October 5, 2018
Peter Daneyko was first introduced to large-format sublimation by his business partner, Joe Werner, whose friends in the printing business brought the trend to his attention. Daneyko, who had a decade of experience in the copier industry, decided to further explore the possibilities of the application.
Daneyko and Werner had conversations about the possibilities this printing technique could afford, believing that sublimation would become more affordable and somewhat commoditized. That was in 2006, and the forward-thinking duo sought to capitalize on a niche loaded with potential.
A First Stab
“The original idea was to leverage the internet and provide allover printing to the consumer, beyond a 12-inch box on the chest,” says Daneyko, partner and vice president of sales and marketing for Poppy Digital Artistry, a firm that specializes in product personalization via dye sublimation. “Anyone with a design could upload their creation to a digital template and have their personalized, allover garment created.”
Daneyko says it became apparent that the traditional approach needed refinement after countless experiments. Poppy Digital Artistry explored the possibilities for printing on preconstructed apparel, which led to a meeting with sublimation veteran Syd Northrup.
“It was during this meeting that the idea of digital templates for printing on preconstructed garments would provide not only significant improvement to the quality of printing on a basic T-shirt, but also allow for wider apparel-printing offerings,” Daneyko says. “The process was outlined and a patent was submitted. After a number of years, the patent was awarded to inventors Joe Werner and Syd Northrup.”
Once the process was in place, an online system was created for customers to upload any image for their allover-printed T-shirts. However, the demand hadn’t yet been established.
“People love to play, but too much creative flexibility proved to be, well, too much creative flexibility,” Daneyko says.
Hitting the ‘Reset’ Button
Daneyko describes starting over in 2008 with a new clothing company as a “fool’s errand.”
“What began over a two-year period with countless fabric-printing experiments in a one-room shop eventually led me and my partners, Joe Werner and Jon Rianhard, to our ‘eureka’ moment,” he recalls. “We created our initial apparel label in 2008, Before + Again, which, in 2016, became Whimsy Rose.”
Werner’s wife, Susan, once asked if some of her designs could be printed on fashionable, trendy burnout fabrics. She and her friends began wearing the new T-shirts and literally were stopped in the streets by other women asking where they’d been purchased.
“All other endeavors stopped, and it was decided that this was where all of our energies would be focused,” Daneyko says.
He says Whimsy Rose’s evolution began 10 years ago in brick-and-mortar locations, but now the line can be found in more than 1,000 specialty boutiques. “The ability to touch and feel something is still very important to the consumer,” he says. “Women today have significant apparel options via shopping on the internet. However, once they find their favorite T-shirt, tunic or dress for comfort and fit, they find limited choices available to them to purchase additional prints for their favorite styles.”
Sticking to Sublimation
In the women’s specialty-boutique space, Daneyko says, sublimation solved a few nagging problems. The process made available unique garments for which specialty boutiques always are searching. Sublimation also allows for short runs, which mitigates risk. When garments work well, the ability to explore and reorder them at a moment’s notice exists.
The systems that Daneyko and the team have put into place, combined with the sublimation process, have allowed for no minimums and more than 2,000 ever-changing designer print-to-style combinations. Specialty stores can curate their own collections. Store owners also can reorder pieces in the sizes needed and cater to customers’ special requests.
Unlike other forms of fabric printing, sublimation allows for highly cost-effective pre-production sampling, Daneyko says.
“Many buyers and merchandisers traditionally have little, if any, flexibility when it comes to modifying a print layout or scale, or specific color elements, for their specific merchandising needs,” he says. “Having the flexibility to actually collaborate on a print idea specific to a geographic region helps to better meet the aesthetic desire of both the consumer and the merchandiser.”
A New Addition
For the past 10 years, the company’s focus has been on print-driven women’s fashion, but only for its internal labels. In 2017, Poppy Digital Artistry became the umbrella brand for Whimsy Rose and the company’s other brands, as well as private-label branding.
Launched to leverage both the team’s experience and internally developed systems, the company now provides those services to select fashion-related endeavors.
“New companies we are working with are looking to elevate their offerings beyond the basic allover T-shirt, and that usually involves custom styles and fabrics,” Daneyko says. “For the majority of our garments, we work directly with the mills for our fabrics and then make our blanks based on specific style requirements.”
Through its licensing arm, AOP STL, Poppy Digital Artistry currently has two patents: US 8,958,131 and US 9,468,237 — “A Systems and Methods for the Printing of Pre-Constructed Clothing Articles and Clothing Article so Printed.”
“If you are printing on a preconstructed T-shirt efficiently and use any digital template, it is likely you are infringing on the patent,” Daneyko says. “We currently license the patent to both large and small sublimation printers. Licensees include established industry leaders, such as Trevco and Jakprints, and smaller shops. The benefit of such a license is that it not only protects you, but your customer as well.”
Whimsy Rose’s and Poppy Digital
Artistry’s success hasn’t come without challenges. Daneyko says one significant issue has been meeting customers’ expectations regarding colors, since what is seen online can vary depending on the media through which it’s viewed.
“We currently texture-map our fabrics to the prints selected for digital rendering, so the customer gets as accurate a representation as possible,” he says. “Specifically, the same print produced on varying knits has a significant effect as to the vibrancy, ranging from vintage fade to an extremely high vibrancy. When it comes to sublimation on pre-constructed garments, explaining white creases or voids is simply part of the process and not something to shy away from.”
In the future, Poppy Digital Artistry plans to extend services on the production level and the licensing side of its patents. The company also is open to discussing partner relationships beyond its current brand.
Jennifer Morrell is an award-winning writer who has written for a number of national consumer and trade publications. For more information or to comment on this article, email Jennifer at email@example.com.
Poppy Digital Artistry At A Glance
Company Name: Poppy Digital Artistry/Whimsy Rose
Address: 1641 Dielman Road, St. Louis, MO 63132
No. of employees: More than 25
Decorating Methods Offered: Sublimation
Company Website: poppyda.com; whimsyrose.com
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