Dont Cry Over Spilt Milk!

Updated: Jan 28 2003, 05:30am hrs
The pair of khakis lying on the table look deceptively commonplace. The colour tone, soft handfeel and casual chic styling very much evident in about a million other khakis mass-produced in predominantly Far-eastern and Chinese factories. But these are no ordinary pants, on account of three factors.

First, they are a klutzs dream. No matter how much milk, ketchup, wine, Coke, or chutney spills all over them, no ugly stain meets the eye. For, theyre made from a fabric molecularly treated to prevent its absorption.

Give the pants a wipe and see the offending liquid or blob bead up and roll off. In as much as the fabric developer Nano-Tex, LLC a subsidiary of the American textile giant Burlington Industries guarantees stain repellence, accident after accident for at least 30 washes, you have here a pretty smart piece of apparel:

Not only does it nip potentially embarrassing situations for its wearer in the bud, it also does away with the need for involuntary, expensive wardrobe replacements. No wonder, then, Time magazine branded the wunder fabric as one of the coolest inventions of 2002.

The humble khakis also serve up a valuable lesson to a struggling domestic textile industry, which has seen its competitive advantage based on cheap labour, export quotas and prohibitive import tariffs crumble under sustained liberalisation and the emergence of China as a high quality, low cost supplier.

Nano-Tex is in final stages of negotiations with mills in India for the manufacture of two of its smart fabrics and, according to Nitin Jain, country head, Nano-Tex, Inhouse R&D, production facilities, and customer base will be crucial factors in the decision.

Clearly, those who have previously invested in mechanised, hi-volume production, a technologically savvy work force, and marketing and distribution efficiencies are today on their way to converting the threat of globalisation into an opportunity.

Finally, Burlingtons own future is riding on these pants, or at least on the fabrics the company has engineered to prevent stains and wrinkles and control moisture.

Explains Jain, For textile giants such as us, intelligent fabrics represent a new business model that of joining hands with former competitors to offer demanding consumers something new as a way to beat the global downturn. He should know. The holding company filed for Chapter 11 protection in the US last year and is counting on technology licensing arrangements round the world to ease it into the black.

Luckily for the ailing textiles major, the excitement surrounding smart fabrics has been contagious, travelling down the supply chain and across continents to hit apparel and fabric makers as diverse as Eddie Bauer, Lee Jeans, Gap, Levis, Haggar and Indias very own Arvind Brands. Arvind imports Nano-Texs stain repellent and wrinkle resistant cotton fabric to manufacture shirts and trousers retailed under its Arrow label. With local manufacture expected to replace imports in the near future, and import duties erased from the price equation Nano apparel are roughly 20 per cent more expensive than their conventional counterparts the future has never looked brighter for the clumsy Indian.