This article monitors movements in design styles, garment-printing applications, types of wearables, and more.
By Ed Branigan
Print and merchandising companies could vie for the huge contracts offered by Hilfiger or Target, etc., by giving added value to the garment through the print application. Thus, special-effects printing was born.
Because the initial instigators of R&D in print applications at the time were the private-label retailers and apparel divisions of companies like Nike, the new printing techniques were heavily centered around the logos at first. The same rules applied to print placement as before: front, back, and sleeve. The astute marketing of some of the above-mentioned companies of wearing their brand as a lifestyle choice brought the imprinted garment into the fashion world. To a new generation of men, printed shirts gained the same stature as dress shirts. The type and style of the graphic elements began to diversify also. Most guys didn’t wear glitter prints, hardly ever foil, and never sequins or rhinestones—but gels and high density, as well as other textured prints and some metallics, were perfectly acceptable.
The uniformity of the logo-driven print applications ran out of steam and a marked shift came right after the turn of the millennium. An emphasis on individuality and less on conformity took root and a look at how T-shirt graphics and styles changed reflects this. The artwork, inspired by the prevailing street-art movements, loosened up and became more original. The graphic elements literally seemed to come apart as more and more of the prints became abstract with multiple colors and disconnected art pieces (Figure 2). Designs of this type require little print engineering as far as set up and registration is concerned, but they allow for more creativity with the print application in the sense that simple three- or four-color designer prints mean that printers have more open screen heads to develop special effects using inks.
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