HOW DIGITAL TEXTILE PRINTING IS DISRUPTING THE FASHION INDUSTRY
At New York Fashion Week this year, one of the biggest events wasn’t held by Armani or Chanel, but Epson. The Japanese printing giant’s Digital Couture Showcase featured work from rising designers around the world created using digital textile printing.
Digital textile printing services are taking the fashion industry by storm, with digital fabric printing shooting past the one billion square metre mark this year and projected to hit two billion within three years.
Scalable And Customizable Digital Fabric Printing
The digital textile printing process works by applying prints directly onto the chosen fabric using a commercially available printer. This process uses up to 95 per cent less water than traditional screen printing and 75 per cent less energy, to say nothing of the waste it reduces.
However, the two most important factors that separate digital textile printing services from older methods are customizability and scalability. Whereas the costs associated with fabric printing meant that thousands of sheets had to be printed at once and sold en masse to break even, digital fabric printing can produce small runs of pieces for almost the same cost as printing in bulk and can be printed much faster using print on demand services.
“We’re working with a lot of manufacturers who say they’re not doing 20,000 of the same garment anymore, but just doing 500 of them. Then they’ll do another 500, but in a slightly different color perhaps. They’re doing more things of smaller quantities,” Epson product manager Timothy “Digital enables a producer to be able to do that efficiently. The traditional method by comparison is not possible to do cost effectively.”
Whereas screen printing often takes months to produce garments in standard sizes, the digital textile printing process allows virtually any design that can go directly from a computer to a given fabric, in a given size, in a given colour effortlessly. It’s easy to imagine a future where someone is able to find a piece of clothing online and have it printed immediately according to their exact size and preferences, perhaps even in their own home.
How Will Digital Textile Printing Services Change The Fashion Industry?
But more than just making things easier for consumers, digital fabric printing has the capacity to democratize the fashion industry. Suddenly, up-and-coming designers in countries far and wide can produce their designs to their exact standards cheaply, without having to print it in bulk.
According to Canadian designer Hayley Elsaesser, one of the ingénues highlighted at Epson’s Digital Couture Showcase, digital fabric printing lets her create her way without having to worry about logistics.
“I’m known for my imaginative prints and outrageous colour palette. When I design, I let my creativity flow freely and don’t like to be boxed in,” she told Graphic Arts Magazine. “Fabric sublimation allows for diversity of textures and materials, and ensures that I don’t have to limit myself in the design process.”
As quickly as digital textile printing services are growing, they still haven’t been fully embraced by the industry at large. However, in the coming years, there’s no telling how artificial intelligence and robotics advances will further enhance the digital textile printing process.