Play It Close To The Vest

When the seasons change and the weather turns, vests are the ultimate transitional piece.  “Vests are a universal apparel item for both men and women and are popular across age group, “ says Heather Brunner Kelly, marketing manager for Charles River Apparel.  “Because they’re offered in numerous styles and weights with different performance features and at varying price points, they can be used by a wild range of industries.” Soft shell fabrics with quilted construction are very popular – they’re lightweight, easily packed and can handle multiple decoration techniques -  heat transfer, laser applique, embroidery and more.  Says Brunner Kelly, “They’re very fashionable and retail inspired.”

Swag helps tech firms spin products into gold

The Computer History Museum in Mountain View showcases an original Enigma cipher machine, an Apple I hand-built by Steve Wozniak and the prototype for Pong, the first arcade video game. Its vast collection also includes thousands of T-shirts, buttons, bags and other items emblazoned with names and slogans of bygone or current products and companies.

Branded promotional merchandise — colloquially called swag — ranks right up there with these groundbreaking products in capturing the technology zeitgeist.

“It shows the ecosystem in which all these objects exist,” said curator Chris Garcia. “Most of this swag is trying to sell people products by getting the name or concept into their head. If you can’t convince people to buy your system, you have no reason to exist.”

Swag has a long history outside technology, of course, especially in the worlds of sports and politics. But in the tech-centric Bay Area, where hordes of BART and Muni passengers sport a Silicon Valley logo on their shirts, hoodies or messenger bags, swag is both legendary and quotidian.

“Swag is an economic indicator, just like travel,” said Mark Weiner, a professor of practice at Santa Clara University and chief marketing office at Centrify, which makes identity and access-management software. “It shows an individual company’s health and the micro and macro economic environment.”

When tech was newer, in the 1980s and ’90s, T-shirts with company names were a status symbol — as some still are. During the dot-com boom, when companies were awash in cash, swag flooded the streets of San Francisco. Even during the crash, it never really went away.

By Carolyn Said - San Francisco Chronicle July 11, 2015

Tanks Are Fun Summer Staples

Face it, modesty is so over.  Once the mercury tops 70 degrees, people of all sizes reach for their favorite tank top and generally remain in them until fall. Comfort is a big reason – suppliers have updated fabrics and designs to make them lightweight and sveltely cut. “Every tank top that we make is really exploding,” says Mark Seymour, vice president of sales at Next Level Apparel. Whether form-fitting or flared, all-cotton or a blend of fabrics, these tanks are summer staples that fun, active brands need to make their own. (But don’t worry – once the weather cools, they’ll get worn at the gym and yoga studio). Get bold with color or keep it cool, but getting those sun-loving hordes outfitted in your own branded tank guarantees a long, hot promotion.

SCUBA BLUE IS Worth The Plunge

PANTONE’S SCUBA BLUE is a prominent player in spring and summer 2015 collections from high-end designers like Elie Saab and Ermanno Scervino as well as fashion houses such as Bluemarine and Thakoon. A gorgeous, plush version of turquoise with a touch of extra brightness, you’ll find this hue in numerous prints this season, particularly globally inspired designs. 

“Scuba Blue is infusing the season with a burst of color,” says Nancy Robitaille, principal designer for Fersten Worldwide Inc.“Its aqua undertones are reminiscent of Caribbean warmth, and it provides such a vibrant, cheerful air, especially as we come out of the dull, black- and grey-driven winter months. What I most love about this color is that when it’s applied to apparel, it can make for great stand-alone pieces.” 

Robitaille highly recommends incorporating this hue into your promotional strategy. “Scuba Blue is a perfect choice for any spring/ summer 2015 marketing campaign, as it grabs your attention with its brightness and yet is still pleasing to the eye,” she says. “It’s a super color to start your selling season off right.” 

A Prescription For Performance

The standard desire for comfort and carefree laundering is universal. At the most basic level are scrubs that are comfortable and easy to care for. Performance properties like wrinkle-free, moisture-wicking, non-iron and stain-resistance are standard. The ModernFlex line of scrubs from Spectrum fits the bill. Made from a 82/14/4 mix of polyester, rayon and spandex, these scrubs are breathable and flexible.

Adds Ashantá Miller, creative brand director for Spectrum: “The demand for antimicro- bial products in the health-care industry is on the rise. Most medical facilities are purchas- ing products that will keep their staff and patients safe and bacteria-free.”

Keeping the performance value of the garment intact matters, too. “The most important factor for quality and durability is the laun- dering standards,” Miller says. “It is also as important to use the proper type of laundering machines while paying close attention to the instructions on the care label.” Spectrum offers “Cover A Stitch” – a fusible backing that covers finished embroidery on the inside. It reduces irritation and preserves the embroidery of the garment. “The more resources that a distributor is able to offer their customer to preserve their garments,” Miller says, “the happier their customer will be!” 

mix things up with stripes

From thin to thick, stripes have always been a style staple. On occasion, they'll take a backseat in fashion, only to be revived brighter and bolder than before. This year, designers such as DKNY and Tommy Hilfiger incorporated more multicolored stripes onto the runway, reminding the world that stripes are pretty great. 

