The usage of textiles in the graphics market is changing more rapidly than almost any other substrate, but what’s driving this? Talking with Andrew Simmons, sales manager at leading material supplier, Soyang Europe, it quickly becomes clear that it’s a number of factors that combine together to create an upsurge in demand...
“We’re very well placed on this one,” starts Simmons. “The range of products we carry stretches across fabrics, PVC, wallpaper and beyond – with new substrates coming on line all the time, so we get to witness the shifting sands of demand first hand.” The first thing Simmons alludes to is a change in customer requirements – and when he refers to ‘customers’ he’s talking about his printing clients’ customer base – the brands themselves.
“The high street retailers and blue chip organisations’ agendas are changing. They’re required to demonstrate a green bias to every aspect of their operation, not least with display graphics – and these can be delivered perfectly by a printed textile product,” adds Simmons.
The use of water based inks, a recycled or recyclable substrate and a low carbon transport footprint all tick the necessary eco boxes, but Simmons is also keen to promote the additional benefits of a fabric graphic. “The knock-on effects of specifying a polyester fabric graphic are substantial,” he confirms. “The creative potential is enormous and the look and feel of retail PoS made from textile can really add value to a brand’s communication.”
Fabric’s inherent tactility is ideally suited for creating in store displays - be they lightboxes, hanging banners or even printed furnishings – and for promotional graphics that are frequently replaced, the ease of handling and transport play a big part in their allure. “For covering large areas, fabric’s light weight and simple installation mean you’re not sending a team of fitters every few weeks to change the graphics,” Simmons states. “It’s also nigh on impossible to damage in transit, with none of the risk that goes with shipping large rolls of PVC that can dent or pallets of printed boards that may be chipped or spoiled.”
With European manufactured fabrics printable with dye sublimation, UV and latex inks, Soyang is also seeing an increase in textiles used more widely outdoors, as the UK starts to catch up with its European cousins. “We’re definitely lagging behind the continent,” remarks Simmons. “Whether it’s the fact there’s more outdoor space, more time spent living and working outdoors or simply that they’ve been doing it for years, but the benefits for the UK in not being ahead of the game is that all the R&D has been done for us!”
The weather – and everything it throws at us – plays an important part in correctly specifying printed outdoor textiles. Getting the fabric specification right is crucial. “The light fastness of the print, structural integrity of the fabric and mechanics of the installation are important to get right,” say Simmons. Factors that don’t come into play indoors can have a serious effect on the success – or failure – of an external installation, but he is keen to stress the positives too. “A flag on a car dealer’s forecourt or a series of mesh banners at an outdoor event have a look that’s impossible to recreate with any other substrate. Your brand as a graphic becomes part of the environment influenced by the wind and prevailing conditions and can really come to life. There’s just no substitute for it.”
With more and more brands realising the potential of printed textiles within their display graphics portfolio, it’s not surprising that more companies are specifying them – and so the circle turns. As the face of display graphics evolves, so do the substrates that make it up and Simmons concludes that textiles are set to become even more influential. “Our European manufacturing partners are continually developing new textile products – lighter, brighter, longer-lasting, more sustainable and with an even greater variety of finishes – so we’re more than excited to see what our customers will create for their clients down the line.”
For more information on Soyang Europe, please visit www.soyang.co.uk
[Image caption: Soyang Europe’s textiles are used in many formats – shown here as event management barriers for the London Olympics]