Sustainability and the environment have underpinned everything at I Dress Myself since the business launched. From the fabrics and embroidery threads, to the choice of printing equipment and inks, founders Pete and Hannah Conway have pioneered ways to reflect their ethical values in every garment that leaves their shop.
‘Sustainability was a big part of our lives, so it seemed natural.’ Hannah explains. ‘We lived in a housing co-op, we generally avoid supermarkets, we shop ethically when we can, we re-use things when we can, buy second-hand where we can. If it’s important to you in your everyday life, then it is equally important in your business practice.’
The pair published their first Environmental Policy in 2006, which caught the attention of Colormaker Industries, the Australian based manufacturer of PERMASET eco-friendly water-based ink. I Dress Myself thus became the UK’s first decorator to use the new generation of water-based inks exclusively in all its printing. ‘We love using PERMASET Inks because they are such good quality’ Hannah adds. ‘They are extremely durable and generally the print will last longer than the garment itself. PERMASET SUPERCOVER Inks are very opaque, so it’s easy to print white onto black or colour onto colour without requiring an under-base, while the PERMATONE Inks are really vibrant, with a very soft handle’. ‘They’re 100% solvent free so we don’t have to use solvents to clean the ink off the screens at the end of the run. It makes for a much nicer environment to work in’ she says.
As well as using PERMASET Inks for their own printing, I Dress Myself formed a partnership with Colormaker Industries, that has seen Pete and Hannah provide assistance to other printers in the UK, Europe and North America who wanted to make the move to water-based printing. Hannah acknowledges that there are some challenges for garment decorators wanting to make the change to printing with water-based inks. ‘You can’t leave the ink on a hot day for very long without printing, whereas, with plastisol inks, you can stop mid print run on a Friday, go home for the weekend and come back and carry on, as they don’t set and dry unless you cure them, but on the other hand, they do come with a big environmental downside. It can be more challenging to use water-based inks on dark colours for multi-colour print runs. You have to keep the inks moving, you don’t want anything to dry out, but for us, for the environment and for the planet, it’s worth the effort’.
‘Water-based inks can be more of a challenge…but it’s worth the effort’
‘Automatic screen printing requires a lot of technical knowledge; just for the squeegee itself, you have to consider the correct squeegee hardness for the job, the pressure, the squeegee angle. Getting all the details right makes the difference between a fair print and a GREAT quality print. Water-based inks can be tricky, but we’ve been using PERMASET water-based inks for 15 years, so we consider ourselves dab hands at it now. That’s right, 15 years! We never use plastisol inks or harmful discharge inks—when you can make great quality prints without them, why would you?’