Words Amicia de Moubray Photographs Prinfab
Ever fancied yourself as a textile designer? Now is your chance. Prinfab based in Faversham offers a digital fabric printing service for any length of fabric you desire from as little as 20cm costing just £1.49, to literally reams and reams of cloth. And what’s more, in a rapid turnaround time of just three days.
‘The only limit is your imagination,’ says Oliver Mustoe-Playfair who set up the business with his brother Harry in 2016. Customers can upload any image via the company’s website ready for printing.
On any day of the working week, a vast range of designs are printed for a diverse clientele ranging from art students, patterns for embroidery kits, lots of tea towels, film and TV designers, wedding organisers printing seating plans, to lampshade makers, to dolls house specialists – you name it, Prinfab can print it. ‘Lots of our customers are micro-businesses. Many are creating products to be sold on Etsy or Not on the High Street.’
Oliver is planning to launch an online shop offering ‘millions’ of patterns. ‘I want customers to be able to order online and receive the fabric the following day.’ The era of cavernous warehouses stocked with thousands of bolts of fabrics is a thing of the past.
‘There is no waste,’ says Oliver proudly. If a customer wants a very short run, it is printed alongside other small orders. ‘We pool them all together.’
Winner of the first ever Digitally Printed Textiles Award at the Digital Printer Awards in 2021 (a new category), Prinfab is the first company in the world to install an Epson Mona Lisa-8000 printer. It is capable of printing over 200sqm per hour. Initially Prinfab used smaller machines but as demand grew, it became necessary to rapidly scale up. Prinfab now has the capacity to print 5,000 metres in a day. The brothers developed their own software – ‘Our system pulls everything together.’
Customers can choose from a variety of 40 different fabrics including cotton, duchess satin, suede, lycra, British natural linen, polyester, organic calico, shimmer velvet and bamboo. Not sure what fabric to choose? Prinfab provides samples of the same design printed on all the different fabrics – the results vary enormously in the final appearance. All natural fibre fabrics are printed with organic inks. For inspiration, look at Prinfab’s lively Instagram account.
Astonishingly, the brothers had no previous experience of printing fabrics but are clearly both imbued with entrepreneurial flair. ‘We thought it would be as simple as purchasing the kit and plugging it in. But it couldn’t have been further from the truth. It took several months to get the print quality to a commercially acceptable level.’
At one time Oliver owned Deramores, the knitting wool specialist, employing 60 people on the Isle of Sheppey. ‘We sold more wool than John Lewis.’ He sold the company to Ideal Shopping Direct.
Covid was a boon to Prinfab due to the demand for thousands and thousands of facemasks but Brexit has been a hinderance because of the complicated shipping customs regulations. All orders are shipped in 100 per cent recycled and recyclable packaging. The customer base is largely British with 15 per cent from the United States.
At the moment Prinfab employs 10 people but watch this space as it is clearly an ever expanding business.
Text: Amicia de Moubray. Photographs: Prinfab