Episode 22: How can I introduce prints to surprise and delight my customer?




Design, print, colour, shapes, digital printing, screen printing, print studios



Welcome to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you need help navigating the fashion industry sustainably, you have come to the right place. I'm your host Belinda Humphrey and my hope is to simplify the fashion industry so that businesses can make the best decisions for people, planet and product.


Hello, and welcome to episode 22 of the fashion on Earth podcast. Today's episode is the second week of a six week summer series where I answer the most popular questions from the audience. Thank you to everyone who wrote in I hope I can help you feel confident and you learn something from each episode. But again, just a bit of a disclaimer. This is general advice. I don't know your exact situation. So even though I'm answering your question, you still need to consider your own situation.


Also, I'm working on a new guide that I'm planning to release around the end of January, which will focus on ethical and sustainable sourcing. So make sure to sign up to my newsletter as I'll be releasing an exclusive offering to subscribers only when it launches, head to my website, belindahumphrey.com.


So the question for this week was how to choose prints, which I'm thinking are yardage prints or all over prints or patterns rather than a placement that you might find on a t shirt. So that's what I'll go with when I'm talking about in my answer.


Okay, so one of my previous roles was for a brand whose customer loved a print. In most of my experience working for brands, the solid or plain option or colorway often outsold the print, but not in this particular business. We had a large print budget to buy original prints, and I was lucky enough to really hone my eye in choosing prints simply because I saw so many print studios.


Now the first thing you want to think about before you even book a showing with a print studio, is think about your ideal customer, maybe do a Pinterest board of things that you think they would like and that would fit into your brand aesthetic. Even consider if they have purchased something before, would it work with the print style that you are considering. Also, on that idea of previous styles, look at what your best sellers have been and analyse what colour or fabrication there were. If prints are new to you, perhaps think of doing one of your best selling shapes in a print so that when you look at your sales, you have eliminated a lot of other reasons as to why something might have sold more or less. And if you have a best selling top and you put it in print and it sells more, it suggests the customer likes the print. If not, maybe not so much. Or maybe your customer isn't a print person, but either way you've narrowed down your analysis.


Also, another thing to ask is if your factory can print the fabric, do they do it in house? Is it digital or screen printed? What are the minimums? And can they do small changes on the artwork on their side?


The second thing you want to think about is what kind of shape you want to use for the print or silhouette. Is it a dress or top swimwear? Is it three pieces in a 10 piece range? Does it have to work back with other items in the range or is the print the starting point that you'll build the range around? Knowing this will help you narrow things down in a print showing when you might have 100 prints being flicked through with one every two seconds, they're going to be pretty fast paced.


Next, have an idea on what base cloth or fabric you're going to print it on. Colours will look more vibrant on a silk or Tencel, compared to a cotton or linen. Also consider print styles. Do you think you will introduce a floral? what kind of floral? oversized? ditzy? handdrawn? digital? will it have a bit of "negative space", which is just shoptalk for large areas of the background showing through or will it be fairly even all over coverage. Go back to that Pinterest board and look at some of the things you might have saved and analyse the style a bit more. Even consider the colours and background colours are they generally warm or cool colours.


Like I said showings are fast paced. But at the end of the day, you've done your research. So it's time to trust your intuition match the data with the intuition. So just put aside or pull out whatever prints you like or things that you're gravitating towards. Once you've done that and have a shortlist and are deciding which ones to choose from there are a few more things to help you decide.


Firstly, think about the size or scale of a print. If you like everything about it, but it's a bit big, it's easy to get reduced size 30% in size. When thinking about size again, remember what shape you want to put it on. If you buy an oversized print, and it's for bikinis or underwear, you're only going to get little snippets of each piece, which means there won't be much consistency for the customer. Especially if they're buying online where they might see one version photographed, and a totally different one will turn up in the post. You generally want some sort of consistency in pattern placement.


Another easy one is If you love the print, but the background colour isn't the colour you're after. That's also an easy change. It's probably something that you can visualise and be confident still enough to purchase.


Next, if you're actually in person at this showing, and it's done online or Zoom meeting, it can help to hold the print up against yourself to see if there are any motives or shapes that might land on particular body parts, or look like actual body parts. It's actually really surprising what people can see in a particular print, or shapes that are included and we used to have quite a few laughs in some of the print showings because of this. Pay particular attention if the print is to be used for tight fitting or small garments, such as swimwear.


A couple of other things to look for, or ask about. A two way print will give you better fabric consumption than a one way print, and check that the file you're receiving is in layers. That way, if you love everything about the print, but just not a particular flower or motive, this will make it easy to remove and replace it with another motive or just space it out a little bit more. It also makes it really easy to change background colours. These are small changes that you might be able to get your supplier or factory to do as well.


Finally, just one piece of advice based on so many years looking at prints. If there are too many changes you want to do to the print, don't get it. It's fraught with danger as it inevitably doesn't come back how you thought it would. And once one thing changes, then another thing changes and it becomes a completely different print. You want something that's sort of 90% there in terms of design, colour, scale everything, and you need to love it and be excited. If not, don't be afraid to not buy anything. Original prints from studios are an investment, often starting around 600 US dollars, so you don't want that money going to waste.


I hope you found that helpful and thanks so much for sending in the question. Make sure to get on the email list if you're particularly interested in ethical and sustainable sourcing as like I said, I'm working on a new guide due to be released the end of January and subscribers only will get an exclusive offer. And if you're listening to this on the go or unable to take notes, you'll find all the show notes and the links on the website in the podcast section. And finally, if you're looking at choosing a print or you've been brave enough to try putting a print in your range, I'd love to hear how it went. You can DM me on Instagram at @belindahumphrey_or send me an email at info@belindahumphrey.com Thanks so much for listening. See you next time.


Thanks for listening to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you want to get in touch head over to belindahumphrey.com or you can find me on Instagram @belindahumphrey_


Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate at the time of recording, much like the fashion industry itself, this information may change. 


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