From denim diapers and rugged fire-proof jeans to flowing eco-friendly and anti-bacterial material in bright hues, the Indian textile industry is experimenting with technical fabrics in a big way.

As investment pours in from companies and brands such as LNJ Denims, Neva Garments and Birla Cellulose, ace fashion designers Aruna Singh and Bibi Russell and top IIT scientists are working to churn out technical fabrics.

Technical textiles are not only confined to industrial applications like roads and construction activities, but also find a place in lifestyle products like kitchen wipes, lingerie, bedsheets and clothes.

Designers mix different yarns to make specialty fabrics.

These can be used to make sportwear that absorbs and dries sweat and curtains with anti-microbial qualities, besides other products.

“We have recently unveiled a range of technical textiles, including denims that don’t absorb water. We will invest Rs 200 crore on research and development in the next three years, signifying growing demand for the technical fabric,” said Y C Gupta, the CEO of LNJ Denims.

He said that as the cost of production is high in Europe and the US, the focus is shifting to South-East Asia, where the basic wage structure is low.

Neva Garments Executive Director and CEO Vishal Jain credits the increasing popularity of technical fabric to growing awareness. “While emphasis remains on cotton because of hot climate, people come across an array of textiles abroad. Then they demand the same back home,” he said.

Neva annually launches at least 3-4 new special fabrics.

The zooming interest of firms in specialty textiles has increased sponsorships for research in the field, which is indicative of companies evolving a long-term outlook.

Kushal Sen, the Professor and Head of the Textile Technology Department at IIT Delhi, said that earlier, companies would mostly approach the institute for consultation on short-term assignments.

“But in last 2-3 years, the department has seen at least a 10 per cent surge in research sponsorships, as corporates have realised that investing in textile research will bring them long-term capital gains,” he said.

According to government data, the country’s technical textiles market is estimated to grow to Rs 70,151 crore by 2012-13 from an estimated Rs 41,756 crore in 2007-08, or about 11 per cent annually.

Talking about the untapped potential of the technical textiles, Gupta said: “A boom in the technical fabric market is just waiting to happen, as the country is blessed with a burgeoning middle class. In the next five years, its market size would reach several thousand crore (rupees).”

Fashion designer Aruna Singh, who romances with traditional fabrics like the ‘rough’ khadi and kota dooria, said: “People want different textures all the time. And what could be more unique than handspun (technical) fabrics.”

She claimed that monthly sales of items of special fabric have gone up nearly 75 per cent in the past five years.

While acknowledging the trend, FICCI Additional Director & Head — Manufacturing Chetan Bijesure said only four sectors — packaging, automotives, infrastructure and clothing — use the speciality fabric at present.

He, however, said the Indian market has huge potential and the consumption of these materials will pick up.

More In: Industry | Business