FEATURE: Skin Deep

The focus has definitely been on cosmetic textiles, this summer. As brands increasingly begin to embrace this exciting new technology, Kat Slowe takes a look at the rapidly expanding sector and questions what it could contribute to the future of the intimate apparel industry.

Cosmetic textiles first made an appearance over 20 years ago, in 1990, when Ted Lapidus and – later – Hermes decided to offer scented silk scarves to the world’s fashion elite.

Yet, it was not until 1998 that this process was first used in the intimate apparel domain. It was in this year that Noyet first tested the concept by adding fragranced microcapsules beneath the floral patterns of its prints.

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By this point, the technology itself had been around for over 50 years. The microcapsules, now used in a variety of domains – such as agri-foodstuffs, printing, pharmacology and textiles – were created in 1954 by the American company National Cash Register. While seeking a process for duplicating invoices, it discovered a way of encapsulating ink which was then revealed under mechanical pressure. Like many ideas, it was the one percent spark of genius – this time belonging to Ted Lapidus – that gave the science its current application.

All this and more was explained in a recent speech made by DLD Consulatant director Dominique Demoinet at the Mode City show’s recent Cosmetic Textile Symposium

The event brought together key figures from the worlds of fabric, cosmetics and intimate apparel to look into the sector of cosmetic textiles, which are defined by the French Textile Apparel Industry Standardisation Office as ‘textile articles which contain a substance or preparation designed to be released over the long term onto different, superficial areas of the human body, in particular the epidermis, and claiming one or more specific properties, such as cleansing, perfume, figure-enhancement, skin protection, maintenance or anti-odour.’

The Technology

In the present day, there are a series of companies who specialize in producing the fibres that enable this technology to be used in the commercial sphere. One such is Nurel, inventor of Novarel, a new patented technology which is applied to fibres, using a process involving the micro-encapsulation of cosmetic ingredients. Working like microscopic sponges, which are highly resistant, porous and inert, these microcapsules reportedly contain cosmetic additives that Nurel incorporates at the heart of the fibre, within the polymer itself.

Each filament contains thousands of Novarel microcapsules, featuring different active ingredients, which are gradually released when the garment is worn. The ingredients, which are claimed to last for 100 washes, encompass a variety of different properties. These include: moisturizing (with aloe vera), anti-aging (with aloe vera and vitamin E), slimming (with caffeine to control cellulite), firming (with retinol and ceramides), nourishing (with sweet almond and rosehip oil) and deep moisturizing (with pure mineral water extract).

Robert Blondel Cosmetics (RBC) is another company that has made significant advancements in the cosmetic textiles sphere. RBC technology, which can be applied to both knits and textiles, has enabled the company to move into new markets with a varied product range, including scented towels, ventonic tights, slimming dresses, ‘plumping’ bras, slimming leggings and moisturizing t-shirts.

According to RBC chief executive Yann Balguerie, RBC’s technology is very different to that of Novarel. He says: “Unlike Novarel, our microcapsules are on the outside of the fibre, grafted on to the exterior, rather than being inserted within the fibre. The microcapsules gradually release their active ingredients in a controlled way. They are designed to suit the product’s lifestyle.”

The three potential applications, proposed by RBC, include: seamless garments with slimming programmes, established using treatment cycles of 30 wears, application in tights, with treatment cycles of five wears and on a daily basis, with the possibility of using re-fill solutions.

The Fabrics

But, what is the use of clever fibres if there are no companies turning them into viable fabrics? Companies Eurojersey and Dogi International have both addressed this issue with some convincing new offerings.
Eurojersey, a company best known for its patented Sensitive® Fabrics, recently launched a range of intelligent fabrics onto the market.

Its new Sensitive® Fabrics A-more is designed to act as ‘a beauty cream to wear,’ both firming and revitalizing the skin through the use of Novarel technology.

According to Eurojersey, the results are totally convincing. The company claims that the skin is more toned after using the product for just 28 days, that 95 percent of women who tested the product saw a difference, that there were real benefits for 76 percent of women and that 14 percent had better toned skin, with more elasticity.

Dogi International introduced its first range of micro-encapsulated knits in 2005. This was followed up with the launch of its specialist Winn brand in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2011 that the company claims it first began to sense a real interest in the young market.

Dogi marketing manager Sergi Domenech says: “If you look at the last 15 years, the most remarkable innovation for consumers was the arrival of microfibres which were softer and less aggressive on the skin. Cosmetic textiles are the next step in this revolution.”

And, it is a revolution that looks to be occurring now, with Domenech confirming that ‘two major brands’ have reportedly placed very large orders for the Winn fabric.

The Brands

A series of both new and established intimate apparel brands have been quick to grasp the importance of this technology and the breadth of its potential applications.
Simone Perele is a good example of an established brand that has recognised the benefits of this new frontier of intimate apparel. For AW12, the French label will be introducing new range TOP MODEL, which took 10 years of research to develop.

The cellulite control collection is reportedly the first lace and Lycra beauty micro-fibre range that sculpts and refines the body while gradually working to reduce the appearance of cellulite. The fibres of TOP MODEL are micro-encapsulated with slimming agents, such as Aloe Vera and caffeine, that the brand claims have been shown in an independent study to reduce the appearance of cellulite over time.

Simone Perele UK managing director Carole Launchbury says: “Today’s consumer is much more demanding, they are looking for ‘wellness’ products that give results. They do not want a ‘gimmick’, which means that this sector must continue to strive for effective products that meet and deliver to consumer needs.”

