A new method for identifying whether a designer piece of clothing is bona-fide as opposed to fake, has been developed by a researcher at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, who invented a thread with unique optical properties which create concealed patterns in fabric that only become visible under polarized light.
The technology could be applied to other speciality fabrics such as the textile used in vehicles and caravans.
“Clothing manufacturers could start using the thread right away to put a signature pattern in their garments. The equipment needed to see the pattern is fairly simple, and is already in place at Swedish Customs, for example,” says Christian Müller, researcher in polymer technology at Chalmers University of Technology.
Müller created the partially invisible thread from polyethylene and a dye molecule that absorbs visible light. The thread is weaved into a pattern that is invisible to the naked eye but which can be seen using a polarization filter.
The invisible thread can be created using different combinations of several types of dye molecules that are bonded onto different synthetic fibre textiles, such as nylon, or natural fibres such as wool and silk. It is this unique combination that pirate manufacturers will find hard to copy.
“They can obtain the equipment needed to read the pattern and ascertain the optical spectrum produced by a specific signature, but they cannot know which combination of components will produce the specific spectrum. And there are loads of different dye molecules available for use,” explains Müller
The idea is for a brand to be associated with its own special combination of textile fibres and dye molecules. The thread is allegedly easy and inexpensive for a company to produce.
“The production process itself is uncomplicated,” Müller says.
Swedish Customs has seen a dramatic rise in the trade of counterfeit and pirated goods over the past few years both within the EU and globally. Counterfeit goods affect companies, their employees and consumers alike. The difference between a genuine garment and a knockoff is often hard to spot.