A Spanish swimwear specialist has been producing a wide range of swimwear and related apparel using Kornit Digital’s Presto Max digital printing technology, improving its sustainability credentials and speeding prototypes and products to market.

Established in 1981, Barcelona-based Grupo Moda Estilmar is a fabric decorator specialising in swimwear, activewear and intimate apparel. The company develops three women’s swimwear collections per year, working with brands and retailers globally; more than 80% of its products are exported.

In 2013 Estilmar started using digital print technologies to produce its swimwear, a segment that is unusual among textiles in that it demands more vivid colours than most apparel. These printing systems included acid dyeing and dye sublimation. Feeling the pressure to adopt more sustainable practices that require less water and energy, the company looked to Kornit, whose single-step pigment-based printing for on-demand fulfilment is compatible with a range of fabrics.

‘We were amazed by the technology – the fabric preparation and the richness of the colour compared to other pigment equipment,’ says Sergi Domenech, owner of Grupo Moda Estilmar. ‘On swimwear, colour is very important. They’re very bright, and the challenges of fastness, especially to light and washing, to chlorine – with Kornit, we’re able to reproduce colours very well.’

Whole cloth: Estilmar bathes in sustainable swimwear success

The Kornit printer helps produce samples for Estilmar’s EcoWave line

In 2018, Estilmar launched its Eco Wave sub-brand, which aimed to address Southern Europe’s ongoing water and energy challenges with a product line that is more sustainable, using recycled yarns, green energy from on-site solar panels, and waterless printing. The latter was made possible – and profitable – by technologies such as Kornit’s Presto system for digital direct-to-fabric decoration.

‘Becoming sustainable was an obsession when we started this project, and with textiles being the second-most polluting industry in the world, we need to be as clean as possible, Mr Domenech adds. ‘Every decision and action we take goes in this direction, and we feel happy – not only with our sales results, but a pride in what we’re going as a company.

The Kornit printer also brought speed and efficiency benefits, he goes on to explain, ‘Samples can be printed  the same day – you get an idea in the morning, and you can reproduce it within the day. That is a big change versus other technologies that require many steps and machines – just a much longer process.’

Integrating the Presto system into Estilmar’s production operations involved support from Kornit staff in Germany and Israel, with ongoing support from Kornit’s local Spanish partner 3-Print. The company upgraded its system to Presto Max capabilities when the latest-generation developments were made available.

One of the key attractions at this point was to deliver neon colour effects for the swimwear line, matching the colour capabilities of the company’s in-house acid and sublimation decoration while maintaining Kornit’s waterless print advantages.

‘Presto Max has helped us move forward many years, and having one machine that can print cotton, viscose, nylon or polyester with the same printing formula, it’s fantastic,’ Mr Domenech says. “Many of our customers are not technical when it comes to printing, but when they see the technology that is disruptive, they really are amazed and see there is a magic behind it. We’re confident this new machine will open more doors, in other fields beyond swimwear.’

One development has been that many customers now look to have Estilmar’s swimwear designs paired with matching prints on different materials for other garments. This can be accomplished without much setup or adjustment, and Kornit’s DuoSoft solution helps deliver a high-quality hand-feel for the swimwear.

‘Our plan going forward is to continue investing in making this business as sustainable as possible, to be as vertical as possible in our production plans, and Kornit Presto Max is a crucial part of it,’ confirms Mr Domenech.