Adapting to Digital Textiles

Philomela and Adaptive Textiles partner to produce one-of-a-kind designer fabrics.

Bonnie Saland, founder of Philomela Textiles and Wallpaper, says there are five qualities of a print vendor that are “absolutely imperative”: honesty, accountability, professionalism, transparency, and reliability. 

“Designers” – Philomela’s clients – “are not in a position to accommodate late orders or orders that are not done properly. So, it is absolutely critical that I come through,” she adds. And this means it’s absolutely critical that her print partner comes through, as well.

That trusted partner is Adaptive Textiles (West Chester, Pennsylvania), founded in 2004 by Jeanelle Dech, a drapery workroom manager. The shop’s clients are primarily small textile designers and startups who, like Philomela, want to maintain a low-inventory model. Besides an established collection of samples, nothing is printed until an order is placed. Typical runs on Adaptive’s DuPont Artistri pigment ink printer range anywhere from 36 x 11-inch strike-offs to orders of 500 yards or so. 

And, Adaptive Textiles often drop-ships the yardage, says Sales Director Mandy Morgan, saving the clients a step, with the end user none the wiser. It’s a brilliant offering that saves the client time and reduces environmental impact

“One of the driving forces of the contemporary market is that people don’t have a lot of time,” says Saland, “so anything that can be done to make it easier for the user seems to be a good bet.”

Another key differentiator in this business is a strict dedication to color. It’s one of the reasons why Saland opted to go digital in the first place. “I was only able to get that kind of nuance and opportunity with a range of hue with digital printing,” she says. But it’s not without its challenges. Running short orders is great for keeping inventory low, but trying to keep color consistent across different lots of fabric can be a major obstacle – especially when collections are reprinted again and again over the course of many years. Adaptive Textiles sets a color standard for every collection, and every order is compared against that standard. 

“They rely on us to do that behind the scenes, and they don’t even need to see it,” says Morgan. “They just know that it’s going to be accurate.” 

Reduced waste is another Adaptive Textiles tenet that’s appealing to textile designers. The shop has an in-house workroom that fabricates end-use textile products, so they understand exactly how the fabric will be used when it comes off the press. At the prepress stage, they carefully engineer print layouts to conserve as much material as possible. 

“So when we print for a pillow,” says Morgan, “we’re really just printing two squares that get cut out and sewn together. Not only does it make it so that every pillow is perfect and the same, it also makes it so that the client is buying exactly the amount of fabric that they need.”

Read more from Big Picture's November/December 2017 issue featuring the first-ever Interior Décor & Textiles special edition.

Batik collection (above) designed by Philomela Textiles and Wallpaper and printed on Libeco P139 Oyster. Photography by Diana Koenigserg.

Wax collection (below) designed by Philomela Textiles and Wallpaper and printed on Libeco P139 Oyster. Photography, styling, and ceramics by Ann Cutting.

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