The Flag Industry Today
“You get what you pay for” is as true with flags as with any other product. It is not true that a “flag is a flag is a flag, and therefore all flags must be the same”. Flags vary tremendously in length of life, flying ability, quality, appearance, and price, so in order to get value for your money it is worth spending a few minutes considering what you want from your flags.
Where twenty years ago the flag industry was a simple structure comprising a small number of screen printers and a hand full of sewn flag manufacturers. When we started off in business 25 years ago, the combined total of firms advertising in the Capital City Metropolitan Yellow Pages directories for flags was 40 firms, and not all of these sold flags or banners.
With access to high capacity machines and market demand for a wide range of flag and display products, the Australian industry has since multiplied many times over. There are now firms importing cheap flags principally from Asia, plus a large number of printers with relatively small run capacity making banners and signs in the main and a few flags, plus a small number of printers with large capacity machines for chiefly flags but also banners, and, finally, a very very small number of firms making fully sewn flags and cloth banners. Each has its speciality, and the finished products vary in quality pretty much related to price, quality being expressed mainly in appearance and length of life.
For instance, a flag to wave at a sporting event and kept as a souvenir is not the product you would expect to find gracing the board room of a multi-national company, nor should you consider a $20 flag on a flagpole 24/7 would last more than a month (nor is it likely to!) But these cheapies do have a useful and valued place in the market.
Parallel to the increase in flag manufacturing technology, is a wider range of materials available. Up until a couple of decades ago there was only one true flag cloth, and all flags were made out of it. This is still called Flag Bunting, a tough semi open weave designed to stand up to the battering its fibres get from whipping in the wind. Like a garment in a laundry tumble dryer which gathers worn fibres in the lint filter, worn fibres in a flag blow away, and what is left is a gradual thinning and wearing away, starting at the outside (“fly”) edge. There is no flag cloth available anywhere in the world which stands up to wear nearly as well as proper flag bunting. In fact all the various flag cloths available today may be measured in terms of its life relative to flag bunting.
Since the 1980s a variety of flag cloths have been introduced, together with new technology for the flagmaker.