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The Big Interview

Ladies Solar Long Sleeve T

Performing well on the press and on the field

Those of you that visited Printwear & Promotion LIVE! back in February may have stumbled across first time exhibitor Vapor Apparel – a company dedicated to producing the ultimate in sublimation-friendly garments and accessories. P&P editor Melanie Attlesey spoke with owner and founder Chris Bernat to find out more about this exciting industry and his plans for the UK market.


apor Apparel hails from Charleston in South Carolina. It was founded 13 years ago by Chris Bernat and his business partner Jackson Burnett. Chris has a solid background in sublimation after working for Sawgrass for many years, while Jacksonʼs background is in yarn having previously worked for Unifi, a company specialising in poly yarn and fibre. Chris playfully says: “We took the ink nerd and the fibre nerd and said we were going to make garments that were myopically focused on sublimation.” Adding: “The best thing that can happen to you in your career is to find a problem that you can solve. I feel blessed that when I worked at Sawgrass I was exposed to the problem of people bringing me Nike or Under Armor shirts and they were melting on the press or they were flashing. Jackson and I realised we could solve these problems.” And this is exactly what Vapor Apparel has done – it has solved sublimatorsʼ

problems by creating a range that is entirely sublimation friendly. Its range extends to over 100 garments and accessories perfectly suited to sublimation printing. And now the company intends to gain a foothold in the UK market.

The UK market Earlier this year Vapor Apparel set up a warehouse operation in Holland to better serve the European market and to help replenish European distributorsʼ stock more easily and quickly. Chris explains: “We havenʼt yet finalised our distribution set up for the UK, but what we have finalised is our commitment to UK printers.” Vapor Apparelʼs full product line has been available to the UK market since March.

But why should UK sublimators be interested in Vapor Apparelʼs products? For starters, despite all products being made from 100% polyester they have a soft cotton-like feel. Chris explains: “We have a shirt called the Basic T, however it is far from basic. Itʼs got a lot of

technology built into it, for example itʼs got heat-set yarn and fabric so it doesnʼt shrink on the press. The goal of the Basic T was to get rid of sublimatorsʼ biggest problems. Sublimators have what I call cotton envy. The Basic T is specifically engineered to look and feel like cotton.” He adds: “We had one lady come up to our stand at the show and accuse me of lying because she could not believe our Basic T contained no cotton. Itʼs a good problem to have.”

Inside Vapor Apparel’s apparel manufacturing and warehousing facility in Charleston | 24 | May 2017

According to Chris there are a lot of garment manufacturers out there manufacturing 100% polyester shirts claiming that they are ready for sublimation. “Being made from 100% polyester does not make a garment automatically ready for sublimation. We do things with our yarn and our fabric to make our garments sublimation ready. One of our mill partners in South America has recently invested $500,000 in improving their ventilation system as any third party material can be extremely dangerous in sublimation. When you heat press a shirt you are opening the molecules and if there is dust on that shirt or any loose fibres this can cause issues with the print,” adds Chris. Another point that sets Vapor Apparel apart from the rest of the market is its colour gamut. Chris explains: “Iʼve given up counting how many people have told me that you can only sublimate on white, this is an inherently incorrect statement. More than 75% of what we sell to sublimators is not white. We have been running up against this fallacy that you can only print on white for 10 years. The only colours that you are unable to sublimate are dark colours.”

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