It's the Outside That Counts
Apparel decoration. It ranges in complexity from marker-on-white-T-shirt designs made by senior-tripping high-schoolers to one-of-a-kind works of wearable art hand-stitched by Marc Jacobs himself. In the promotional industry, it's usually somewhere in between—a nice screen print, some embroidery, maybe a heat-seal patch if the mood is right.
But lately, apparel decorators have been stepping up their game. They're adding new and improved decorating methods to the repertoire of tried-and-true industry staples, giving distributors (and their clients) more options than ever before. Want to make your apparel promotion less "San Dimas HS Seniors '13!!!" and more Paris-Fashion-Week chic? Then put down the permanent marker and check out the four decorating techniques profiled below.
The print industry has been using digital printing for years, and apparel decorators have recently co-opted the technology—with good reason. As the name implies, full-color digital printing can produce a broader spectrum of colors, allowing for complex, high-definition logo designs.
According to Carleen Gray, chief marketing officer for Stahls' ID Direct, St. Clair Shores, Mich., full-color digital logos also offer fast turnaround times and no per-color fees, and can be applied to almost any fabric, including cotton, polyester, Lycra, spandex, nylon and leather. "Full-color digital logos make it possible to decorate various promotional items all with the same technique, to keep a consistent logo for brand recognition," she said. "It's a great decorating solution for short runs and difficult-to-decorate items."
It is this versatility that has full-color digital printing growing in popularity, especially among distributors whose clients have complicated logo designs or want nonstandard logo placement. Gray outlined one such situation, where a beverage brand needed zippered hoodies decorated with its full-color, gradient- and halftone-laden logo. The designs were applied in multiple locations—on the left chest, on the back, and down the sleeve—creating an eye-catching finished product. "The client was extremely pleased with the decorating results and an order was placed for not only full-zipper hoodies, but also for matching caps," Gray noted.