Every morning in Qatar, thousands of construction workers kickstart their day by drenching their uniforms in water. This brief two-minute ritual serves a crucial purpose: When these laborers are working outdoors, often enduring scorching summer temperatures exceeding 120F (48C), their uniforms have the remarkable ability to reduce skin temperature by as much as 8C (14F) for up to seven hours.
These innovative uniforms, branded as StayQool suits, are crafted by the British startup Techniche UK. They consist of a specially designed mesh outer layer and a waterproof inner layer, allowing the suits to absorb and dissipate heat through evaporation.
Furthermore, they are customizable, enabling workers to add or remove cooling collars or wrist cuffs as needed.
Techniche is not the only player recognizing the potential of heat-beating apparel. In a world where 2023 is poised to set new records for high temperatures, numerous startups are venturing into the development of cutting-edge technologies and textiles to keep people cool.
In the United States, efforts are underway to commercialize wearable technology that emulates air-conditioning, while Chinese scientists are exploring the creation of highly reflective fabrics. As the prevalence of heat and heatwaves continues to rise in the years ahead, the pursuit of cooling solutions has become a paramount goal for clothing manufacturers.
Sophie Bakalar, a partner at the venture firm Collaborative Fund, which invests in environmentally conscious apparel startups, notes, “As climate change drives temperatures to unprecedented extremes, consumer demand for cooling apparel is also accelerating.
This trend is expected to persist as industrialization advances in the Global South, granting consumers greater disposable income to invest in comfort.”
Extreme heat isn’t merely inconvenient; it poses substantial risks to human health and the economy. Heat stress is especially perilous for vulnerable populations like children and the elderly and can worsen existing medical conditions.
Productivity also suffers in the sweltering heat. In 2021, heat exposure resulted in the loss of 470 million potential labor hours worldwide across agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and the service industry, as reported by data compiled by The Lancet.
In the United States, President Joe Biden has estimated that heatwaves cost the nation $100 billion annually.
Research indicates that heatwaves are likely to become more frequent in the coming decades. For companies like Techniche, this forecast translates into a promising growth opportunity.
Today, the startup markets a range of products, including vests, hats, neckbands, and other garments equipped with built-in cooling technology, serving both corporate clients and individual customers.