By Michael Ryan, Group Exhibition Manager, FESPA
Many people associate apparel branding with screen printing, and if you have the high volume orders then this is probably still the road to take, though digital direct-to-garment (DTG) printing is making significant inroads, with higher end digital systems capable of printing 300+ shirts an hour.
The high volume production end of the spectrum is incredible in the extent of its industrialisation – if you’re interested, check out the presentation from Mark Gervais of China’s Ningbo Shenzhou Knitting Company from our recent FESPA Global Summit.
But that’s an extreme end of the scale, which services the major retail, fashion and sportswear sectors at a global level. The good news for digital wide format printers and sign and graphics businesses is that you don’t have to be working for household fashion brands to generate profit from printed apparel. It’s a very viable diversification target for wide format printers, and can be a natural extension of a promotional products and brand communication portfolio.
If you’re already producing posters and POS, for example, why not also produce printed promowear for retail and business customers? If much of your work is for small individual customers or microbusinesses – banners, vehicle wraps, custom signage, for example – then personalised printed apparel can be an excellent opportunity. Think shirts for local sports teams, personalised t-shirts for parties and events, branded garments for businesses. Digital technology enables ultra-short runs of personalised prints that can command a surprisingly high margin for very little effort. Local, individual, personalised can be three valuable differentiators.
If you have already invested in a print-and-cut machine, at the most basic level you need only add a good stock of heat transfer vinyls, a heat press, and some blank apparel and you’re ready to start making money from apparel branding. (A good supplier of blank apparel is essential; happily, many apparel suppliers exhibiting at FESPA Fabric can show you a great selection of products available on demand.)
If you’re committed to apparel as a business development strategy, a direct-to-garment solution may simplify your entry into this market, helping to surmount some of the complications that inevitably arise from handling textile substrates, assisting with workflow automation, and delivering scalable productivity that can far exceed what can be achieved using more laborious step-by-step processes. The key is to assess what your production volumes are likely to be, depending on your business plan, and to specify your equipment accordingly.
FESPA Digital 2014 incorporates FESPA Fabric, which since 2010 has specifically addressed the opportunities around garment printing and decoration, for fashion and promowear applications.
This year FESPA Fabric offers a significant line-up of equipment suppliers who can help you to understand the pros and cons of the different approaches. Check out the exhibitor list here.
Make time for the FESPA Fabric Hub too. FESPA Fabric sponsor Kornit Digital will lead daily ‘tips and tricks’ seminars for digital direct-to-garment printing, and if you’re still weighing up the benefits of DTG versus dye sublimation, then there’s a dedicated session from Christopher Bernat of Vapor Apparel/ Source Custom to help you understand how these options stack up, depending on your applications and customer base.
You can also hear from Catherine Cresswell of Infotrends and Smithers Pira, exploring the trends in digital textile printing and finishing, and diving deeper into the range of processes, materials and ink types, as well as a raft of other printers and technology experts. Find the full Fabric Hub programme - with session dates and times - here.