Result’s new Printable Soft Shell styles promise to breathe new life into the promotional soft-shell market. Jonathan Vince caught up with Result’s brand ambassador Gary Layzell at the Fespa show to find out what the new products have to offer

(Left to right) The R232F and R232M Printable Soft Shell Bodywarmer, and R231F and R231M Printable Soft Shell Jacket solve the print issues associated with traditional soft-shells

Nine years ago Result blazed a trail when it launched the first promotional outerwear in soft-shell fabrics. The new styles were an immediate success and promised to replace fleece outerwear in a very short time. In recent years, soft-shell’s appeal has endured and many more brands have followed Result into this sector of the market. However, soft-shell has never quite delivered on its early promise or achieved its promotional potential. The main reason: printability.

Gary Layzell, brand ambassador for Result, explains that when soft-shell was launched into the promotional market it was very much targeted at printers. “Soft-shell garments offered printers what was effectively a ‘raw’ waterproof fabric, with no surface coatings, that provided good adhesion for both direct prints and transfers. The prints looked great when they came off the press: the problem was that when the customer received the garments two or three days later they would often notice black blooms (or blotches) appearing on the prints. This was the case across the board as most soft-shells are made in the same way.”

Traditional performance soft-shell comprises three bonded layers, including a TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) mid-layer, which contributes to the garment’s superior weatherproofing properties. It turned out that the heat used to cure screen inks or apply transfers and vinyls could reactivate the chemicals in this heat-sensitive mid-layer causing it to leech through the polyester outer fabric and into the ink film, resulting in the now familiar black oily effect on the print.

“Performance soft-shells contain lots of man-made materials, including elastane, which printed inks, transfers and vinyls simply don’t get on with. Most people have now backed away from printing on soft-shell fabrics: as far as the trade is concerned, it has become an embroidery only product. So you have these fantastic garments that should be easily marketed as promotional products, but they have a weakness that discourages people from decorating them in the most cost effective way, using print,” says Gary. “We know that people still want to print these products commercially, and that there is a big hole in the market for products that would allow them to do that.”

The R232M/F Printable Soft Shell Bodywarmer is affordably priced and lends itself to a wide variety of end uses, including rock band crewwear

Mechanical stretch

Result’s answer was to strip back the soft-shell to its core constituents and rebuild it from there. The outcome is the about-to-be-launched R231M/F Printable Soft Shell jacket and R232M/F Printable Soft Shell Bodywarmer. Gary comments: “We’ve simplified the products mechanically, chemically and design-wise. We’ve changed the way the layers are bonded and the way the fabric is knitted, using crimped yarns. This gives the garments inherent stretchiness, without the need for the elastane yarn used in performance soft-shells. We call this mechanical stretch. We’ve also removed many of the traditional design details, such as yokes and Napoleon pockets, which make a garment even harder to print, while retaining key soft-shell features, such as chin guards, zip closing pockets and contrast accents.”

He adds that the new mechanical stretch soft-shell fabric isn’t waterproof and doesn’t have the weatherproofing properties of Result’s performance soft-shell styles, but it is showerproof, provides warmth, thanks to its microfleece inner, and some protection from the elements. “We’re not trying to oversell the new Printable Soft Shells as performance products; these are promotional products,” he states.

Gary is eager to point out that while the garments are specifically designed for print, printers should bear in mind that they are polyester products and that certain procedures need to be followed. “The Printable Soft Shells will give great printed results, but it’s not like printing onto a cotton T-shirt; you need to treat these garments slightly differently – to understand your dryers and curing schedules and the inks you use. Our advice is to use low-bleed inks, lower temperatures (for direct and transfer prints) and to treat the garments as you would polyester sportswear.”

The good news is that Gary is on-hand to provide more detailed or specialised advice as and when required. In his role as Result’s brand ambassador he will be visiting printshops to help them perfect their printing onto the new Printable Soft Shell styles. It’s a job for which he’s eminently qualified: Gary’s been involved in print production for the past 30 years and before joining Result he worked for ink manufacturers Sericol as well as owning and running his own printshop, Monster Print. “Most printers in the trade have the necessary knowledge and skills to produce quality prints on these new products, but Result is all about supporting its customers and I am out on the road and can get printers up to speed very quickly,” he adds.

Printable Soft Shell specs

The R231M/F Printable Soft Shell Jacket and R232M/F Printable Soft Shell Bodywarmer come in sizes S-4XL for men, and XS-2XL for women. They are offered in seven colourways: black/orange, black/ black, vivid green/black, navy/royal, purple/black, red/black, and yellow/black.

The garments’ features include decorative top stitching, full front zip, zip closing front pockets, chin guard, elastane-free crimped polyester yarn outer, microfleece inner, and a neutral label for rebranding.

Result will be holding large stocks of both styles, with an initial stock of 75k units arriving at the end of June.

Visit the Result website or contact your Result distributor for further details.

By simplifying the design of the new soft-shell styles, Result has created not only printable products, but also products that it can offer at a greatly reduced price point, as part of its price-sensitive Core Collection. “The Printable Soft Shells will be going out into the market at around half the price of more traditional styles,” Gary reports. “Then, you have to factor in the savings on the decoration costs. Our customers can now sell decorated soft-shells based on a print price rather than an embroidery price. They can apply a large back design cost-effectively, and offer print prices on large volume orders. It means that the price of the product going out from our customers is significantly improved, too: they can buy it in, decorate it, sell it out at the price they would normally pay for a performance soft-shell, and still almost double their margins. Commercially, it is a fantastic product.”
Gary believes the new products are a perfect fit for the corporate and promo markets and points out that the bodywarmer is an especially versatile choice. “You could sell it into the sports, corporate, or workwear markets: the R232 in the yellow and vivid green colourways is already being talked about as a great addition to work uniforms, offering an ideal mid-layer, between a hoody and a jacket.” He also notes interest in using the R232 for rock bands’ crewwear (Result displayed a Printable Soft Shell emblazoned with a large rock band print at Fespa) and also the collegewear leavers market. “Now that you can print the students’ names you can upsell from the traditional hoodie to a soft-shell jacket.”
He concludes: “Everybody reading Images magazine will have a reason to consider these garments – large merchandising houses, corporate schemes, schoolwear suppliers… They’re giving soft-shell a new lease of life and making it accessible and affordable for everybody.”

User trial

Peter Joyce of TOT Shirts has produced test prints on samples of the new Printable Soft Shells and is enthusiastic about the results and the garments’ potential. He comments: “We screen printed some red jackets with a job we had on-press and the prints were stunning. The ink printed and cured well and there was no migration. It’s a fabulous jacket for people who want to screen print on soft-shells.

“We also printed some designs on our Aeoon direct-to-garment printer. The detail and quality of the digital prints was exceptional; however, due to the chemistry of digital inks you won’t get the same washfastness as you do with screen.

“We’ll be recommending the Result jackets to any customer who comes to us for printed soft-shells.”