Growing Up


A plea of “Do I really have to?” often echoes between the walls at Buffalo, New York-based supplier Apple Imprints Apparel (UPIC: APPL0003). But it’s not children begging off a dreaded chore—it’s distributors.

Mary Poissant, director of sales and marketing for the supplier, says it’s not unheard of for mature, professional clients to look for ways around the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) requirements for decorated children’s apparel. “Working with Apple Imprints, the answer is ‘no’ without exception, sign off or any other idea they may have to avoid a tracking label and costs associated with it,” she says, explaining that distributors sometimes think signing waivers will let them sidestep the requirements.

If you aren’t aware of the special requirements surrounding decorated children’s apparel, or if you’ve ever thought about maneuvering around these requirements, know that compliance with the CPSIA’s guidelines for imprinted children’s apparel is not only a best practice for industry suppliers and distributors, it’s the law. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to follow these guidelines, as ramifications down the road—if the item is tested and fails—can be detrimental to the distributor,” Poissant says, adding that distributors should communicate this to their clients, too.

Simply put, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) requires all children’s products to undergo third-party testing for certain requirements. Assuming a garment complies with all regulations, the inks, embroidery thread and any other decoration applied by industry decorators must also comply. In addition, tracking labels must be applied by the decorator so that suspect garments can be tracked back to their decoration source, the date they were produced and the production batch from which they originated.

The good news is that playing by the rules when it comes to children’s apparel is, in Poissant’s view, much less complicated than campaigns involving toys or electronics. A basic screen print decoration, for example, is easy if distributors and suppliers choose trusted partners who use compliant inks. “Working with trusted partners such as Wilflex and their Epic series of inks helps ensure the decoration is compliant,” Poissant says. “Testing documents of Wilflex products are completed yearly and updated to meet standards set by the CPSC.”

However, Poissant says CPSIA requirements have pushed distributors and end buyers to streamline their children’s wear orders, resulting in fewer creative finishes. “While specialty inks are available and product-compliant once decorated, distributors tend to shy away from the upsell to forego concerns.” Instead, the trend in youth apparel is to feature standard inks and play with off-location printing or large-scale patterns to add interest and novelty.

Whether you stick to standard inks and decorating methods, or venture into something more unique, Poissant says working out compliance issues with suppliers before purchase orders are submitted goes a long way in smoothing out the order process and ensuring products are compliant.

We bet it will limit tantrums and meltdowns, too.


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