The Future Of On-Demand Sustainable Apparel

Author: Debbie McKeegan,

How do you switch an entire industry over to sustainable technologies and increased profitability? The predictable answer is that’s not feasible in a short time frame; and yet, over the last year we have witnessed a seismic shift and a historic sea change in our digital behaviors—an unprecedented change—forced in its raw essence by supply and demand. Fragmented supply and increased online demand have challenged the industry like never before, forcing many fashion businesses to reevaluate their supply chains. The fashion industry must now shake off its unsustainable legacy and re-equip to embrace change and once again deliver “positive fashion”—end the decades of over-consumption, reject fast fashion and its negative impacts, and switch to a sustainable footing where commerce thrives alongside the planet’s resources.

Epson SureColor F7200

As the fashion industry begins its seismic reform, the digitalization of the sector is imminent. Digital technologies offer the industry the tools required to control production volume, and in doing so, the fashion brands that make the move to adopt digital technologies will be rewarded with commercial success  ~ Epson

he challenges of pandemic supply chain disruption alongside the well-documented commercial issues that the fashion industry has been faced with for the last decade offer an acute lesson and have whetted an appetite for change within its stakeholders. The industry needs to get a firm grip on its inventory, and it must shift to an on-demand business model if it is to remain both viable and engaged with the consumer. In doing so, the industry must adopt digital technologies upstream and downstream, and with these measures in place, the fashion industry will shift to sustainable production and a new digital chapter of positive fashion manufactured on-demand.


Traditional textile production is built for volume. The volume is still there and growing, offering incredible commercial opportunities, but the marketplace and its primary characteristics have changed. A traditional rotary route offers volume at scale where margins are low, and it’s this business model that has been the preferred route of print supply for the bulk of fashion’s printed textile production. However, the brands now demand production agility at speed, both of which digital textile printing technologies deliver. Using digital textile supply, the fashion retailer or supplier can react to trending sales and order in low or high volume with confidence, offering the consumer the products that they wish to purchase in real-time, not needing to plan four to six months in advance and, in doing so, increase profitability and end the last two decades of heavy discounting forced by overproduction.

The textile printing industry is a complicated sector spanning the globe and employing millions of people. Each and every sector has its own specifications and product preferences. Fabric choices are numbered in the many thousands as are their individual constructions. Each and every business model is different and yet the products themselves haven’t changed; how we manufacture them has, and that must continue to evolve and innovate.


To meet the demands of such a diverse landscape, Epson has met the challenges of traditional production technology and developed a series of digital textile machinery solutions that are built with strategic textile finesse.

To do so, they have listened to and engaged with the industry, partnering with textile behemoths to ensure that the equipment that will enable sustainable manufacturing improves on the processes of the past to deliver a new era of printed digital textile production machinery. Epson also recognizes that all businesses evolve and that their technologies must continue to innovate to meet market demand and unlock new markets.

Many print businesses, brands, and even independent designers start small and then perhaps progress to high-volume production as they flourish or find their own economic balance. Others are already producing at high volumes and, as industrial practitioners, seek to make the switch to digital from rotary to meet new market opportunities.

Epson SureColor F9300 Dye Sublimation Printer

One such success story (and there are many) is the Epson SureColor F Series line, which has continually developed since its launch to meet and flex to market trends. As an entry-level dye-sublimation printing machine, the SureColor has delivered a focused suite of technologies that simplify textile printing. The machines are increasingly intuitive, and the system navigation is built for operator ease of use. The SureColor range has been adopted by the wide-format, fashion, sportswear, and interior industries where it continues to thrive and generate exceptional quality textile prints and commercial success. It’s these innovations that are driving the growth of the digital sector, unlocking new opportunities and growth potential for all markets where dye-sublimation printing crosses multiple industries and applications.

The latest edition to the SureColor range is the SureColor F10000 series, a high-speed machine built for industrial use, printing at 255 square meters per hour. The printer is also wider than previous models; and at 1.9m wide, unlocks further opportunities for wide format and interior décor.

The machine offers intelligent metrics for maintenance, easy head changing, and an onboard camera for head calibration and color measurement. It’s an industrial machine built for speed and efficient performance built to address the increasing requirement for customized production within the apparel, sportswear, wide-format, and promotional marketplaces.

Dye sublimation with polyester fabrics was the first sector of the textile marketplace to establish digital textile routes, and we now also see the same speed of convergence in the natural fabric marketplace, which is equally diverse.

Sample Jumper Printed on Epson SureColor F10030

Here Epson started in the opposite direction in developing industrial solutions for the sector with the Monna Lisa series, which now has a new edition to the family. The ML-8000 is the latest model, printing at an operational speed of 150 square meters per hour and offers yet another strategic platform from which new business opportunities can be harnessed within the medium-volume print textile sector. This sector of the marketplace is predicted to see huge growth, partly as a consequence of the requirement for smaller minimum volumes and tailored customized production as the larger rotary mills lose business to smaller, more agile printers and independents whose business models are set for variable on-demand at any volume.

Epson’s technology is both adaptive and disruptive and as such unlocks the industrial textile sector to offer many new opportunities.

As the fashion industry begins its seismic reform, the digitalization of the sector is imminent. Digital technologies offer the industry the tools required to control production volume, and in doing so, the fashion brands that make the move to adopt digital technologies will be rewarded with commercial success. This new business model is inherently sustainable, but to move forward the components of the apparel garment also need to be expertly sourced to ensure certified supply. The growth of the digital print sector will be a natural consequence of such actions. Digital textile printing offers an environmentally sound platform for textile production and goes further to add the creative flexibility that the industry demands. Designs and patterns can be adapted at the touch of a button, meters are defined by accurate sales data, and waste is eliminated from the print route.

All of these attributes will ensure that as we move forward, we move with a positive footprint and emerge with a new era of sustainably sourced “positive fashion” created and printed to meet demand.

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