Customized printed garments is a big business, and the number of competitors entering the market each year is pushing all players to find new ways to be smarter and faster.
When Macby Katagai decided to enter this market segment they knew they needed to come in with something extraordinary. Anything less could mean failure in this already very competitive market.
The Tokyo-based company had a 128-year old legacy as a printer of office forms, financial reports and other business related products.
In April 2018, Macby decided to enter the fashion industry, and established LaLa+, an online store that makes printed garments. Currently their volume has reached 1,000 pieces per month.
The Quest to Achieve the Highest Color Quality
“Printing companies have high standards which are not easy to achieve. We found that we could leverage our experience with digital data processing technology to get the results we want for our garment printing business,” said Masao Shimizu, CEO.
“We were surprised to find that there was no high standard for colors in the garment printing industry,” said Mr. Ikegame from Macby’s Engineering Dept. explaining that most of the digital printing machines they evaluated couldn’t achieve the color accuracy they wanted.
When they reviewed the digital printers from Kornit Digital, they finally found the solution they were looking for.
Kornit Digital, headquartered in Israel, offers digital printing solutions, such as its legendary “Storm” and “Avalanche” printers. Many Japanese customers are using these printers for their speedy and high-quality prints, as well as for Kornit’s integrated pre-treatment system for printing on dark T-shirts.
A Big Investment in Better Quality Printing
Macby started out by purchasing Kornit’s Storm Hexa machine, which can print seven colors – CMYK + red, green and white.
“Kornit can beautifully reproduce the color blue, which other garment printers cannot do. When we printed an artist’s work on T-shirts, the colors are almost the same as the original artwork,” said Mr. Koriguchi from Macby’s Brand Management Dept.
Despite the high quality and advance color printing capabilities of the Storm Hex, it was a bold move to invest this much money when the business was just getting started. Most other companies would have opted for a lower cost solution, even if it meant sacrificing color reproduction quality.
Nonetheless, Mr. Ikegame felt that the ability to achieve this level of color reproduction would be worth the investment as it would make LaLa+ products stand out in the market.
Pushing Color Boundaries in Digital Printing
After purchasing the Storm Hexa, Macby used its knowledge of professional printing techniques and its strict color standards and worked with the printing machine every day for half year. Macby tested complementary colour data, volume of pre-treatment liquid, drying time and drying temperature in order to develop processing techniques that were not possible before.
“With Kornit, we can enjoy a high level of flexibility where we can experiment with different printing techniques. Only with this machine, we feel free to say “Let’s try”,” said Mr. Ikegame.
A Brand on the Horizon
“We are not only a T-shirt shop,” said Mr. Ikegame. “We print on many different types of materials and on a wide variety of garments,” he explained.
“Although we started a garment printing business, our goal is to establish our own brand in the future. To achieve this, the first thing we have to do is let consumers get used to beautiful high quality printing. This is what LaLa+ does,” said Mr. Ikegame.