If you want to add bling to apparel, the fastest, easiest way is to use heat-applied graphics. Through the use of bling cutter materials such as metallics, glitters, holographics, spangles and foils as well as heat-applied rhinestones, it’s easy to dress up an existing design or create a full-front design that shines and sparkles.
What makes it so fun and easy is the great selection of glitter cutter materials that come in so many colors and varieties. Some are made using a large flake and have a textured finish. These have the most impact. Other glitters use a finer-size flake and have a smooth surface. This type can be slightly easier to work with.
Foils also come in a variety of selections. Some cutter materials have different foil finishes—some are muted with a pearl-like finish while others have more shine. Foil also can be purchased in sheets and applied to a plastisol screen printed design or a digital laser transfer. In addition to solid colors, foil sheets also come in patterns such as oil spill, shatter, rainbow and zebra. The possibilities are endless.
For printer/cutters, there is a metallic material that can be printed with unlimited colors and because the inks are translucent, the metallic sheen shines through. At this time, silver is the only color available, but other colors are expected to be developed in the future.
In addition to cutter materials, there also are heat-applied rhinestones, rhinestuds and nailheads. For custom rhinestone designs, one option is to purchase individual rhinestones and a special material that allows users to cut a template with a cutter. A piece of clear carrier film is taped to the templates and rhinestones are brushed into the holes. The carrier film is lifted from the template, and it can be heat applied to the shirt.
The best way to sell bling is to show it off! Get creative and make samples for your showroom and sales presentations. Think big in terms of designs and apply to a variety of items such as pant legs, shirts, caps and tote bags so customers understand the full potential.
Rhinestones come in colors, but if adding rhinestones to a shirt that already has graphics on it, I recommend sticking with the clear stones. These are cheaper and can keep cost down, which is certainly a concern as this type of decoration is costly in comparison to other media options.
Rhinestones are not only expensive, but also heavy. So, in terms of design, it’s best not to load up a shirt with too many. The best use of rhinestones is as an accent or an outline. Using two rhinestones for the eyes of a teddy bear or the center of a flower is one example. Adding a rhinestone outline to one word or graphic element, like a heart, is another.
When applying only a few rhinestones, like the eyes in a teddy bear, simply put them in the proper location, protect them with a cover sheet, and press. There are concerns about the stones shifting using this method. To avoid, secure them with a piece of thermal transfer tape or the rhinestone masking paper.
Another option is to purchase a predesigned rhinestone transfer and create a design with cutter materials around it. Hearts, flowers, peace signs, paws and flags are some examples of common designs available.
Another design element to keep in mind here: rhinestones will not adhere to a cutter material; the rhinestone adhesive will stick only to the shirt. For example, using the teddy bear approach from before, the eyes must be weeded out of the design to make room for the rhinestones. Of course, this also applies to production strategies for stones, and is just one of many factors.
On that note, for big orders that combine cutter materials and rhinestones, a production strategy is to choose products that heat apply at roughly the same temperature. This helps to avoid resetting the temperature up and down depending on the different materials. Of course, you can always heat seal one material on all the shirts and come back to do the second layer, but you will lose time having to double load and remove each garment.
Fortunately, many heat transfer materials heat apply within 10 degrees of each other so for the most part, re-adjusting the heat isn’t a huge concern. If combining two materials that apply at similar temperatures (for example, 320°F and 330°F), I recommend heat printing both at the higher temperature.
It’s no surprise that the biggest markets for bling are in cheer, dance and spirit wear, but the trend is also moving into restaurants and bars. It’s also very popular for any type of fashion as seen in boutiques for women and children. For men, the most popular bling is the muted foils, which adds a subtle shine and dimension.
Bling justifies a higher price tag and the best way to sell it is to show it off using samples. Create shirts with large full-front bling graphics to display in a showroom or during a sales presentation. Also show it on pant legs, sports jerseys, sweat shirts, jackets, tote bags and caps to show the whole package. Bling prints sell themselves, so I say get creative! Offer a mixture of glitter or foil with rhinestones.
Depending on the market, a shirt with a single-color glitter material and rhinestones outlining the text is going to sell for between $35 and $40. Don’t be afraid to ask for a higher price for these garments because customers are willing to pay. If you offer multicolor, this involves extra labor, which also justifies a higher price.
A great example here is in fan jerseys. Moms, sisters and girlfriends would go for a sports jersey with the team name on the front in glitter and their player’s name and/or number on the back. The glitter cutter material adheres to mesh jerseys, which really stands out among those simply wearing T-shirts.
In terms of the future, I have a feeling that bling is never going to die. The spirit wear, cheer and dance markets are always looking for the next big thing. If you are not offering bling to your customer base you are missing out. All you need is a heat press and a cutter to tap into this lucrative market.