Designer Perpective - Debbie Mckeegan { Digetex - Creative Director }
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Designers and print service providers are often the first to use new technology in the textile printing sector and are well placed to comment on developments in the industry. With the ongoing transition from analogue to digital, new opportunities are arising for these key members of the supply chain.
WTiN spoke to Debbie McKeegan who, as both creative director at UK based Digetex – a provider of custom printing on cottons, silks, linens, polyesters, FR fabrics, papers and wallcoverings – and as an experienced designer, has a unique insight into these industry developments.
McKeegan began her career at the advent of CAD technology and said that she was ‘immediately hooked’. Commenting on her development as a designer alongside this technology, McKeegan said:
“In a design world pre-Photoshop, where designers used drawing boards and the now redundant colour copier was a valued design tool, young, enthusiastic and eager to learn, I embraced this new technology and its creative potential early on, seeing no limits – only freedom. Racing through the ‘90s, the development of both software and digital print techniques would change the creative’s workflow
“As a young designer specialising in home furnishings, my work involved both the design and manufacture of the products I created.
Design was moving into the digital world; production was definitely still analogue.
Utilising slow, complicated software we would create patterns and prints for design selection.
My earliest digital prints were created on a desktop printer in the late ‘80s. I then had to spraystarch cotton fabrics
and manually feed them through the printer.”
As technology has progressed, and digital options are increasingly available for both design and production, McKeegan said:
“There are so many benefits for the designer, both as a pure creative and for commercial print studios. I guess if I had to choose my top six benefits they would be freedom, time, energy, viability, infinite creativity, and controlled stock.
“I can't say that there are any major drawbacks for the creative utilising digital print, only endless possibilities. There are definitely more jobs around for talented designers, which is great.
“As the market evolves so do opportunities for freelance and fulltime employment and emerging new businesses. 
“However, that said and aside from print, in digital design I am seeing a huge swing back towards traditional drawing techniques, which is a welcome change from a sea of ‘Photoshop’. 
Clients seek designs created on the drawing board with traditional techniques, or multilayered creative processes combining both.
The creative freedom offered to the creative with combined digital tech is infinite.”
Working closely with retailers McKeegan had also had a window on to the way in which new technology is being received at the end of the supply chain. She commented:
“Retailers have been slow to react. Consumer buying patterns and fast fashion have forced a sea of change – seeking speed to market, reduced stock, range diversity, and smaller distribution channels. Buyers buy not because it's digital but because it's cost effective. The final print process is immaterial and the consumer is unaware of any change.
“There’s a renewed hunger for good design and fast fashion creates increasing demand."
“In design we have the evercreative Photoshop generation, but sadly many designers suffer from a lack of commercial print knowledge on so many basic levels. So many traditional design skills were lost in the 1990s and the post generation have been denied access and crucial training within manufacturing environments.”
With developments in digital textile printing ongoing, WTiN asked McKeegan what improvements she would like to see in the near future, to which she said:
“I'd like to see better, costeffective printhead technology, cheaper inks and entry level digital print machines to facilitate the development of new markets. Many highly successful highstreet retailers now print their own fabrics, cutting out the wholesaler whilst offering the consumer exceptional design and great value. Digital print should empower designer makers and new emerging fashion and interior brands.”
As there is still some progress to be made in the technology and inks that are available for digital textile printing, McKeegan said that Digetex’s key considerations when deciding on what equipment to invest are “absolute manufacturing consistency, efficiency and sustainability,” enabling the company to plan ahead to meet the market’s demand for digital print and its associated products.
McKeegan posits that the market demand for digital print is likely to increase dramatically in the near future. She stated: “Global textile manufacture will be transformed over the next five years. As companies seek to reduce distribution costs and increase their ‘speed to market’, localised sourcing will create a strong demand for new print resources.”
Digetex has planned for its own development based on this market change:
“Our specialised digital textile factory is built on a strong textile heritage. We plan to source and invest in new technology over the next two years, enabling us to serve an ever evolving market and its demands during this exciting new chapter in textile history.”
McKeegan said:
“We envisage a huge growth in our market over the next five years. Our company has witnessed the digital sector grow from strength to strength over the last ten years, creating new markets for our industry. Whilst Digetex serve clients worldwide, as a company we are committed to localised sourcing of our consumables wherever possible.
We also see that change in our loyal client base, to which we offer high quality print and exceptional service, [thanks to] a focused buying strategy.”
Interview By Tansy Fall - WTIN 
10 April 2015
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