When you consider how many ways they can be employed, it makes sense that stripes continue to gain converts, particularly for promotional apparel. You can find stripes on many different apparel products and accessories, but for apparel, the pattern is in higher demand during the spring/summer seasons. "People are more likely to have a little more fun with their wardrobes during the warmer months, and stripes are a great way to inject a little playfulness without being over the top," says Albert Samuels, senior merchandiser at Alternative Apparel. Rightfully so, considering stripes are often portrayed as nautical and make us think of the beach. 

Stripes are also a good way to mix things up in your wardrobe without being drastic. "It's about simplicity, wearability and being just the right amount different to increase long-lasting impressions," says Mark Robinson, vice president of imprintable sales at Alternative Apparel. Stripes often add that little something extra.

When it comes to printing on stripes, subtle-yet-noticeable designs are essential. Robinson says stripes tend to work best with one- or two-color artwork – the key being you don't want the artwork disappearing in the stripes. "Screen printers are more comfortable with printing on stripes now," says Margaret Crow, director of marketing at S&S Activewear, in part because the current trend for embellishments and designs is less about being precise and more about stretching all over the garment. 

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Prepare for Back-to-College with Promotional Products

Now is the time for businesses to plan and order promotional items for the millions of students returning to college in September for the fall semester. Customized items in school colors with business logos are always popular with college students. Consider stocking up on keychain bottle openers, which are great for tailgating. Other popular products for tailgating include custom embroidered or imprinted T-shirts, mini-footballs for parking lot games, coolers, water bottles and koozies.

Another great idea is magnetized business cards, especially for food delivery, apartment rental companies, and printing services. Imagine magnets with your logo and contact information on the front of all those tiny refrigerators in dorm rooms and watch business increase! And don’t forget football season where fans will want custom sweatshirts, shakers and stadium blankets for chilly evening games. The possibilities are absolutely endless, so get be sure to get in on all the excitement.

Bucket Bags: a go-to accessory for women

MORE THAN A mere drop in the fashion bucket, the very popular bucket bags have become a go-to accessory for women. “The bucket bag has a universally appealing shape,” writes fashion and style website “It’s structured, but not too structured – fashionable, but not too out-there.” Both high-end designers and fast- fashion retailers have thrown their considerable weight behind the bag. It’s defined by its roughly square proportions, structured bottom and typically drawstring closure. Common fabrics include leather (real and faux), canvas, denim or a lightweight parachute fabric. “They are comfortable, stylish and extremely versatile,” says Jeffrey Mayer, president of LBU Inc. Easily foldable into a bag or carry-on, they are the ultimate stylish bags for travel. 

Hawaiian Punch

TROPICAL LOCALES CONTINUE to top the lists of favored travel destinations. Their enduring popularity makes tropical prints on apparel and accessories a perennial favorite for consumers. “Tropical prints are functional, fun, festive and extremely popular", says Taraynn Lloyd, director of marketing at Edwards Garment Co. Edwards’ camp shirts are in high demand for uniforms at restaurants, resorts, theme parks, museums and even medical offices, because “the vibrant colors attract attention and quickly identify the employee to the guest,” says Lloyd. Demand grows in winter too with events taking place in tropical locales. 


Dickies Fit Continuum For Women’s Pants

Getting the right fit is crucial when it comes to uniforming. “Employees don’t just come in one size,” explains Susan Kohout, marketing director of Dickies Occupational Wear. “If you’re doing a uniform program, you have to fit in all size ranges to make employees presentable in a work environment.”

That’s why the supplier recently expanded the fit continuum for women’s pants, after studying body scan data collected by specialty retail mannequin company Alvanon. With its slim and relaxed fit pants, Dickies was representing about 60% of the women’s market, but the company had been ignoring a large segment of women. After adding a curvy fit to the mix, Dickies is capturing all but 11% of that market, according to Sue Moy, general manager of women’s apparel for the supplier.

Curvy fit jeans and khakis from Dickies have fullness built all around the back and tummy, not just the hips, so wearers don’t get an unflattering “jodhpur” effect or gapping at the waist, Moy says. “Everything was wear-tested for women,” she adds. In addition, Dickies added plus-size pants, starting at 18W for women, creating sizing based on Alvanon data, rather than just sizing up from “missy” specs. “The next size up is not always an inch bigger,” Moy says. “Plus-size women have curves and fullness at different parts of the body.” Offering women’s plus sizes is also important for uniform programs, so that larger women aren’t automatically put into men’s garments and left feeling miserable and not looking as presentable as their smaller-size counterparts, Kohout says. “It does help them feel comfortable and not worry about how they’re looking,” she adds.

Another component of Dickies’ fit continuum is its modern fit pants, targeted to the athleisure demographic. Similar to yoga pants, these pull-on stretch trousers skim the body and offer a full range of movement, but are dressy enough to wear to work.