Japanese fabric and clothing makers are competing fiercely in a brand new field: T-shirts and other clothing containing popular dietary supplements.
Nutritive substances including amino acids, vitamins, xylitol and food additives are attracting the spotlight as materials in clothing.
Garments containing such supplements theoretically help to maintain the PH balance in skin or give the person wearing them cool comfort after perspiring.
Clothing makers have high expectations for nutritive substances that they believe will become highly promising revenue sources.
But an official at major department store said it is difficult to understand the effect of the supplements in clothing.
Sporting goods maker Mizuno Corp. and Ajinomoto Co. jointly developed the clothing material Amino Veil last year by combing an amino acid into fabric. They put tennis and golf clothes as well as T-shirts made with the fabric on sale in earnest in March.
They mainly used “arginine,” made from about 20 kinds of amino acids, because it theoretically helps to regenerate skin.
“It dissolves when someone perspires and enhances the material’s ability to absorb moisture and help keep the skin’s PH level balanced,” said a Mizuno public relations department official.
He said Mizuno plans to post 3 billion yen in sales of goods related to Amino Veil in five years, or about six times the amount projected for the current fiscal year.
“Sales are going almost according to our plans,” said.
Jeans maker Teijin Wow Co. of Osaka is selling Wow Amino Jean for women. The jeans incorporate amino acid in the material.
An official at the company said the jeans look no different than their more pedestrian counterparts.
But “you get a soft sense when you touch them,” the official said. “You don’t feel the knees thrust out when you ride a bicycle or climb stairs.”
Xylitol, used to sweeten chewing gum and candy, absorbs heat when it comes into contact with water.
Major sportswear maker Yonex Co. began marketing its Very COOL brand of clothing, which incorporates xylitol, last year. It said the clothing is at its best when worn by people playing sports in the sun or for a long time.
Fuji Spinning Co. has developed a method to integrate ingredients such as caffeine and seaweed essence into fabrics in a stable form, preventing them from dissolving when the fabrics are washed.
Fuji Spinning officials said it is believed that people wearing clothing made from the fabric absorb the ingredients through their skin, but they cautioned that wearing this sort of clothing is not an alternative to nutrition in food.
Makers said they will keep the price of supplement-enhanced clothing at the level of regular clothing. But they said they hope new products will become a source of profits as sportswear is priced higher than ordinary clothing and brings high profit ratios.
Ajinomoto has been supplying amino acids to other companies and is active in researching uses for the substances in areas other than foodstuffs.
“The volume of supply to nonfood areas has been growing by more than 10 percent a year over the past several years,” an official of the company’s public relations department said. The amount supplied “to the clothing area is still small but will grow considerably in the future.”