When the print industry meets the clothing industry

The print and fashion industry can become sustainable

Michelle Joseph, head of marketing communications, North West Region, at Oki, outlines how the print industry can secure a prosperous and sustainable industry.

As brands begin purchasing blank garments for their spring collection, the clothing industry opens its doors to discussions regarding environmental issues and business practices.

As a creative industry, it has a vital interest and responsibility towards securing a prosperous and sustainable future. Similarly, as technology continues to develop, more garment decoration industries have been incorporating sustainable practices into their operations to meet consumer demand as well as reduce waste.

Environmental and social stresses for both (garments and print) industries are enormous and continue to grow, in accordance with consumer demands. In addition, consumer behaviours and rapidly evolving technology will soon shape and challenge the industry in unpredictable ways. It is undeniable: the industries have to adapt.

This piece will explore the common grounds that both, the print and garment industries have embarked on, to incorporate sustainability within their daily practices.

Let’s explore a few ways in which both sectors are participating towards an eco-sustainable future:


Numerous studies done in the past few years have confirmed that approx. 65-70% of consumers under the age of 35, report that they will choose brands or retailers based on their ethical practices. Hence, the clothing industry has taken the responsibility to ensure the raw materials used for their respective production are recycled.

One such recycling or ‘green’ initiative adopted by the garment industry is the revolutionary concept of recycling old clothes. The ‘old’ clothes are either given to wholesalers to be resold in markets or redecorated by a garment company to be traded back with retailers. Businesses also understand that materials to manufacture or decorate clothes must remain recycled, recyclable, or biodegradable. Similarly, the print industry has also starting recycling and consciously tracking their carbon footprints. One such example of a recycling scheme adopted by the industry is that all materials within print firms can now be effectively recycled; similar to the disposal of old machines, from ink toners to cartridges, nothing is wasted.

Furthermore, the print fashion industry has introduced a ‘print to measure’ scheme which allows for ‘zero-waste’ – something incredibly beneficial as a major issue in the apparel industry has been the high percentage of waste (both in raw fabrics and final products). This has also led to an increase in demand for wholesale purchases of blank items to be later printed as per consumer preference, resulting in zero waste and positive contribution towards sustainability.

On demand printing

Both industries (print and clothing) have also begun strictly producing products on specific consumer or business demands.

An example of adopting the practice ‘printing on demand’ was successfully shown by the garment decoration industry. As a result, cloth waste has reduced significantly.

Moreover, the waste generated from the garment decorating industry became relatively less. Print technology used within the decoration industry such as textile digital printing has also enabled efficient energy savings and ink savings. With the emergence of e-commerce as a popular sales channel, the digital textile printing is on an exponential growth, swiftly expanding into other markets such as wholesale.

Another benefit for the garment decoration industry is the affordability of fashion, which has increased without the compromise of quality. Consumers tend to advocate the design and manufacturing of high-quality products that are long lasting in both quality and style. This is true for all type of consumers. From mature fashion consumers who have found and settled for a preferred style and who are not so eager to experiment with new looks to the adventurous consumers on a hunt for the next trend. Hence, ordering clothes on-demand (custom-made or tailor-made) for the sake of quality would be an essential feature for all consumers of today.

Overall on-demand reduces oversupply and wastage. It means a move towards brands investing more in blank goods and producing the final printed item closer to requirements of the consumer. Eventually this will become a super quick, hyperlocal service. It’s an exciting time for both industries and will help to make clothing and print become more sustainable.

Growth in technology 

Sustainability can be immediately be found within new and advanced technologies, such as laser-cutting techniques, digital printing, as well as more innovative materials, such as milk fibres. It can even be seen within new production methods (such as the new textile recycling techniques), that are introduced in the market.

One such technological advancement within the division of garment decorations has been the introduction of digital print or 3D print technology which has allowed a print to directly be imparted onto garments. This advancement has led to a key trend: to flourish personalisation and custom manufacturing. With garments decorations accounting for most of the output in fashion and textiles, digital technology is key to bespoke projects, especially when compared to traditional screen printing.

Through digital and 3D print technology, blank and wholesale markets can also produce and sell large quantities of products; whilst garment decoration companies still have the flexibility to design blank garments, which can prove to be cost effective. As a result, the end customer receives a personalised product at a lower cost. Innovation in technology is seeding an ethical mindset towards success in the disruptive markets of print and clothing. Overall, there has never been more technology at hand to help strengthen wholesale brands along their supply chain.

Protecting the environment is not just a trend; it has been part of a global strategy for the print and garment industry. Both sectors incorporate a serious environmental commitment through greener initiatives, which enables them to monitor the impact of their daily activities. Hence, through constant innovation, adjustments and dedication, both sectors strive to not only meet the ever-changing industry standards but surpass them.

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