Investment in promoting R&D in wearable textile-based personal systems that allow health monitoring, protection and safety has picked up in a big way in the last decade. With wearable apparels fast becoming an obsession amongst consumers, there are companies that are now investing and building designing and programming departments that complement every possible imagination. As it is with any sector, unless there are efforts to invest big in research and development (R&D), nothing will grow and the ones who come close to what a human mind imagines are the ones who stand out.
Taking a lead in the region is Sri Lanka, which has over the past few years steadily strengthened its hold on the sector with many textile and apparel bigwigs marking their presence. Some such Sri Lankan firms who have managed to stand out in the ‘smart wearable’ industry not only for their quality but also for the innovative capabilities and state-of-the-art R&D centres are MAS Holdings, Hela Clothing and Brandix to name a few.
MAS Holdings, Sri Lanka has shown why it’s one of the pioneering leaders in smart wearables
True to its continual commitment to innovation and providing the best of the products, MAS Holdings joined hands with Flextronics International Ltd., not so long ago, to build new revolutionary wearable technologies. With around 200,000 professionals across 30 countries, Flex is a leading sketch-to-scale solutions firm that designs and builds intelligent products for a connected world.
Together, MAS Holdings and Flex integrated a new collaborative technology into apparels that also extends to working with an ecosystem of independent third-party collaborators. The focus has been on developing new technologies, bringing new products to market and streamlining processes. MAS Holdings has constantly made it distinct that with the collaboration, the intent is to develop next-generation wearables and smart apparels that are optimised through innovations in technology, textiles and fabrics.
Besides, through Sketch-to-Scale product development, at the design stages, MAS Holdings and Flex offer clothing brands a simplified development process to integrate the next generation wearable technology. It is the attention to minutest of details at every stage while analysing and developing a product for its consumers that has taken MAS Holdings to the position where it stands today.
Take the case of Lumo Run! Launched in 2016, Lumo Run yet again stood out as a perfect case of ‘smart apparel’ that beautifully integrated technology and function – over the years becoming an athlete’s portable running coach. This technology is based on sports biomechanics research on distance running done at Loughborough University (the UK). The study resulted in new knowledge on running technique and identifying key characteristics for ideal running form.
Mahesh Amalean, Chairman, MAS Holdings Chairman, says “Global partnerships have always played a key role in the success of MAS, thereby helping us move into new frontiers in process, product and technology.” MAS Holdings believes its collaboration with Flex has helped integrating technology into apparel and delivering revolutionary products to the consumer. With the experience of over 30 years of manufacturing for the world’s largest brands, MAS has unparalleled knowledge of the human body and the way it moves, as well as fabric wearability and material science.
Twinery – the spine of MAS Holdings
Twinery is that spine of MAS Holdings that’s helped the apparel giant reach the pinnacles of success. Twinery – the innovation arm of MAS Holdings – is home to over 50 disruptive technologies across materials, lighting, heating, odour protection and aqua-repellency. With more than 3 decades of experience in manufacturing for the world’s largest brands, Twinery has unparalleled knowledge of the human body and biomechanics, in addition to gaining expertise in fabric wearability and material science. Every day it explores innovative ways to set up new textile technologies and introduce smarter apparel and soft goods to market. Its innovations have always focused on four chief technology areas, namely, knitting, assembly, colour and surface functionalisation.
The company has been using technology in various segments that include smart textiles wherein apparel solutions can sense and react, or in digital colouration enabling specialised full garment printing capability. Material formation using weft, warp, as well as circular and flat knitting capability has gained prominence as has in stitchless garment assembly. And these are just a few of many areas where Twinery has been building textile technologies.
Twinery believes in building business around 3 main pillars, namely innovation, digital and sustainability. In fact, innovation is Twinery’s reason for being a core pillar at MAS. It develops scientific and engineering solutions that transform the human/textile interface, putting groundbreaking, life-improving technologies right next to one’s skin.
Also Read: Smart wearables shape the future of apparel!
The innovations by Twinery transform businesses, enhance lives and reshape expectations, all thanks to its world-class scientists, designers, engineers, marketers and entrepreneurs, who create and commercialise the technologies of tomorrow and bring them to the market today.
In fact, Twinery’s 15/25 initiative is a commitment to 15 promises that it plans to fulfill by 2025 to change how its business will intervene and innovate to tackle the environmental and social challenges.
At Twinery, the digital strategy is underpinned by an excellent R&D team and a technology partner ecosystem, which works closely with digital technologies such as software bots, augmented and virtual reality, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and video analytics. And this is where MAS has succeeded in establishing its supremacy in providing innovative yet alluring smart wearables.
Hela Clothing’s strong R&D has helped it stand out in the crowd!
