The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by environmental sustainability, convenience, and supply chain optimisation, and the growing importance of technologies such as autonomous delivery robots and store assistants, smart checkout, and cashierless stores. In the last three years alone, there have been over 133,000 patents filed and granted in the retail industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Retail: Breathable fabric undergarments. 

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity. 

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have. 

70+ innovations will shape the retail industry 

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the retail industry using innovation intensity models built on over 128,000 patents, there are 70+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. 

Within the emerging innovation stage, ATM type vending kiosks, delivery returns handling, and shopping interface personalisation are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Retail trading platforms, injection-moulded shoes, and contactless payments are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are thermoformed fabric undergarments and breathable fabric undergarments, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for the retail industry 

Breathable fabric undergarments is a key innovation area in retail 

Breathable fabric undergarments are usually made of natural fabrics such as cotton that allow perspiration to escape from the body through moisture vapour transmission to the external surroundings. As a result, consumers remain comfortable as air circulation is maintained. 

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of breathable fabric undergarments.  

Key players in breathable fabric undergarments – a disruptive innovation in the retail industry  

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators. 

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to breathable fabric undergarments

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
NIKE 98 Unlock company profile
Hanesbrands 69 Unlock company profile
Wacoal Holdings 29 Unlock company profile
Bath & Body Works 25 Unlock company profile
Fast Retailing 19 Unlock company profile
PVH 16 Unlock company profile
Lululemon Athletica 15 Unlock company profile
Embry Holdings 13 Unlock company profile
EZbra Advanced Wound Care 10 Unlock company profile
Koch Industries 10 Unlock company profile
Utax. 8 Unlock company profile
Cupid Foundations 6 Unlock company profile
Regina Miracle International (Group) 5 Unlock company profile
Chico's FAS 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

NIKE is one of the leading patent filers in breathable fabric undergarments. Some other key patent filers in the space are Hanesbrands, Wacoal Holdings, Bath & Body Works, and Fast Retailing. Hanesbrands introduced the new X-Temp® Total Support Pouch® made with cooling fabric and breathable mesh panels for perfect separation and support. The company claims that this technology provides cooling benefits to men’s underwear along with breathability and durability.  

In terms of application diversity, Koch Industries leads the pack. Cupid Foundations and Bath & Body Works stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, EZbra Advanced Wound Care held the top position, followed by Koch Industries and Hanesbrands. 

Breathable fabric undergarments will become increasingly popular in the retail space as consumers look for natural fabrics that are more skin-friendly. The growing concerns for sustainability will also drive the demand for breathable fabric undergarments as these fabrics are made of organic raw materials that are environmentally friendly.  

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the retail industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Retail


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.