Since the 2012 Olympics in London, printed suits have become a real option at the top levels. Some of the differences between a printed design and a sewn design are:
Printed designs can have complex full-colour images
Printed designs are matte only -- meaning no shine, sparkle, or glitter
Printed designs can create degradé blends of colour -- also known as ombré
Printed designs should be less expensive than sewn, because there is less material and labour involved in their creation
Printed designs must be beaded, stoned, or sequinned to sparkle
Sewn designs can be made from any type of fabric
Sewn designs are difficult to get extremely detailed - and can be expensive
Sewn designs don't need added glitter to sparkle
Printed fabric technology is not new. It has been around forever. What's new is there is now digital printing directly to fabric. Large scale fabric companies use this technology to create their own prints for sale. Some of these companies will even do small run jobs, where they will do a custom print for you. Usually, minimum quantities apply.
The biggest change is there are now printers specifically designed for digital printing to fabric. The advantage of course is the ability to do one-ofs and short run prints. Add the right software to your computer and you can literally print a swimsuit on fabric.
Of course these machines are in the tens of thousands of dollars - right? No! As this technology gets stronger, prices are dropping. Epson has a new line of these printers with prices ranging from about $8000 and up.
This puts this technology into reach of small shops that turn around jobs quickly.
TaggerWear has used Print Technology in the past to create custom team suits for a number of clubs, both synchro and racing. Notably, the Stingrays swim team in Minnesota. They wanted something really special based on their club logo. So we created a suit design that included their logo and used their colours.
The best thing about this technology is colour-matching. I can specify Pantone (tm) colours for precise matching.
Once the design is created, we lay it out on the swimsuit pattern and then have just the sizes we need printed.
The results were spectacular!
Both girls and boys suits were made for the team.
So is it possible to have synchro costumes made this way? Absolutely! With an average fabric price of $35.00/m it is also competitive in price to traditionally made synchro suits.
But remember, you will need to add in cost for adding sparkle. There is a balance between cost of materials and cost of labour.
These Stingray suits sold for $75.00 each. Much less expensive than if we had sewn this design.
However, the cost of stone could be another $100 -- not to mention labour.
There are machines that set rhinestones too ... but that's a future discussion!