By Melissa Donovan
Experience is a foundation of a business. The right connections propel a company. Capitalizing on trends is a revenue generator. When combined, experience, connections, and trends define an identity, which is something every organization must present to customers and infuse into their products.
With a total of five employees working in its Los Angeles, CA space, MY Prints celebrates its third year specializing in dye-sublimation (dye-sub) textile printing this April. It attributes its success to a combination of experience, the right connections, and recognizing trends. Collectively, these factors have helped define the company and promote brand recognition.
Masters of Experience
MY Prints’ co-owners, Steven Moreno and Carol Yeager, pooled their resources after continuous discussion over the years about working together while still employed at other print companies.
Moreno offers a rich background in print. He originally worked in the packaging design and product development department at a baby bedding company. It was here that he saw the potential of digital on a device that ran all of the test samples. When the time came to move on, Moreno settled at a small print company. There, he witnessed the use of dye-sub printing and its evolution.
Yeager celebrates over 12 years in the fashion industry. While designing prints for customers on both the West and East Coasts, she learned about the digital printing process. Customers looked for sample yardage that resembled production quality, something digital provided.
After the two agreed to collaborate, MY Prints was born in 2011. “It was the right time to explore other options and expand my expertise,” he explains.
Today, a majority of MY Prints’ orders include sample yardage for apparel manufacturers and converters. These are often approved by a buyer and then sent overseas for mass production. It also prints for costume houses and the entertainment industry. MY Prints’ services are constantly expanding. Short-run prototypes of makeup bags eventually purchased in larger runs by major retailers, performance apparel, and upholstery are all new avenues the business is in the midst of exploring.
The Right Connections
Both partners provide a knowledgeable background in hardware, software, and media. For example, the team purchased a Mimaki USA, Inc. JV4 Series printer when it opened and today operates five in shop. The devices run on Sawgrass Technologies’ SubliM dye transfer sublimation ink and are controlled by a Wasatch Computer Technology SoftRIP TX for textile printing. The newest edition to the hardware portfolio is the Epson SureColor F7170.
Fabric prints are finished through a 64-inch DigiHeat heat press from DigiFab Systems, Inc. Transfer paper choice varies based on fabric. Depending on whether a customer is looking for a watercolor-type print or a monotone graphic that requires a sharp appearance, papers from Coldenhove Papier, DigiFab, or Epson are used.
When it comes to textiles, Moreno holds a valued relationship with Pacific Coast Fabrics (PCF). He first became familiar with the vendor when researching a product at his previous job. Moreno retained the positive first impression for future opportunities. When launching MY Prints, PCF was one of the first vendors he spoke to.
PCF’s portfolio—which ranges from traditional textiles to performance fabrics and the newest product, Ultra Suede—is a large part of MY Prints continued expansion. The vendor introduces quality substrates for the dye-sub market on a regular basis.
“We require high-quality output in everything. Our customers take prototypes to buyers that need to closely resemble the final production piece. PCF offers consistency,” shares Moreno.
One important factor that influences Moreno’s decision to use PCF is that the fabric never yellows. He says yellowing is a huge issue for any client requesting a B&W or gray and white print, they always want the whitest white possible.
Working closely with PCF allows MY Prints to stay abreast of the latest trends. For example, it offers short runs and prototypes of cyclist jerseys and sportswear with the performance apparel line.
The print provider recently dabbled in upholstery this past Fall when tasked with creating a design on PCF’s Ultra Suede polyester upholstery fabric. This printed graphic would ultimately be used in a chair displayed in the Digital Textile Printing Zone at the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) expo in October 2013.
To create the design, the team at MY Prints first studied various photographs from a recent trip to Italy. Originally, the plan was to utilize multiple images and create a collage effect. However, when one of the graphic artists took a specific image and then manipulated it in a unique way, nesting and tiling into a one-of-a-kind pattern, the team decided to use one graphic.
After a week of design, it then took a little under another week to print and construct the chair. Printed on PCF Ultra Suede with a Mimaki JV4 device, the graphic was output on the highest quality setting to achieve the sharpest image possible. Total print time was three hours.
The actual upholstering process was outsourced to a professional, which Moreno notes he will probably use again when another project of this kind arises. While the MY Prints team did not construct the chair, the paneling of the fabric pieces was an ongoing concern.
“Planning where the graphic would line up and keeping an eye on the pattern was probably the biggest challenge. There is definitely a learning curve. However, every chair is different and so is every pattern, so we foresee a small learning curve each time,” admits Moreno.
MY Prints worked with Ultra Suede for the first time during this application. It printed well and showed even better on the finished chair. It continues to use the textile with its other customers, such as the bag prototype company.
The finished chair received a steady stream of onlookers while displayed at the SGIA trade show. Many attendees went up to the chair and were able to touch the fabric and sit in the piece of furniture. They were amazed at the level of quality found in the print. More importantly, the usability of the chair was not compromised, with the digitally printed upholstery providing comfort.
A Quality Identity
The attention to detail in each project at MY Prints is what Moreno says is essential to its identity. Working with high-quality printers, finishers, inks, software, and substrates provides the luxurious feel to its many products. While one-offs are becoming popular at the consumer level, complementing prototypes and samples on the industrial side, Moreno does not see his company moving into this realm.
“While shorter runs showcase how easy digital has become, I’ve noticed customers won’t pay the price and instead will sacrifice on quality or time. It doesn’t matter how fast a customer wants a product and agrees to pay a premium or if they want it at a lower quality to compensate for the lack of time, this is something we don’t ever want to do. We have a certain level of quality we work to maintain,” he shares.
MY Prints’ identity is enshrouded in quality. Every product it makes—whether apparel samples, fabric for a costume, a piece for a movie, or a chair for a trade show—is a representation of the company. Sending that product out into the public arena is an influential form of publicity. MY Prints is fortunate to be given multiple opportunities to promote its services.
Mar2014, Digital Output