For SS13, Simone Perele will be introducing a dress to the TOP MODEL range, along with a lift shaper, high waist shaper and full shaper. The brand has good reason to be optimistic about the public appetite for its new collection. Over the past 12 months, Simone Perele has reportedly already seen considerable demand for its ‘Caressence’ line, featuring 3D spacer technology, with the additional benefit of lace infused with Aloe Vera.

It is not only the established brands looking to make the most of this fascinating new science. There are also a series of specialist labels which place a strong emphasis on the sphere of cosmetic textiles. These are particularly prevalent in the shapewear sector, which has enjoyed unprecedented popularity over the past few years.

My Shapes offer a range of seamless, slimming and breathable shapewear, using the ‘wonder fabric’ Emana. The range includes panties, briefs, leggings, brassieres, and top shapers in nude and black.

The Emana fabric contains bioactive crystals which absorb the body’s heat and return it in the form of far infrared rays (FIR). These rays penetrate into the skin and interact with the body, stimulating blood microcirculation and cellular metabolism, and producing important secondary benefits, including increased skin elasticity for a younger and smoother skin, reduced cellulite, toxin elimination and lower lactate accumulation during exercise.

My Shapes sales director Kate Beesley says: “The past two years have been about creating a wider offer of undergarments for the target market. We have been working to create shapewear that is aesthetically appealing, as well as comfortable and effective. The pre and post pregnancy market has been a big area of growth, as the benefits of My Shapes in terms of skin elasticity and firmness before and after having a baby have been highlighted to the consumer.”

The brand’s latest development is a range of shapewear for use during exercise, which encourages heightened elimination of toxins.
Beesley says: “Sports focused products are trending big time and it is likely that this athletic element will become more populated. We will be looking to expand our range of men’s shapewear, as we think this could be big next year.”

My Shapes has been working hard to gain as much press coverage as possible. Beesley is looking forward to launch of the label’s products within Harrods, this month, and hopes that the event will attract consumer and celebrity interest.

Effective marketing is important to any brand’s success, and this is particularly true in the case of cosmetic textiles.

Cosmetic textiles specialist Skineez is preparing to launch its new ad campaign via traditional avenues, social media and several other ‘creative means’. It will also look to add a new level of credibility to the marketing of skincare products, through publicizing its partnership with a series of famous plastics and reconstructive surgeons, who are currently providing the brand with research and development support.

Skineez founder Michelle Moran says: “We are the future of the textile industry. Consumers want to feel and look better, so [we are] communicating the benefits of wearing the garments and how to replenish the active ingredients.

Typically, in brick and mortar retail outlets, the garments would be sitting or hanging next to other, untreated compression garments, so our packaging and marketing are key to provide the consumer with clear and specific details of what the garment is, and how it works.”

The brand offers products ranging from shapewear to t-shirts, camisoles and hosiery. For SS13, Skineez will be introducing new ‘trend right’ styles and colours into its Holiday Collection. It will also be looking to expand into the medical market, providing a ‘first of its kind’ compression garment for post op surgeries and everyday lifestyle.

It is not only lingerie and shapewear brands that make use of the cosmetic textile technology. There are also a number of hosiery brands seeking to take advantage of this upcoming trend.

Skin Kiss began offering caffeine tights back in 2009, after director Bobbie Bhogal discovered there was demand for a slimming product that would allow the wearer to lose weight, everyday, simply through wear. After the success of the initial launch, the label decided to develop a pair of slimming pants, featuring caffeine technology, that would provide a ‘fantastic’ shape and reduce the thigh circumference by up to 2cm’s.

In 2012, Skin Kiss went one step further and launched the world’s first pair of fake tan tights – a pair of tights impregnated with tanning solution. The innovative concept has reportedly proven extremely succesful and provided the brand with worldwide press exposure. The fake tan tights have been featured on ITV’s This Morning, NBC’s The Today Show and in multiple fashion publications.

Bhogal says: “As a brand, we are constantly researching the latest technologies and products from around the world and I am sure the cosmetic hosiery market will continue to move forward at speed. After the success of our fake tanning tights, consumers keep asking us for a full body version, which is something we are developing at the moment. Who knows what your tights will be able to provide you with in the future?”

Bhogal is now looking to expand into new – less saturated – markets, such as Russia, South Korea and Australia. And, she has some exciting new products in mind to launch in 2013.

“Without giving too much away,” she says, “we are looking into new active ingredients which can slim, shape and even get rid of varicose veins.

Skin Kiss is not the only cosmetic hosiery product currently available on the market. Alterego is the distributor for European tights brand Gabriella. The award winning hosiery brand has received a Euro Product award for women’s tights and has also been awarded with the consumers’ quality sign ‘The best in Poland’. Gabriella’s product range includes anti-varix tights, featuring an anti-cellulite action and softened with aloe vera, providing the skin with moisture and a feeling of comfort. There are also knee-highs and tights that have been engineered to give a prophylactic foot-massage effect and, which, feature an anti-pressure band, softened with aloe vera, for a silky feel. The tights are targeted at the elderly and people who work on their feet for long periods, such as nurses, prison officers, police, factory workers and care workers, etc.

Alterego director Alan Gordon Freeman says: “We have found that once customers are aware of these type of products, and tried them, they always repeat purchase. We have retailers that have a huge presence within the NHS. Nurses, who are on their feet for very long periods during their working day, have discovered that the ‘Gabriella’ massaging aloe vera tights and knee highs are sublimely comfortable, and subsequently ‘swear’ by them.”

It turns out that, maybe, beauty isn’t so skin deep, after all. And, as the technology continues to develop, the cosmetic textile market looks likely to achieve an even greater depth moving into the future.

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