Editorial: Creative “Destruction” of the Best Kind

The more things change in the decorated apparel industry, the better they get for decorators

By Adam Cort, Content Director

Improvements in materials and technology have opened up countless new opportunities for the decorators of the world. Image by Andrey Popov –

October 25, 2023

Among the things Austrian-born economist Joseph Schumpeter is best known for is his promotion of the idea of “creative destruction” or the “process of industrial mutation that continuously revolutionizes the economic structure from within.” Think car manufacturers putting buggy whip manufacturers out of work, or personal computers consigning the typewriters of the world to the dustbin of history.

Whether Schumpeter’s “gale,” as it’s also known, is a good thing, remains open to debate. Each new mode of production, transportation or communication, for example, also means a lot of people being thrown out of work, with more than a few of them unable to find gainful employment in the resulting economy du jour. That said, referring back to our most recent “innovation issue” (as we continue working on our upcoming Sourcebook industry guide) it’s safe to say that when it comes to decorated apparel, the industry has  been extraordinarily good at taking advantage of the creative side of capitalism while at the same time avoiding the “destructive” side of the equation. Roaming this year’s three Impressions Expos, I was repeatedly struck but how today’s cutting-edge products and services don’t just make it easier to do business, they make it easier for newcomers to the industry to get started as well, no matter their background. The latest in digital decorating, for example, isn’t putting screen printers out of work, merely giving them additional options at the same time it opens the doors for the latest generation of startups. Same thing with today’s increasingly reliable and easy-to-use embroidery technologies, the latest screen-printing gear and online business management software. And so it goes, round and round in an industry in which anyone and everyone willing to put in the work wins, and a rising tide really does lift all boats.