For a decade, U.S. textile executives have been saying that the best way for them to compete with overseas suppliers is to develop new products their competitors don’t have. That seems like a reasonable strategy, but the problem was that foreign mills seemed to be constantly on their heels.

This year, a pair of new fabric technologies hit store shelves. DuPont’s Teflon Fabric Protector and Burlington’s Nano-Care stain resistance were adopted by Dockers and Lee in new easy-care khakis.

Lee and Dockers heavily promoted the high-performance, stain-resistance properties of their new pants in TV ad campaigns featuring characters who really put the pants to the test. In Lee’s spot, a woman intentionally pours a glass of red wine on her pants to make a point to her mother-in-law, while the Dockers spot features a man who attends an exceptionally messy Las Vegas bachelor party and comes home with suspiciously clean pants.

Sources said the pants have sold well, despite costing about $10 more than similar styles without the treatments. Getting consumers to pay a little extra for a garment with an additional function has been something of a grail for domestic textile concerns in recent years and if they’re successful in keeping this business, it will likely present them with new opportunities.

But the question remains how long it will take the technologies to be copied and produced at lower prices.

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