Imaged Fabric Adds a Touch of Class to Hum Drum Displays
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Imaged Fabric Adds a Touch of Class to Hum Drum Displays

Fabric is findings its place in the trade show arena and beyond. Discover how this flexible, portable material fits into your business plan.

By Jennifer LeClaire

Looking for a higher-class, lower-cost way to communicate your message? Trade in your vinyl displays for fabric panels and get the attention your product deserves.

RENOLIT Calendered Vinyl - Top performance for various applications

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  • Type the words “fabric banner” into your favorite Internet search engine and you’ll find more than 2 million results. That’s because fabric signage is one of the hottest trends in the industry at trade shows, in department stores, in corporate settings and beyond.

    That old cliché “a picture says a thousand words” is getting a 21st century makeover as some industries swap vinyl for fabric. More than just soft signage, imaged fabric is a key element in some of today’s most creative displays.

    “Imaged fabric offers an elegant look that you just can’t get with vinyl,” says Denise Breard, spokesperson for the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association. “Not only do photographic images look more realistic on fabric, it’s also more cost-effective than vinyl or hard signage.”

    Integrating fabric into your business
    What’s more, she says, fabric is lightweight, portable and you can even iron out the wrinkles. That means your customers can easily store the banners and use them again, which adds value to the product.

    Breard concludes that vinyl still has its place for long-term displays, but fabric is taking over the tradeshow industry and is making headway in department stores ­ and for good reasons. So if you aren’t integrating fabric into your business, it may be time to start.

    One of the most compelling reasons designers are choosing fabric is texture. Breard says fabric can help change the way people perceive ordinary products by adding a touch of class. That’s because fabric is inviting, soft, and reproduces images beautifully.

    The fact is this classic material is taking the industry by storm because a variety of textures and opacities offer almost any look you want at a fraction of the cost of vinyl. Of course, vinyl dominates vehicle wraps and window applications, but imaged fabric is finding its way into the mainstream.

    Fabric has it covered
    What is “imaged fabric?” Only the latest industry buzzword for fabric with an image printed on it via modern inkjet, dye sublimation or screen-printing processes.

    No longer limited to the world of fashion, large format digital fabric printing is producing everything from casino gaming table tops to elegant banners to corporate flags to well, the possibilities are virtually endless. Is your large format printer under-used? Try adding fabric to your repertoire.

    Banners, hanging dividers, signs, flags, backdrops and posters, along with many other marketing vehicles, can be created on fabric with newfangled printing technologies. It seems that whatever the theme, fabric has it covered ­ literally.

    You can use fabric to create a consistent theme at a trade show booth or retail setting with imaged fabric-covered director chairs, imaged fabric throw covers, imaged fabric backdrops and more.

    Fabric is a cost-effective way to provide a unified front that gets attention. Fabric’s flowing movement catches the eyes of passersby and that attention-getting motion is key in a busy trade show or retail environment where consumers are inundated with buying options.

    Unlike hard signage or vinyl, you can’t crush, bend or break fabric. And even if it gets dirty or wrinkled you can wash it and iron it as good as new ­ over and over again ­ and it won’t crack or fade like other materials. Once again, these things add value to the finished product.


    RENOLIT Calendered Vinyl - Top performance for various applications

    Fabric offers flexibility
    Breard says the use of fabric is on the rise because it offers a different look and feel. Fabric has a flowing emotion with vibrant colors that makes is stand out in the crowd. It’s about the ambiance.

    “Fabrics also offers designers flexibility,” Breard says. “You can project a mood, be it fun and energetic or sleek and modern, by using fabrics with different textures and opacities.”

    Twill, for example, is one of the most popular choices because it is durable, wrinkle-free, and lightweight with a smooth opaque finish. Cameo, on the other hand, has the look of suede, while Luster fabric has a textured surface that’s slightly shiny.

    There are also satins and lightweight velour, among others, from which to choose. Regardless of the fabric, this material offers consistently crisp and clear images that enhance an exhibitor’s message with elegance.

    Breard says fabric also offers more versatility in exhibit design. Aluminum frames and tensioned fabric can be used to display overhead banners that command attention in an underused space above a display.

    Marketers can also mount fabric banners on a wall, support them with display poles, or even use wire to suspend them from the ceiling. Anything you can do with vinyl you can do with fabric ­ and more.

    The bottom line is fabric allows you to create signage in a limitless number of shapes and sizes, including curved, rectangular or some other organic shape. That’s why for many designers, Breard says fabric is a dream come true.

    Fabric offers portability
    Portable pop-up fabric displays are perfect for trade shows and media events or even recruiting. Specially designed frames allow one person to quickly and easily display fabric banners in less than five minutes. These displays weigh less than 25 pounds and there’s nothing to put together. All selling points you can use with your new fabric-loving customer base.

    Here’s few more. Fabric panels are lightweight ­ that’s a key advantage for tradeshow customers. This material lets you go from a small package to a large structure in a matter of minutes. It’s an easy way to provide large-scale graphics on a lower budget.

    Fabric is much easier ­ and much less expensive ­ to ship than hard graphics. That saves your clients time and money, making fabric not only a unique alternative but also a practical one.

    The future looks fabric
    Breard says fabric also offers another advantage over vinyl, canvas, paper and wood: safety. Fabrics used in trade show displays are flame retardant.

    This is a critical issue in today’s convention centers and exhibit halls where the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has set strict standards for flammability --- yet another selling point for vinyl.

    Fabric can make an impact at half the cost of other materials and it’s safer to use in many cases. That can lead to repeat sales. And as printing technology improves, the cost of imaged fabric will continue to decline. Perhaps that is why so many people believe the future is fabric.

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