Capturing the Consumer
Retailers Love Fabric’s Luxurious Look
by Melissa Tetreault
Part 6 of a 6-part Series
Many retailers realize how attractive fabric signage is to the human eye—the lack of glare, its soft feel. Thomas Poetz, director of marketing and product development, 3P Textiles, believes it is because fabric is something we can relate to, "Textiles are products that have a general positive image. People have this positive idea of fabric because we all wear it. It makes us comfortable, even in our own homes—we have curtains, cushions, and couches. This is the point of advertising, a positive feeling."
West coast-based Cad Fabulous was created in 1999 by Maya Roth. Since its inception, the company specializes in digital designs, wide format digital textile printing, engravings, and print production. Roth personally became involved with textile printing before Cad Fabulous was even created.
In the early 1990’s she tested new printers, dyes, and fabric treatments and studied how they withstood industry standards and restrictions. Her immense interest of fabrics and their benefits shows not only in her long time commitment to the industry but in how she speaks of this type of output. Roth comments on the positive uses of fabric, "Fabric images have many wonderful attributes that suggest quality, warmth, and sophistication that other print mediums fail to deliver. Couple this with the quality of the new digital printers and always the final ingredient of a skilled printer, and fabric images have gained the level of those considered to be photo quality."
Serving the West Coast and Beyond
Although Cad Fabulous primarily services much of the West coast, Roth admits they have several clients scattered throughout the country, mainly NY, SC, CO, and TX. Many of their clients, although national, have multiple locations, some even international. Generally, Cad Fabulous ships to their distribution centers and their customers handle it from there.
To handle their extensive array of clients the company is broken down into two separate divisions—the art division and the print division. The art division is primarily responsible for designing, Cad Fabulous’ art department can either help you custom design your art or will edit for you depending on your need. Roth explains, "We work closely with the customer on the manipulation of any designs to fit any market, the consultation of fabric lines—whether it be styling or designing, and repeat work and color both on flat and tone designs."
The print division handles both signage and textile orders. For signage, Roth frequently notices that the industry is using textile media for art simulation, "Retailers especially are using it because it is a non-reflective media that looks like art, is durable, and is easy to handle." Most of the company’s signage is printed on polyester fabrics, although Roth says it primarily depends on the client’s needs. Sometimes they will print on a variety of cottons, linen, and silk with their Mimaki printer.
Textile orders are primarily used to print short runs of samples prior to manufacturing the final product. Roth comments, "In this era it is a highly demanded service due to the large offshore manufacturing." Cad Fabulous also produces long runs, which usually equal up to several thousand yards of fabric. For one customer, Roth recreated the Chinese Mann Theater original title curtain—printing fabric at 110 feet wide and 45 feet tall.
About a year ago Roth was contacted by TriMedia USA, a company that had just purchased the U.S. manufacturing rights for a unique framing system from Germany called 3aART. The framing system is assembled without tools in under three minutes and the fabric is connected to it with just a hook and loop. "TriMedia was looking for a printing partner who could print images on fabric that were photo quality," Roth states. She continues, "They wanted to take this same quality of printing and approach the retail and marketing sectors for creating sophisticated images and placing them on the unique 3aART frames." With Cad Fabulous’ help TriMedia now offers a double-sided banner system as well as 10x10-foot fabric images for self-standing displays.
One of Cad Fabulous’ customers noticed soft signage’s benefits with the help of TriMedia. St. John Knits, a luxury women’s apparel company, ships a majority of their displays around the world. John Omlor, a member of the visual department at St John Knits, explains, "We have in-store knitting events in the U.S., Asia, and Europe and need a presentation that is easy to ship, assemble, and disassemble. Conventional foam core, gator board, [and] framed images cannot handle the wear and tear of this type of event set-up."
Omlor contacted John Rountree, from TriMedia, after he sent large rigid displays to several department stores for their knitting events and on arrival were found to be broken. Recalling the 3aArt framing system Rountree had shown him months earlier Omlor ordered 24, 40x50-inch fabric pictures to be placed in the 3aART frames. Omlor’s only requests were that the quality of print be exceptional and that the prints themselves could survive shipment.
The images were created in all of two weeks by Cad Fabulous and then sent away for the events. Once there, the images were placed around a center table where a St. John Knits master knitter demonstrated how blankets of fabric were created from the original knitting machines.
Fabric signage is profitable at all levels. Apparel companies attract customers with inviting displays. Shops such as Cad Fabulous are booming with orders. Fabric, hardware, and ink manufacturers also benefit from this profitable printing technique. The variety of fabrics (coated or uncoated), types of inks (aqueous, solvent, and oil), and hardware options (direct to print or dye sublimation), open up a level of marketing possibilities. With all of this room for success it certainly seems fabric signage is here to stay.