FESPA Preview: Bringing colour back

The global print expo last took place in May 2019. After being postponed three times owing to the coronavirus pandemic, FESPA returns later this month in Amsterdam, but what does it have in store for visitors?

This year’s FESPA Global Print Expo will open its doors on Tuesday, October 12 at the RAI exhibition centre in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The theme Bringing Colour Back, according to Neil Felton, FESPA CEO, summarises the organisers’ aspirations for the show after 18 months of virtual events. He explains: “We’re focusing on the future and encouraging businesses to have an eye on new revenue opportunities. We all crave colour, energy, positivity and inspiration – all the characteristics of a FESPA live exhibition.”

Visitors to the four-day exhibition, and co-located European Sign Expo, can expect to see the most recent developments in textile and digital wide format print, screen printing and signage, as well as innovations in segments like décor and vehicle wrapping.

The whole spectrum of production, from printing and finishing equipment, through software solutions, to media and inks will be showcased. Neil adds: “The show is always an important platform where visitors can connect with leading industry suppliers and get up to speed on emerging and evolving industry trends, like automation, online ordering and sustainability, for example.

“After a year and a half-lived mostly behind a screen, the value of a live event for Printwear & Promotion readers is the chance to nurture real, in-person relationships and map their route forward with confidence.”

Key suppliers

FESPA always attracts key suppliers from all sectors of the industry and this year is no exception. As of the end of August, many exhibitors had already confirmed their presence that will be of interest to garment decorators. In this sector, visitors will see screen and direct to garment machinery, transfer presses, substrates, garments, inks and software.

For direct to garment printing, there will be a host of exciting exhibitor stands and product launches throughout the four days. Exhibitors including Aeeon, Brother, MS Printing Solutions, Polyprint and Roland will all have a strong presence at FESPA 2021 and screen printing will, as always, be well represented at FESPA 2021 with solutions being demonstrated by brands including M&R and ROQ.

For visitors interested in transfer and decorative print, a range of exhibitors including Argo, Beaver Papier, Sthals’ and ZSK will be in attendance.

Some of the other exhibitors that Neil would recommend visiting throughout the halls include Georg+Otto Friedrich and Mimaki Europe. Cutting solutions for customisation and production of garments can also be found across FESPA, with Elitron, Hasler, Summa and Zund of interest for visitors looking at automating this process.

New product launches

Neil says that exhibitors often don’t share news about new product launches ahead of the event, however, many have already signalled that they plan to use the live event as a launch platform as they’ve not had the opportunity to introduce products in a face-to-face setting in over 18 months.

“We know that many of our exhibitors are showing their innovations at a live event for the first time since 2019, so I’m sure there will be lots to delight the many visitors who prioritise the opportunity to touch and try as part of their research and buying process,” Neil says.

He adds that he anticipates that the real highlight of FESPA 2021 for most will be the sheer pleasure of being back in a live event environment, seeing working technologies rather than online demos, surrounded by inspiring ideas and applications that they can actually touch, and speaking to product and business model experts in person rather than via video call. “I think we underestimate how much we’ve missed these face-to-face interactions, and how they enrich our businesses.”


Of course, it cannot be ignored that much of Europe is still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and so naturally the organisers of FESPA have implemented a series of COVID-19 safety guidelines for visitors and exhibitors.

Neil says: “As always, the health and safety of our exhibitors, visitors, contractors and staff is our priority.”

Everyone participating in the show must be able to provide proof that they’re double vaccinated or that they have received a negative COVID test before entering. “This way we can minimise the risk of spreading the virus within the exhibition,” Neil adds.

The organisers are working closely with the RAI exhibition centre to ensure they are following the latest guidelines from the Dutch government, the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, and the city’s Municipal Health Service. “With their guidance, we’re introducing sanitising stations and increased hygiene and cleaning measures,” Neil adds.

There will also be a requirement for social distancing throughout the event halls and, while guidance from the Dutch government suggests that face masks are no longer mandatory (unless in an area where social distancing isn’t viable), the organisers recommend that every individual at the event takes the precautions they want to help them feel safe.

Working with its registration partner, FESPA is also using QR codes throughout the halls to minimise contact and enable visitors and suppliers to exchange contact information, arrange meetings and access information through an improved FESPA event app.

The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly taken its toll on the garment decoration industry across Europe. There have been winners and losers in all sectors.

According to research from Smithers Pira, which was funded by FESPA in 2018, the digitally printed textile market was set to nearly quadruple between 2012 and 2021, reaching a value of $2.46 billion by the end of the nine years. And the future was looking particularly bright for textile printers that were ready to embrace new possibilities, including the adoption of digital technologies and the implementation of personalisation.

Neil explains: “Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on the textile market, with aftershocks felt across fashion supply chains and workforces around the world. We’re still trying to understand the full impact COVID has had on the industry but we have seen that this period has expedited and intensified disruptive changes in the fashion textile and garment industry so we anticipate continued growth in this sector.”

FESPA plans to launch its next Print Census in 2022 and Neil says the team are already looking forward to the updated insights that it will give into what is happening in the industry post-COVID.

There certainly is plenty to look forward to at this year’s FESPA, so why not jump on a plane and pay the exhibition a visit?

  • For more information on FESPA Global Print Expo 2021 and to register to attend, visit: www.fespaglobalprintexpo.com. To save €30 on your entry ticket, use code FESM122 when registering.

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