Pop goes the print

Jan 13, 2013, 09:39 IST | Kaveri Waghela

Fancy a Picasso on your dress, a bird on your shirt or Pac-Man on your saree? Thanks to advanced technology, designers are now exploring new forms of enigmatic and intricate digital printing techniques through the computer. Kaveri Waghela finds that the trend not only allows the buyer to customise outfits but also protect the designers' works from copycats

Nothing puts off an artiste and fashion designer as much asseeing works ‘inspired’ by their thought and design being sold sans credit. While artistes try to battle copycats in their own ways, fashion designers, it seems can take recourse in digital prints which, they predict, will rule the ramp this year.

Yogesh Chaudhary’s Pac- Man saree Pic Courtesy/ www.Perniaspopupshop.com

Prints are no longer synonymous with playful polka dots and feminine flower prints — advanced computer technology can now help you wear graphic designs, geometrical shapes, even a stamp or a photograph you love, on your sleeve (pun intended). After gracing ramps in the ’90s, digital prints disappeared from leading designers’ collections for almost two decades.

 A  white digital print jumper by Gaurav Gupta

However, the sheer exclusivity of a personalised digital print has brought it back to the fore — and they are, all bigger, bolder, and better. From bold stripes to psychedelic, digital prints are back with a bang. Internationally, Fashion designers Katrantzou and Peter Pilotto, who specialise in digital prints, are hailed as the pioneers of the prints revolution in London. But, this year, even Indian designers such as Gaurav Gupta and upcoming fashion designer, Yogesh Chaudhary, will beseen incorporating many of these unique prints to their designs.

Peter Pilotto mirror-work print dress

Signature element
According to fashion designer Pria Kataaria Puri, digital prints add the right amount of jazz to an outfit. “Prints have always been there in India but the designs were not as strong and bold. Technology, has definitely helped create sharper prints now. Every designer has a unique print that becomes his/her signature. I, for instance, love to work with curve patterns. Designers are identified with these unique prints. Anybody who sees a psychedelic geometric print on a garment will know it’s Pucci’s trademark.”

A Mary Katrantzou knee length print dress Pics/Getty Images

Puri thinks that it is the sheer exclusivity of digital prints that makes designs stand out and leaves little scope for others to copy it. She explains, “Many stores often copy designers’ works. There is no place where one can insure designs. Digital prints, however, are abstractions made by the designer and cannot be copied. This exclusivity is also more attractive to the customer. I am working with a lot of prints that are associated to history and heritage.”

Advanced technology
Digital printing is done with the help of the computer through design software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. It does not involve any heat transfer as the ink is directly printed to the fabric digitally. Screen-printing,on the other hand, uses screens (stencils) that are manually placed on the fabric. Each pattern has a different screen which often makes it time consuming and cumbersome.

Pria Kataaria Puri’s Picasso inspired dress

Neha Asthana, fashion expert at Rachana Sansad School of Fashion Design, agrees, “Digital printing is easier to do as it involves no heat. Though screen-printing produces more vibrant colours, contemporary fashion designers are now opting for digital printing as it gives a person more freedom to choose a wide array of colours which is not possible in screen-printing. Digital prints will be popular in the upcoming sping summer 2013 collection as it is more versatile.”

Gaurav Gupta, a veteran fashion designer known for his unique bird prints agrees, “Technology allows you to transfer things from your mind to the computer. There are times when I design for hours together. It gives you the freedom to think individually.”

The process is rather simple — designers now click pictures of the things that inspire them, say, on their iPhones, and incorporate those prints in their designs. Puri explains, “I like to click a picture of the things I like, related to nature or otherwise. I then try to incorporate that print in my design. It is almost like painting.”

A dash of playfulness
A series of sarees from upcoming fashion designer, Yogesh Chaudhary’s 2012 collection used a unique print of Pac-Man. Chaudhary says, “I was deeply inspired by the video game Pac-Man. For me, it is a strong pop culture reference. Also, I have been obsessed with the game since I was young and it was only fitting for to base a collection around it.”

Prints in all forms, whether graphic or geometric, add a certain amount of personality to an outfit, says Anita Dongre, fashion designer. “Digital prints have a charm of their own. They enhance the look in a simple yet understated way and are versatile and fun.”

Twenty six year-old Arjun Sahai, a freelance fashion photographer, thinks prints brings out the personality of a person. He adds, “I love printed clothes. They instantly add a hint of playfulness to the overall ensemble. A printed tie with an otherwise formal suit can look classy without being inappropriate.”

Mix and match
However, prints aren’t for everybody. When not worn well, digital prints often look garish. Designers often advise their customers to pair it well. “One can find a variety of digital prints to suit one’s tastes abstract, floral, photographic prints and so on. These prints are available in variety of textures, too, and are purpose-printed for a specific piece of clothing. These can add spunk to kaftans, maxi dresses, shift dresses and pencil skirts,”says Dongre Balance is key, but due to their versatility, digital prints can be worn either with a monochromatic colour or even with another print, depending on your body frame.

Chaudhary explains, “For those who don’t prefer bold outfits, mix a print with a solid colour. If someone is slightly plump, it’s best not to wear an overall print — breaking up the outfit is key. Someone with a more eclectic taste can even get away with pairing multiple prints. It is best to wear a print you like rather than following a trend.”

Room for all
Does the comeback in digital prints mean that traditional block print will soon be extinct? Asthana doesn’t think so. “Screen and block printing are the oldest printing techniques in India. Contemporary fashion designers always love to work with digital prints as it gives them the freedom to think and create, but that doesn’t ring the death knell for traditional prints.

With hand and block prints, there are limitations. Yet, fashion designers like Ritu Kumar and Tarun Tahiliani still use hand and block prints in their designs.” Chaudhary however, thinks that digital printing has brought a design revolution that has been the best gift to the designers so far, “It’s definitely an advantage as you can literally translate your vision to the garment. You can draw out whatever inspiration you have very vividly and incorporate that into the desired fabric.”

Puri, who showcased her digital prints’ collection at the India Resort Fashion Week (IRFW) in November last year, says her unique ideas had a concrete platform only because of digital printing. She says excitedly, “Traditional block prints will always be there, but digital prints will always be my first love .” 

How to wear prints
If you are too overwhelmed by prints, mix and match it with a simple silhouette or a plainer fabric
>> If you’re not very tall, avoid large prints
>> If you’re on the heavier side, wear small prints with darker undertones
>> Print on print is a good idea only if you have the personality to carry it off
>> Two different prints can be mixed and matched depending on the colour palette 

Top Prints Picks


Pria Kataaria Puri dress
Available at: Pria Kaataria Puri Studio, 101 richoux building, Chimbai road,near Chimbai police station, Bandra
Price on Request
Anita Dongre Printed dress
For: Rs 7,690
Available at: Anita Dongre outlets inJuhu, Bandra, Palladium, High Street Phoenix and Fort
Yogesh Chaudhary Dress
For: Rs 8500
Available at: www.perniaspopupshop.com 

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