Real or fake?

Technologists at AgResearch have demonstrated how a new system can be used to detect fake designer garments.

The textile tracing system, called Verifi TT, was developed by AgResearch scientists in partnership with an Australian company, DatatraceDNA.

It will be particularly valuable for the high-brand apparel market where copycat manufacturers sell imitations as the real thing.

Here’s how it works. First, fabric or yarn is manufactured containing a unique customer-distinct fibre tracer. This tracer fibre is added early in the normal textile-processing sequence in minute quantities – around 300g of tracer fibre per tonne of conventional textile fibre.

The tracer material can then be identified in clothing using a handheld scanner. By scanning the Verifi TT handheld reader over the fabric or yarn, it can detect the tracer and then verify the authenticity of the fabric.

The Verifi TT tracer itself is invisible to the eye because of the minute quantities used. The test can be applied at all points along the value chain, including the retailer’s shelf.

The system also has promising applications in textile labels. A label containing Verifi TT tracer in a garment can be scanned to check its authenticity and can prevent unauthorised over-runs of leading-brand garments by commission manufacturers, which are often subsequently sold on the grey market.

AgResearch textile science and technology section manager Dr Peter Ingham said while there are some other technologies available to identify the origins of fibres and fabric, they are expensive and destructive because they mostly involve cutting and analysing the fabric.

It also requires specialised skill and time-consuming, expensive laboratory testing, whereas the Verifi TT system can be operated by anybody. ‘And it’s 100 per cent safe for use in all textile applications,’ he added.

The technology is already used for verifying or tracing the origin of luxury goods, bespoke brands and products such as casino chips. Scientists from DatatraceDNA worked with AgResearch scientists to adapt the technology for use in the textile industry.

AgResearch has successfully trialled this technology in the textile industry. Although little marketing effort has been made as yet, companies from China, Germany, Italy, the US and Australia have expressed strong interest in the idea.