Digital print specialist Kornit has committed to helping garment decorators and manufacturers to be part of the “metaverse”, bridging the virtual and physical worlds.

At a two-day event in London last week, Kornit CEO Ronen Samuel said that print-on-demand technology was well positioned to capitalise on the growth of the “metaverse” – the virtual-reality space where users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.

He also highlighted how on-demand production – linking retailers, brands, printers and end users – would have a major role to play in making British garment decoration and supply more sustainable and less wasteful.

Samuel was part of a team from Kornit, including its UK distributor Amaya Sales UK, at the event at the north London premises of not-for-profit apparel manufacturer and decorator Fashion-Enter, on Friday (4 March).

He flagged up future events including the first UK outing for its Fashion Week series, which will take place in London from 15 to 17 May 2022. These events, previously held in cities such as Los Angeles, New York City and Milan, highlight the applications of digital printing in clothing decoration and production.

Kornit, based in Israel, is also preparing to announce new machines for digital printing as well as new automated functionality for its direct-to-garment (DTG) printers as part of its Tel Aviv Fashion Week from 4 to 6 April 2022.

The company will also continue to demonstrate the potential of digital garment printing to brands, designers and retailers in the UK in partnership with Fashion-Enter which has installed several Kornit machines including the Atlas Max DTG printer and the Presto S direct-to-fabric printer. Fashion-Enter is also home to the new Fashtech Innovation Centre for showcasing fashion technology.

Samuel explained that Kornit would play “a big role” in the “metaverse” where users will be able to convert virtually created fashion and designs into physical products, from non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to the unique “clothing” of gaming avatars.

“There is a huge amount of potential in the metaverse and changes coming to this industry. Ten years from now, people will buy more clothes in the digital world versus the physical world.

“Our role is to connect between the virtual world and the physical world. We will enable you, if you are buying something in the virtual world, to produce it and get it in the physical world.”

He also highlighted how on-demand printing made it possible for consumers to instantly order personalised garments through platforms like Spotify, such as a uniquely decorated T-shirt featuring their favourite band.

Kornit has forecast that the proportion of apparel bought via e-commerce globally will increase from 30% today to 60% by 2025.

Samuel said: “The e-commerce of tomorrow will allow you, because it’s digital, to buy any type of product. There will be no limitations. You don’t need to carry the product. Consumers can choose what they want.”

Talking of young adults of Generation Z, he added: “This generation would like to be unique. This generation would like to express themselves, show their identity.”

Social media such as Instagram was also putting pressure on retailers and designers to respond more quickly to trends in apparel, he said. “People are telling brands what they want and the brands need to react immediately.”

Samuel stressed that, most of all, printing garments on-demand was vital for making the clothing industry more sustainable, from cutting waste to reducing shipping carbon emissions.

He pointed out that 30% of all garment production was currently never sold, equivalent to 21 tons of textiles that are never worn – and wastage of 28 trillion litres of water per year.

On-demand garment printing was the solution, he said. “Only when people are placing their order, then you produce it and you ship it to the consumer. This will create zero waste.

“You don’t need to ship it from China; you actually produce it close to the consumer. This is a totally different supply chain and a different way of production.

“With this supply chain, we are unleashing creativity. If you are not bounded to the production and trying to fit what the consumer will buy, in a digital world, you can create any type of product virtually.”

Kornit Fashion Enter

Kornit Digital CEO Ronen Samuel and Fashion-Enter founder and CEO Jenny Holloway at the event at Fashion-Enter in London in March