Hidden benefits of uniform approach

Colours, patterns and materials are selected and put together at Zayed Military City factory to blend into desert backgrounds The factory is responsible for manufacturing the uniforms for the Armed Forces and the police.

April 11, 2011 (Abu Dhabi) Employees of Italian Textile Solutions make uniforms for the UAE Armed Forces and Etihad Airways at the factory in Zayed Military City April 11, 2011 (Sammy Dallal / The National)

ABU DHABI // It takes the kind of precision tailoring normally associated with a good Italian suit to create the uniforms that help conceal the men and women of today's UAE military.

Surrounded by many of his creations, Fabio Angelini, the executive manager of Italian Textile Solutions which designs and puts together the army's and some police uniforms, showed how camouflage prints are chosen.

One appeared to be a series of integrated "digital" squares in shades of beige and brown.

"This print is best for the UAE because it blends with the colours of the desert," he said, pointing to a sample of fabric.

In the back room of the factory in Zayed Military City, a wide collection of army jackets, shoes and even sportswear lay on display. He leafed through a booklet with seven different types of camouflage prints.

"It is like a fashion show now - everyone is looking for something new and better," he said. "Camouflage is a long study, because first we study the landscape to have the print match the colours for the reflection factor ... a kind of face-face combination."

The technology of concealment has come a long way, he said. The first modern camouflage patterns were simply natural colours in basic patterns.

"Then came digital colours, where different shades are mixed with three colours," he said.

The forces have been wearing digital camouflage for three years.

The latest technology, is the "spray effect," where the colours are blended in a spray-like formation.

And the colours chosen are tailored to the nation of the wearer - the green colour in one army jacket stands out compared with the UAE one.

"This is for the Italian army, because the landscape there has more greenery," Mr Angelini said. But the process is more complicated than just choosing suitable colours.

Factors that the naked eye cannot pick up must be taken into account too, such as adding as much black to the design as possible, even if it's just one per cent, without making it visible in the print.

Mr Angelini explained that white was extremely visible in the infrared spectrum, so black was needed to offset that.

In another corner of the room, a mannequin illustrates a different type of military garment: a beige flight suit for Apache helicopter pilots.

But there is more to the simple outfit than meets the eye.

Silver thread is used for stitching because of its anti-bacterial effects and resistance to collecting an electrical charge from nearby equipment.

Italian Textile Solutions has been providing the country's security forces with uniforms and accessories for 10 years.

Inside the factory, 200 machines address every step of crafting uniforms, badges and logos. But the machines do not work autonomously; each has a single operator.

"It is a one-machine, one-man business," he said.