Behind the design team's desks is an inspiration board that serves as an unofficial guide to seasonal trends. Many of their cues are taken directly from the runway — mostly because it's often the kind of thing their clients call and request — but other times it's up to their intuition to know when to bring in a tie-dye print, or retire a Mod one. Art nouveau, for instance, was all over the recent Prada resort line, but the team had trouble selling it nonetheless. ("The client will go, 'I love this personally, but it's not our girl,'" explains one of the Printfresh designers.) So instead they've stuck more to ethnic and tribal prints for summer — trends with a bit more obvious momentum.
Once Printfresh sells a design to a client like BCBG, for example, it's considered a done deal: BCBG can alter the pattern to its hearts' content, or never use it at all. Either way, Printfresh takes the design out of its rotation permanently. "It's interesting to see people put their own twist on one of our designs," says Voloshin. "This one used to be red and black."
The Printfresh design team is "a nice little mix," says Voloshin. "Two went to school for fashion, two went for illlustration, and the rest of us went for textiles." Voloshin herself was a RISD textile grad, and originally had her own t-shirt company before founding Printfresh with her husband. It had always been staffed entirely, if unintentionally, by women — possibly because the unofficial design philosophy is "pretty, cute, and fun" — but recently a male intern came on board.
The handicraft room, where the studio's designs often start (at a painting and drawing station) and end (when the digitally printed swatches are sewn into the shape of a tank top, which is how clients prefer to view them). A drawing of lemons and limes done by Voloshin, for instance, once became underwear for the Victoria's Secret brand Pink.
The aforementioned lone male intern, working at the sample station.
Though the vast majority of Printfresh's samples are printed onto a thin, paper-backed, peel-off fabric swatch by a digital printer, the team is set up to silkscreen if a client or print demands it. "Digital offers more and better colors, but we silkscreen sometimes when we need something to look really artsy," Voloshin says.
The silkscreening table offers a glimpse at prints gone by, of which there have been thousands since Printfresh set up shop in 2006.
Prints coming out of the digital printers, next to which the studio's slightly temperamental dog, Joe, is napping. "He follows me around obsessively," laughs Voloshin.
A pile of new prints waiting to be sewn into final samples. "We always try to have a happy appearance in our prints, to make them optimistic-looking and brightly colored," explains Voloshin. "When we looked at the runways for spring, there were a lot of beautiful things happening that we decided not to pursue. Givenchy's zig-zag prints, severe placements on the body, mirror-images and photo-realism. It's fantastic to look at, but it just doesn’t work for the American public, which is who we speak to. It happened over time — at the beginning we were definitely more focused on edgier prints, and then in going on appointments and working with clients, it changed our outlook."
Even the cheerfully colored thread used to sew the fabric samples reflects that philosophy.
The contents of a suitcase used for a recent sales pitch reflect the other side of the business: vintage fabrics. Voloshin says her higher-end clients — like Anthropologie, Abercrombie & Fitch, or even Karl Lagerfeld — prefer to look to textiles from the past for inspiration rather than the contemporary Printfresh designs.
For instance, after Balenciaga kicked off a major trend for watercolor florals, many of Voloshin's clients began requesting them. She shows them vintage examples like the ones pictured here (in front of two rather flamboyant office sofas), which they can purchase the rights to just as they would the custom designs.
There are copyright issues, at least theoretically, but most of the companies she works with will take a vintage print and change it before employing it on their apparel. The shirt in the lower left corner of this Teen Vogue spread features a constellation of teeny hearts that, when Printfresh sold the pattern, used to be squares.
Accordingly, the archive room includes racks and racks of vintage fabrics and garments. Voloshin spends much of her time sourcing them from various resources around the world. "A lot of times people are basically paying for me to take care of that service, such as when we found all these amazing old textile books from the 1800s, from a mill that had closed down."
"With vintage, we always look for the most bizarrely awesome things we can find," she says. The garments are organized by style and sometimes era, "so when people ask for animal prints or conversational prints, or something strange, we can come in here and grab a handful of whatever they need or what’s trending on the runway."
The archive room also contains a sample of every pattern Printfresh has ever designed.
"Our older designs that don’t sell are a little strange, but we try to revamp them and recolor them, making them new depending on what people are asking for," Voloshin says. Also in this shot: the staff ping-pong table.
"My husband is obsessed with ping-pong," says Voloshin. "He even got a robot to play with him."
One of Voloshin's own inspirations is the legendary textile designer Vera Neumann, who became famous in the '60s for her painterly prints. The example pictured here is one several old favorites Voloshin framed and hung all down the company's hallway.
Though the clocks in the main office reflect world times, Printfresh is squarely focused on the U.S. market, which is in part what makes them so unique. "Most of our competitors are British," Voloshin says. "There are also a lot of Italian studios that specialize in really wild stuff — like animal skins and bedazzled things — and some French studios, though they tend to focus on paper products or home goods. Australia, too, because they have a growing fashion market. But there aren't very many of us in the U.S. I'm really creatively fulfilled by what we do here."