The fashion world is ever changing. Where technology is concerned, the advancements of digital printing and textile development is now allowing designers to further their visions on cloth more than ever before.

You don’t have to look far for a glimpse at what such an innovation can offer too. Internationally acclaimed couturier Zang Toi himself has harnessed technology to create beautiful, runway-ready garments here in Malaysia.

Kelantan-born Toi partnered with Epson Malaysia to showcase a unique collaboration featuring beautiful wayang kulit prints. This was then unveiled at the recent 2016’s Malaysia Fashion Week (MFW) held in Kuala Lumpur.

Named Toi – The Dressmaker, the collection for Spring/Summer 2017 is said to be a special dedication to women empowerment. It comprises 18 looks of women in power suits for day and Epson digital prints for cocktail and evening pieces. According to Toi, fun with technology has never been more stylish. In this way, he thinks that high quality digital textile printing will ultimately replace silk screen printing for the mass fashion market.

Designers are encouraged to keep up with the current trends in technology. These include using digital printing when fashioning fabrics.

Designers are encouraged to keep up with the current trends in technology. These include using digital printing when fashioning fabrics.

“This is the digital era and we need to keep up with the current trends in technology especially for fashion. Trend, technology and fashion work hand in hand. This collaboration with Epson will stand for unrivalled glam and unrelenting approach to perfection and craftsmanship,” Toi states.

The coming together of the two names – Zang Toi and Epson Malaysia – was significant. It resulted in jaw-dropping designs created with fabric digitally printed by Epson’s SureColor digital textile printers.

Toi is apparently enamoured by his brush with the textile printer. So much so, he describes the experience as “truly exciting” and will be considering digital textile printing for his future design works.

“It’s just amazing that the machine uses the silk screen technique but works more like a photocopy machine. Based on my experience, it complements the fashion industry and hopefully will eventually cater to the couture market too,” he explains.

Zang toi

Wayang kulit designs created with fabric digitally printed by Epson digital textile printers.

Epson’s SureColor digital dye-sublimation textile printer was used to print Toi’s designs. The wayang kulit motifs were printed on taffeta fabric, of which his dedicated team custom-created for this occasion.

Where traditional silk screening process is costly, labour-intensive, requires large minimum yardage and can sometimes be restrictively repetitive, digital textile printing allows for fabric to be printed in remarkably small runs.

It remains not a barrier to design and is environmentally clean as well. Digital photography, photos and even paintings can be embraced in the creative process, allowing designers to produce unique, breathtaking works.

For Epson, the chance to work with Zang Toi was a great opportunity to showcase the versatility of its SureColor digital textile printers. With the wide colour gamut offered, the designs printed are accurate and vibrant, matching exactly what the designer wanted to achieve.

“We are honoured to collaborate and break new grounds in digital printing with MFW and with such an acclaimed international label as Zang Toi,” says Epson Malaysia’s general manager of sales and marketing, Danny Lee.

Designs based on different iterations of a woman’s powersuit.

Designs based on different iterations of a woman’s powersuit.

“Our intention is to showcase the amazing capabilities and versatility of our digital textile printers and the opportunities for digital textile printing in the fashion industry. We intend to fully support creative designers to transform their ideas into any possibility they can imagine, and leverage those as viable business ideas,” he adds.

The designs for Toi – The Dressmaker took inspiration from Zang Toi’s New York Spring/Summer 1990 collection. It is all about bringing back the Malaysian Heritage in new and wonderful ways. Suits were of course, the main focus. Nevertheless, the collection also featured glamorous gowns that would probably not look out of place at a grand cocktail ball. The designs also incorporated the use of different textiles, giving meaning to true diversity.

Toi notes that his creations celebrate the epitome of elegance with feminine grace. His idea was to introduce a dash of Hollywood glamour and charm into pieces that can take a woman from day to night.

To him, the powersuit has many more variations than just being the 1980s executive suit. It has evolved and shifted over the last century in ways. The same goes for embracing digital printing.

Before it came into favour with fashion desginers, the technology was first used in the carpet industry in the 1970s and then later on large format banners in the 1980s. It finally found its place in fashion in the early 1990s.

Unlike thermal inkjet systems, Epson printheads eject droplets of ink via mechanical pressure, making them compatible with a variety of inks and mediums.

Unlike thermal inkjet systems, Epson printheads eject droplets of ink via mechanical pressure, making them compatible with a variety of inks and mediums.

Epson digital dye sublimation printers use a proprietary technology known as Micro Piezo and PrecisionCore TFP. Unlike thermal inkjet systems, the print heads eject droplets of ink via mechanical pressure (instead of heat), making them compatible with a variety of inks and mediums.

By precisely controlling the volume of ink contained in each droplet of ink, Epson Micro Piezo printers not only generate virtually no wasted ink, They also ensure that sharp, rich and virtually grain-free images are rendered at all times.

“What we see here today is the future of digital printing and an inflection point for the textile industry. The Toi – The Dressmaker collection demonstrates that Epson is able to create high quality textile prints that meet the most stringent standards of fashion designers,” comments Lee.

Toi was only 20 years old when he first landed in New York City to enroll at the distinguished Parsons School Of Design. A year after founding his atelier, House Of Toi, he caught the eye of editor-in-chief of the US Vogue Anna Wintour and was featured in the magazine.

Today, he runs a prestigous atelier in Manhattan. His clientele includes rich-and-famous names the likes of Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, actresses Kirstie Alley and Eva Longoria and popstar Fergie of Black Eyed Peas.

MFW, a project by International Trade Malaysia (also known as Intrade), happens to be an event held annually. The fashion expo is jointly organised by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) and Stylo International.