Masks, Social Distancing and Covid-Repellant Fashion?

Last week, Australian women’s activewear label Lorna Jane was fined almost $40,000 for claiming that a range of their activewear could protect against viruses and bacteria.[1]¬†The Secretary of the Department of Health stated that such advertising could have “detrimental consequences for the Australian community” by causing people to become complacent and reduce the practise of recommended protective measures. Lorna Jane has defended its ‘LJ Shield’ technology, asserting that this technology has been in the works for two years and has undergone the required checks to validate its ability to reduce bacteria by 99.9%. Despite these assurances, plenty of consumers are not impressed, as this is the latest in the line of public controversies instigated by the activewear brand.

Then today I stumble upon an article in Vogue¬†discussing the various companies investing in antiviral fashion technology.[2] I didn’t realise that technology in clothing could actually be capable of repelling viruses and bacteria, but apparently this is the 21st century.

Antibacterial clothing has been around for ages, and now due to Covid-19, companies have fast-tracked their testing. According to Vogue, Swiss company HeiQ has invented an invisible film for fabrics that kills 99.9% of the virus that causes Covid-19. Research has shown that clothes can act as a transmission route for viruses, and therefore the implementation of antibacterial technology can minimise your chance of catching the virus if it serves to kill the virus within minutes. This increases the functionality of clothes in a time when we’re modifying all of our behaviours to avoid catching the virus. And why shouldn’t fashion be used to act as another barrier to the virus, if possible?

LJ and HeiQ have allegedly confirmed that their technology is capable of doing just that, but this is where the fear of complacency emerges. Purchasers of antibacterial and antiviral fashion cannot abandon social distancing or remove their masks simply because their clothing affords them a layer of protection. Sellers of these products will need to explain how the technology works and include a disclaimer as to how it will not necessarily protect against transmission. If consumers are informed of the nature of the product and the need to continue to abide with other protective measures, then we should be celebrating this functional use of fashion. We have clothes to regulate temperature, protect against sunburn and to repel against water. It makes sense that clothes should also be made to shield against germs and viruses as we’re desperately seeking ways to protect ourselves during this pandemic.

The idea of antiviral fashion no longer seems so outlandish.

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