Quite like Mas Holdings, Hela Clothing too has been leaving a mark in smart wearables sector. The US $ 200 million company is known for offering sustainability-focused apparel supply chain solutions, and has been working closely with global brands, from design to delivery, in the intimate, sleepwear and kidswear ranges.
Helavation – an innovation centre based in Sri Lanka and a proud subsidiary of Hela Clothing – created quite a stir with the success of augmented reality ‘zero gravity’ T-shirt, which it had launched under Tesco’s F&F apparel brand. Made for boys aged 7-12, shoppers can download a zero gravity app that helps them explore the T-shirt print through augmented reality. What makes this application unique is that it unlocks an astronaut game. Players can access the game only if their T-shirt is close at hand thereby creating an additional level of interactivity to the T-shirt.
And they have been doing this almost consistently – all thanks to its highly motivated team of innovative minds who strive to raise customer’s expectations of whatever is possible with technology. Hela – through Helavation – has been adding value to its existing customers whilst also venturing into the immeasurable possibilities of the wearable tech space. The goal is to deliver products that are out of this world, and that’s what Hela has been doing over the years.
Helavate your expectation of what is possible! This is what Helavate believes in and that helps them today in creating wearable product innovations in the smart clothing/wearable tech segment. Its lean team of tech genies comprises rocket scientists (from Kingston University), data scientists (from MIT and Stanford University), mechatronics engineers (from University of Moratuwa) and computer scientists. Besides, there are senior merchants and technical teams with rich experience in apparels, who are committed to the task of applying their innovative mind to the industry through materials, products, processes and applications. That says it all!
Having design offices in London and New York helps this Sri Lanka-based company to stay closely connected with the changing trends from the fashion sector. With 16 production units spread across Sri Lanka, Kenya, Ethiopia and Mexico, Hela is always committed to innovation and expansion, while simultaneously providing its employees enough space to grow in an environment that encourages a perfect blend of sports and work culture.
The innovation process at Hela is organised into 5 phases namely Ideation, Research, Planning, Prototyping and Launch.
Phase 1 or Ideation is the creation and formation of ideas and concepts via immersion, bottom line thinking, creative brainstorming and strategic planning and this is where innovation begins at Hela. Using insights into its customers, the apparel industry and modern technologies, Hela begins building and then developing simple ideas into the next big innovations.
At the Research stage, it’s all about thinking what nobody else has thought! Once an idea comes up, the team at Hela delves deep into the subject matter to gain a complete understanding of what has already been achieved in that space – consequently understanding where the opportunities lie for true innovation.
Then there’s the Planning stage. At Hela, once the idea is researched, concept is created, mock-ups are produced, a detailed execution plan is made with a focus on turning the idea into a reality.
During the final stage of Prototyping, Hela’s talented team of engineers, designers and merchandisers works 24X7 to ensure a perfect end product.
The fifth phase is that of Launch wherein the aim is to get the product over the finishing line. From marketing and branding to product placement, Hela ensures that any Helavation product is not only of the highest international standards, but also one that has a great product-market fit. As it says “The last 10 per cent it takes to launch something takes as much energy as the first 90 per cent.” It is important to mention here that like Twinery and Helavation, labs like InQube – the design and innovation arm of Brandix Group – too are leaving a lasting impression in apparel innovation.
Brandix Group’s InQube labs! The 360 makerspace dedicated for apparel innovation
‘InQube labs’ is an all-round centric hub for technology development and cross-pollination, enabling rapid product innovation. The Sri-Lanka-based 360 degree technology development centre today houses virtually all current and emerging apparel technology infrastructure under single roof. InQube is the design, innovation and activewear arm of the reputed Brandix Group with a vision to bring next generation apparel solutions to life. InQube also comprises a manufacturing arm that overlooks manufacturing in Sri Lanka, Haiti and Cambodia, a design house in the UK and an innovation hub with a state-of-the-art Maker Space in Sri Lanka.
The state-of-the-art technology centre comprises chemistry laboratories for modern material research and technologies like knitting, injection moulding, hot melt lamination, printing and bonding. Besides, there are advanced automation and customisation platforms, emerging additive technologies such as 3D printing and a bio mechanical laboratory for in-depth performance product testing. With multiple technologies under a single roof, InQlabs is arguably the largest makerspace dedicated for the innovation of apparels in the region.
Technologies at InQube fortify the principles of human and planet centric design, helping it strengthen its belief that modern technology for performance should integrate with leading edge fashion design so as to bring value to real-life consumer experience. What’s made InQube – and along with it the reputed Brandix Group – champions is its efforts to break boundaries and beat expectations in innovation. That’s what has made Brandix become what it has become – and InQube has a big role in making that happen.
These innovation labs are futuristic and have roots in ground realities, and that is why the developments coming from these labs are path breaking. Continuing the series on wearable technologies, team AR will be talking about the latest developments in the wearable domain from around the world in another detailed feature.