In the Spring of 2020, Spoonflower, a North Carolina-based supplier of decorated textiles serving entrepreneurs, graphic designers, and DIY artisans worldwide, installed four new Kornit Presto S systems for roll-to-roll, direct-to-fabric digital decoration. This installation, which doubled Spoonflower’s production capacity, was fast-tracked to answer a considerable increase in topline growth since the onset of COVID-19 restrictions disrupted the industry.
Spoonflower attributed the sudden increase in demand for decorated textiles to increased interest in home-based and DIY projects, as well as its Mask Response Project.
The latter is a program the supplier initiated to give creators the means to design, manufacture, and distribute protective face masks to healthcare providers, community groups, and private citizens in all regions impacted by the pandemic.
“Our business has seen phenomenal growth the past 30-45 days, and we’re seeing a huge surge across all of our product lines,” Spoonflower CEO Michael Jones said. “I’d say about a third of it is from personal protective equipment, face masks. Our makers are located around the world, and we’re able to provide them with unique designs and fabrics that foster personal expression. They’re for their local communities, and so whether it’s nurses or people in different homes, they’re able to provide for their local community where we wouldn’t be able to without their help.”
To keep up with that demand, Jones said, “we’ve added 25,000 square feet of new operational facility in less than two weeks.”
While facial protection was likely far from the minds of most Spoonflower customers just a few short months ago, the pandemic has created a new fashion paradigm, one that builds upon the established trends of customization and connectivity emerging from a digitized world.
“We’re seeing a lot of customers are making use of these products to really help empower their own mask-making efforts, and we’re seeing a tremendous surge in personalization and curation of print design,” said Kerry King, senior VP of R&D at Spoonflower. “The masks people are making are speaking to who they are and what’s important to them.”
“I ask myself now, during a pandemic, why there is so much urgency, so much need, not just for fabric—because there’s a lot of fabric in the world—but fabric that is expressive, that tells a particular story,” said Gart Davis, Spoonflower’s co-founder and chief operating officer. “The Kornit technology, combined with the Spoonflower website, and marketplace, and designer community, is a perfect collaboration for responding to something that is happening now, and really demands expression.”
Davis stressed the role of online designers in driving the demand for protective masks.
“The army of Etsy makers jumped in and started making masks, and everybody went to explore different types of masks—are they comfortable, are they safe, what do they say about me—and a lot of the Etsy suppliers use Spoonflower fabric, and of course Spoonflower uses Kornit printers,” he said.
Spoonflower’s partnership with Kornit extends back to 2013 when the web-based textiles supplier became the first North American business to install a Kornit system for digital direct-to-fabric printing.
“These printers are the core of our business,” says Sarah Ward, Spoonflower’s senior VP of marketing. “We print things, and need reliable, stable partners willing to go the distance with us, and I feel like Kornit and Spoonflower are running that race together. Being able to bring on new equipment, working together to make that happen, just goes to show how strong a partnership we do have.”
According to Ward, that partnership delivers the versatility that not only creates new opportunities in situations where more traditional legacy brands encounter financial hardship but also addresses the question of whether the post-pandemic marketplace can still benefit from a more eco-conscious mindset.
“When you have 1.8 million designs, you simply can’t stock that many fabrics in one place – so the ability to print on demand, not only does it make for the world’s largest marketplace of designs, but it’s inherently sustainable and eco-friendly,” she said.
“We are using all of our printing platforms to meet consumer demand across fabric and home décor, and we are seeing our vendors rise to the challenge to support our needs during an exceedingly difficult time,” King added.