Sixteen degrees and snowing… That was the weather in Milwaukee when I left for the sunny, and high seventies/low eighties weather of Long Beach, California for this years Imprinted Sportswear Show. If anyone needed a reason to jet out and check out what’s the latest from hundreds of vendors and trade experts; that just might be the best.
From my perspective though, this year’s largest apparel decorator event kicked off 2014 in a big way. Crowds were not only huge, but overwhelmingly optimistic on their business outlook for this upcoming year. I spoke with printers, shop owners, vendors and industry media, and everyone was pointing to this year being a great one. Let me tell you, that is really encouraging. Why? Well, it’s been my experience that sometimes this industry puts on the “doom and gloom hat” and that’s one party favor that’s sometimes hard to take off.
From the shop perspective, the dozens of folks that I spoke with were all on the hunt for something special for their company. New equipment, the latest styles of apparel blanks, ink, chemicals, emulsion, screen-frames, embroidery, heat transfer, dye-sub, applique, shop supplies…you name it, they had it on the floor. It was great bumping into long time industry friends and making new ones. I had a huge list of people that I wanted to see, but if I missed you – I just flat ran out of time (or I came by your booth and you were too swamped)!!
For the third year running, I taught a class on Sustainability and how shops can lower their operating costs by adopting a better strategy for running their companies. The turnout was great, with 30 some-odd people in the class, but the interaction from the group was better. It is always wonderful when people open up and share, and I am very thankful that these people took time out of their day to learn something new. (Thanks!!) Adopting a Sustainability program has proven that you can do the right thing, while operating with bigger profits. If you took my class – I’m still challenging you to start your program and work towards getting your Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) certification!! www.sgppartnershp.org
So what were my show highlights from the floor? I’m not going to name everyone that I spoke with (who would want to read that?) But maybe some of the experiences stand out…here goes (in no particular order):
1. Loved the huge booth for the alphabroder rebranding, not to mention the great live model catwalk with the latest fashions. It was a good splash!!
2. Catching up with Bill Hood hanging out in the Action Engineering booth. That guy still knows everything.
3. Was it me or were there less dye-sub machines on the floor than last year? I swear at the 2013 show, you couldn’t turn around without seeing another “entry-level” dye-sub machine available. That’s still a great process, but I just don’t want to see every yahoo around starting a t-shirt decorating business in their dining room.
4. Speaking of technology and equipment, I’m really excited to see where the new developments with some major equipment manufacturers will ripple down and inspire others.
a. Kornit’s Avalanche Hexa printer is a 6 color direct to garment printer that features the traditional CMYK channels, plus an additional red and green channels for an extended color gamut. Visual Impressions already owns an Avalanche, so we are intimately knowledgeable about the blazing speed and color control of this series printer, but having Hexachrome based process printing really adds something to the mix.
b. M&R’s new direct to screen printer with the LED exposure unit is still knocking everyone’s socks off. Debuted at the 2013 SGIA show in Orlando, the company’s dedicated showroom for this product was standing room only all weekend. It’s great to see sustainable technology improving existing equipment. Why was everyone interested? You can image a full size sep on a screen and expose it in under one minute. I timed it with my art, so that’s no foolin’. Couple that speed with not having the huge electricity hog that is an exposure table, and that’s a big winner.
5. Loved discussing sustainability with everyone on the show floor. Very impressed with PolyOne, as they were out in front with their marketing on the subject. (Also very happy that they are committed to being a patron for SGP for 2014 – great job!!)
6. Good seeing Rodney Blackwell with TShirtForums.com – that’s one cool cat!
7. Ink Kitchen – Tom Davenport and Rick Roth have a new adventure starting for this industry. Stopped by their booth for a chat, and Tom asked me to help contribute some content this year towards their effort!! Happy to help. Good job guys… http://theinkkitchen.com/
8. Two things really intrigued my sustainability class, and they are worth a mention as there was some good discussion regarding these topics…
a. SmartWasher – the latest in squeegee cleaner – parts washer development. Replace that parts washer you get from Safety Kleen with a new sustainable technology called “bio-remediation”. Essentially this is a process where microbes suspended in a fluid eat your excess ink when you clean them in this washer. Their branded process is called “Ozzy Juice”. It’s far cheaper than how most shops do this, and a lot safer. www.chemfree.com – there’s a free 30 day trial available.
b. How Visual Impressions has virtually eliminated the use of masking tape with our screens. I wrote about this in the April edition of Impressions (“Making Economic Sense of Sustainability” – http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/impressions_201204/#/56). If you are using static frames, we outsource ours from a company called Graphic Screen Fashion, as they have a Screen Sealant process where they border the frame where you would put the tape and then caulk the edge between the mesh and the frame. Frank and his crew were at the show, and they actually had a copy of the article on the table. http://www.graphicscreenfashion.com/
9. Got to chat for a bit with Marci Kinter from SGIA. I’m ready for next month’s SGIA Leadership Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale. Yep, another chance to leave the snow and work where it’s sunny and beautiful. (Watch it rain now…)
10. Had a great time at the Thursday night official “unofficial” meet-up. Over twenty or so folks showed up and discussed everything under the sun over wings and beer. Many thanks to Greg Kitson for help organizing, and to everyone that stopped by!! Awesome!!
11. Loved talking to people and they tell me that they read my blog or articles in Impressions!! Thank you very much for taking the time to read my musings…I love it. I just want to help people in this industry. It’s wonderful to get feedback and expand on ideas that I’ve shared previously. One of the benefits is always learning a different aspect of something that I’ve worked on or struggled to resolve.
12. That PolyOne party Friday night was awesome! Now that’s how you throw down. Just curious how everyone was able to work the booth on Saturday morning…
13. (it’s lucky!!) January is already almost over. How’s your year going so far? 2014 is going to be a great year for this industry I can feel it. Maybe I’m just an optimist though. I know there are some companies that are struggling, and want or need to improve now. Need some help? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk about how I can help you achieve your goals.