By Olivia Cahoon
Digital print technology grants artists and designers the ability to broaden brands with limited edition runs of fabric-based items like apparel, home furnishings, and upholstery. The freedom to print any graphic or pattern is alluring for artistic professionals. Print service providers (PSPs) with digital print capabilities make this a viable, cost-effective option.
Above: Amy Caprice worked with North West London-based Contrado to produce fabrics for her Bloom & Gloom home collection. The fabric was printed, cut, and sewn in house, as where the china plates and wallpaper. Contrado uses a mix of dye-sub and direct to fabric printers from Epson, Mimaki, Mutoh, and Roland.
Handmade in London
Two people established Contrado Imaging Ltd. at a kitchen table in North West London in 2002. 15 years later, Contrado now has 11 specific country websites and trades worldwide. It operates from a 50,000 square foot warehouse and employs over 100 workers. Currently, Contrado has two brands—Contrado Imaging, an aspirational custom fabric printing brand that collaborates with artists and designers, and Bags of Love—a personalized gift and clothing company that specializes in printing on demand.
While Chris Childs, managing director and founder, Contrado, says traditional fabric printing is already a huge sector, he believes Contrado’s approach puts the creative opportunity entirely in the end user’s hands, granting less limitations and more control in addition to short print runs, minimum waste, and precise print quality.
“There’s virtually no limit to how small a job we can do. Users can really test their creative ideas before committing to a larger print job and can get something unique in a few days,” he offers.
According to Childs, a variety of industries request digitally printed textiles and as a result, Contrado works with numerous brands and startup companies. On its websites, contrado.co.uk and bagsoflove.com, users can design products within five minutes. “Contrado’s core values are to support and nurture creativity and originality, and change the way people buy fabrics and lifestyle products,” offers Childs.
Over 100 different types of fabrics and more than 450 products are in supply. These include cotton, lace, leather, organza, satin, silk, velvet, and a range of organic and natural textiles. The fabric is obtained from direct sources.
For synthetics and lima cotton, dye-sublimation (dye-sub) print methods are preferred. For natural fabrics it uses direct to fabric printing. The company operates a variety of digital printers from Epson, Mimaki USA, Inc., Mutoh America, Inc., and Roland DGA Corporation.
“While other methods of printing still have their place, as they’re essentially an art form, we couldn’t do what we do, to the standard that we do it, without digital printing. Digital printing is the bread and butter of Contrado,” admits Childs.
In 2016, repeat customer Amy Caprice approached Contrado to print custom designs used in a homeware collection. Caprice is a textile print designer for the loungewear label Bloom & Gloom. Originally, Caprice ordered fabric to create custom products to obtain her fashion degree. She soon expanded into collections by printing homeware and fashion.
The homeware collection consisted of 12 cushions, each with different designs, sizes, and fabrics in addition to one pair of slippers, 7.5 meters of wallpaper, six meters of ribbon, two table runners, five china plates, one decorative plate, and two rugs.
Contrado used a mixture of dye-sub printing for polyester fabrics and pigment printing for natural fabrics. Silk, suede, and polyester cotton were used for the cushions. The fabrics were printed, cut, and sewn in house. The company also printed on china plates and wallpaper.
The home collection was printed and finished four days after job submittal. Childs says this was one of the larger orders the company had worked on in the first few months of developing its store platform.
PSPs using digital print technology offer artists and designers the freedom to create unique textile creations from sweaters and footwear to lampshades and cushions.
Jan2018, Digital Output