New space-age fiber lets tan through without burning

July 10, 1991|By Elinor J. Brecher | Elinor J. Brecher,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

In the old days, a saddle-leather tan was mandatory for any hip vacationer. It signaled even if this was not even remotely the case that a person had nothing better to do than loll on the beach day after day.

Besides, it looked SOOOO cool with white.

But now that we all know TANNING KILLS, a fried hide is as declasse as smoking. It means one does not respect one's body, the social faux pas of the Self-Esteem Age.

Not that we're ready to give up that toasty tinge. On the contrary, there are as many self-tanning schmeers on the market as sun blocks.

Patricia Underwood's tan-through headgear will be available soon from Neiman-Marcus and I. Magnin stores, in some 15 styles, at $25-$50.

"Patricia made the tan-through line chic," says Donal Carter, marketing director of Sanctuary Fabrics, the fashion division of the Virginia-based Inner Tech, which makes light-altering fabrics for the military. "She insists on beautiful crowns straw or fabric. But the brims on her hats are Sanctuary."

Mimi Abraham, an Underwood associate, said an initial problem cropped up in blocking the hats with heat and steam. The polymer fabric, which feels like the plastic in shower curtains, melted, but Sanctuary "has come up with a way of getting around it."

Carter said other well-known hat designers, including Michelle Jaffee and Eric Javits, are working with the fabric, which allows in the ultraviolet-A tanning rays. It also is being used for beach umbrellas.

"An independent testing lab confirmed Sanctuary effective even under the intense Florida midday sunshine, and assigned it an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 10, based on the FDA's (federal Food and Drug Administration) stringent code," Carter said.

He said swimsuit designer Esther Williams has told him once his company can figure out a way to make the fabric stretch, "we can walk away with (her) business."

Chanel has asked for a sample, he said. "They didn't say what they wanted it for, though."

Also in the works, according to Carter: ball caps, swimsuits with tan-through inserts that will create decorative tan designs on the skin, "for younger women," a tan-through beach jacket and awnings.

So far, the fabric comes in red, white, blue and lilac. The company is working on a full palette, Carter said.

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