Digital Decorating:

Accessories for Sublimation

By Chris Bernat, Contributing Writer

Unique socks are enjoying a bit of a fashion renaissance. These Paul Smith socks retail for $30. A good designer can deliver something completely different and make a real margin.

July 22, 2014

Here’s an annual question you most likely always need to answer as an apparel decorator: “What’s new this year?”

More importantly, you also need to know how you are expanding revenue streams. Are you selling the same products you offered last year, or are you expanding your product line? Are you selling to the same people, or have you identified a new target market?

Lots of questions exist. For a group of innovative digital decorators, the collective answer to all of these questions has become sublimation. This decoration method has been a great solution for performance apparel for quite some time. But it recently has expanded to include a vast array of apparel accessories that offer you a creative way to stand out with customers and introduce yourself to some new markets.

Let’s look at several new accessories and — more importantly — how they can create an advantage for your business.

Do you bundle? If the cable guy can do it, we all can. The bundling of products is not a new concept for most people in the apparel decorating industry. But it sure could use some new blood.

Printers have been throwing in koozies and caps for a while now (yawn). But sublimation brings a new layer of full-color accessories to the market — things that have not been around in the past. So with that in mind, you can look at some new product combinations to ensure your success.

Concepts are great, but it’s all about application. Not only do you need great-looking designs and quality workmanship, but you also need art that moves people to consider something new.

Each market has its own unique applications. Resorts and fitness events are two great markets for accessories. If you present customers with artwork that catches their imagination, a bundled purchase order can’t be far behind.

Innovators think about how to really drive change in their markets and always do better when introducing net-new products to customers.

Case in point: The Charleston Marathon in Charleston, S. C., had to have a unique mix of accessories for its race, which was held last month. By factoring in the time of the year, participant needs and general attitude runners have about “another cheap marathon T-shirt,” the event added a mix of accessories that sold out on-site, and sold online after the event.

The Charleston Marathon added fleece beanies, neck gaiters and scarves for the full and half-marathon runners. Fleece has become a great substrate for dye sublimation. Scarves and beanies are two items that allow you to deliver a consistent theme to clients. Headbands are included, and even small blankets will be well received. As outdoor retailers are searching for new ways to create value for sports enthusiasts and winter events, sublimation is uniquely suited to add that special touch consumers need.

Socks have emerged as an interesting new option for any sublimator with a 16″ x 20″ heat press. Several types of socks are available on the market today. There even are decorating kits that help you
develop the best graphics on them for your customers.

Socks — unique ones, anyway — are enjoying a bit of a fashion renaissance. There are not a lot of ways a man can express himself in the suit-and-tie world. Socks are a great way to do just that and the new guy in town is sublimation. They also have gained popularity in the sports and spirit markets.

These are a few of the new ways digital decorators are ushering in 2014. As you reconnect with your customers, hopefully you can grab their attention with some new styles and ideas that will help them start the year off strong.

Chris Bernat is chief revenue officer at Vapor Apparel. He is a current board member of SGIA, and he speaks and writes on sublimation and mass customization for SGIA, ISS, FESPA and Dig South. For more information or to comment on this article, email Chris at Hear Chris speak on digital decorating topics at the Imprinted Sportswear Shows (ISS). Individual seminars are just $25 for those who pre register:

Consistent Color
When you bundle with sublimation, color is your friend. Unlike adding embroidery items to a screen print order, multiple sublimated accessories demand the same color across the product line. This helps you pull in the shirt order with the accessories that are grabbing today’s consumer’s attention.

Like this article? Read these other digital decorating articles at
    • “Fashion Meets Function”
    • “The Personal Touch”
    • “Factors for Cut-and-Sew Sublimation Success”