sighted to leave these innovative fabrics exclusively to sportswear,” said Heidi Wegener, curator of the Design Preis Schweiz, or Swiss Design Prize, the biannual award that recognizes outstanding achievement across several design disciplines. Coldblack won the 2009 prize, which was presented Nov. 6.
“This is a technical masterstroke, with extensive practical relevance for both design and preventive health care, but it all depends on fashion brands and their willingness to integrate high-tech fabrics into their collections,” she added.
Mr. Hübner said the company had signed 80 licenses for Coldblack globally, including some with other fabric producers specializing in silk, wool, cotton, leather, synthetics and various blends. Such license holders pay a standard fee as well as a premium for the value added to the finished fabric.
The cost of Coldblack-treated fabrics varies widely, depending upon the fabric’s weave, weight, composition, fiber content and other factors, but they typically cost 5 percent to 30 percent more than the same untreated fabrics.
And while Mr. Hübner is confident that Coldblack will be discovered by fashion brands soon, some designers unfamiliar with the product say they are surprised that a year after its debut, no one has marketed it to them yet.
“Breathability is a key word for any fabric in the Middle East, and that’s why muslin and natural fabrics are so important. But with this kind of innovation, it could make a big impact,” said Rabia Zargarpur, a designer based in Dubai.
“Some women in the region’s poorer communities have very few resources and can’t opt for natural fabrics that breathe, so black polyester is used in making their abayas and burqas. How do you think black polyester reacts when the sun hits you in 120-degree heat?”
The potential market for any innovation that mitigates the flaws of black garments is enormous. Besides being the color of choice for millions of Muslim women, it also is the favorite of corporate culture around the world, with businessmen and women donning dark suits five days a week.
It’s not often that an innovation in fashion can improve the quality of life for consumers as disparate as goth kids in Rio de Janeiro, Orthodox priests in Jerusalem, ordinary women in Saudi Arabia and bankers the world over. Add to that the fact that black also is a perennial favorite among fashion insiders and it should come as no surprise that some of them also are enthusiastic about the possibilities.