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The Printing Industry’s New Digital Face

Old printing methods are losing ground in the apparel industry.

In a time where fast fashion remains prevalent and technology continues to change the production process, more brands are beginning to use digital textile printing to quickly generate clothes.

Although analogous textile printing remains popular, it is often complex, costly and offers limited design flexibility.

“Right now textile printing is done by analogue,” said Ray Weiss, Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) digital imaging specialist at a Texworld USA panel in New York last week. “If you look at traditional textile printing, you are limited to the number of colors and screens.”

Unlike analogous textile printing, digital textile printing is cost-efficient, fosters personalization and helps brands efficiently navigate the changing retail landscape.

Compared to analogous textile printing, digital textile printing provides brands the opportunity to streamline operational expenses. According to Xennia, a U.K.-based inkjet printing company, digital textile printing is more affordable because low set-up and running costs allow brands to minimize their inventory requirements. Further, short runs are less expensive and don’t take a toll on brands’ budgets.

Personalization is also possible with digital textile printing. Today, consumers are demanding more customizable products and democratic design when they shop for clothes. Digital textile enables brands to print a wide variety of patterns and designs, which satisfies consumers that are looking for more distinguishable apparel products.

Digital textile printing also allows brands to efficiently take on retail’s transformation period. While e-commerce continues to battle traditional brick-and-mortar concepts, brands are using digital textile printing to switch to other business models, including “see now, buy now” and fast fashion.

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“Fast fashion has been around for a while, but it is the timing of that that has been shrunk by digital textile printing,” Weiss said.

The fast fashion supply chain is dramatically reduced with digital textile printing, due to a combination of low set-up and running costs and personalization capabilities. A few years ago, brands would have to wait months from material selection to finished apparel product. Digital textile printing doesn’t require the extensive amount of labor and resources associated with traditional apparel production. Instead, it acts as an all-in-one solution for brands that want to conserve their budgets and design merchandise differently.

Digital textile printing is gaining momentum in the apparel industry. In coming years, it is possible that more brands will pursue a printing methodology that enables them to cut costs, customize their apparel in-house and stay on top of the retail game.