The ever-changing retail market has driven the apparel decorating industry to continuously change and evolve. Over the last decade, consumers have demanded retailers be socially and environmentally conscious of how products are manufactured. Retailers have become keenly aware of outside pressures and, as a result, mandated their manufacturing partners to meet compliance requirements in order to maintain the business relationship.
Initially, phthalates and heavy metals had to be removed from plastisols inks. The result was a phthalate-free, non-toxic plasticizer that ended up as a substitution to the traditional plasticizers. The next wave of change was the PVC-free initiative. Major textile brands put the pressure on ink manufacturers to produce inks that were free of phthalates, heavy metals, and now polyvinyl chlorides. At the same time inks were evolving, so were the garments themselves. The days of 100 percent cotton garments controlling the marketplace were quickly disappearing. Performance wear was now becoming a standard part of the garment decorating landscape. As a result, the inks being used had to change as well. With the changing landscape, water-based inks were becoming the preferred method to meet these new requirements. Textile decorators were beginning to offer several options to produce decorated apparel on a variety of substrates and fabric compositions.