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.
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.
Companies with a group of high-performing employees, looking for a single logoed piece that's professional, comfortable and versatile, and garners the most impressions for the brand, should consider the quarter-zip pullover.
“It's both athletic and casual and can be worn throughout the day and during evening activities," says Rachel Newman, director of sales and marketing for Hanes Branded Printwear. “It's more polished than a traditional crewneck or hood, and offers the comfort of fleece with the style of a sweater. We're also seeing Millennials, particularly those in the college market, embrace its comfort and style."
Vantage Apparel carries a variety of quarter-zips, including performance styles, sweaters and fleece, at a variety of price points, says Gina Barreca, director of marketing. “Performance pullovers are the hottest segment for us right now," she adds. “Their versatility for sport or casual wear plus the ease of layering with them is driving momentum. We've actually seen them replace traditional crewneck wind shirts in the golf market."
Quarter-zips don't just provide a stylish look, says Barecca. They're also an ideal canvas for a variety of embellishment techniques, including etching, applique and patches, in unique locations. “The quarter-zip trend will continue with upscale fabrications, contrast details, color-blocking, mixed-media construction and lighter weights with stretch properties."
There’s nothing quite like the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the world’s largest livestock exhibition and live entertainment event. The massive event held in downtown Houston each spring boasts 20 days of rodeos, concerts, pig racing, shopping, livestock auctions and more. In 2013, the event hosted over 2 million people and almost 30,000 volunteers.
Before the official start of the event, a pre-party of over 300 teams convenes for the three-day World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest. Barbecue connoisseurs from across the state go head-to-head to cook the tastiest meal, and attendees enjoy delicious food and dancing.
For the past several years, Jane Swanzy, owner of Houston-based Swan Marketing LLC and a long-time show volunteer, has embroidered aprons for Half-Fast Cookers, one of the competing teams. Tuan “Tuna” Nguyen had decided to resurrect his father-in-law’s cook-off team, and as a fellow volunteer, knew about Swanzy’s embroidery work.
“They came to me asking if I would decorate their items,” says Swanzy. “In exchange for my decorating, I’m an official team sponsor, so I get free food and drink during cook-off time. Their primary objective was to look professional on a small budget.”
Swanzy took the team’s original 1970s logo, and continues to embroider it on button-down shirts as well as Port Authority full-length aprons (A500) each year.
For the aprons, she sticks with black for one basic reason: “There is no way they can keep from getting barbeque sauce on their clothes.
Caps get broad exposure, so the imprint and embellishment are key to the accessory’s success. “The trend is toward being able to decorate a cap in a variety of areas to make it more brand-centric and more personal,” says Bruce Jolesch, president of Garland, TX-based PXP Solutions. Front and back are the most obvious areas, “but side embroidery or a combo embroidery/screen print is quite popular at the moment,” he adds.
Creating a cap from scratch lifts many limitations when it comes to decoration. When decorating, having the ability to conceive the cap style and artwork early (before any material is cut or sewn), allows for better results. “Custom overseas manufacturing affords your customers no decoration limitations, high quality and 100% customization, which they don’t get when they decorate domestically,” says Mitchell Krakower, president of Topwear International.
Here are some top decoration options:
Embroidery: “The most popular decoration on caps is still embroidery,” says Catherine Kelly Epstein, business development manager at Fersten Worldwide. “Flat and 3-D embroidery are the most popular. Depend- ing on the logo, we are also seeing increased demand for light back-fill embroidery, 3-D Puff with Bean Stitching, 3-D puff outline embroidery and Criss-Cross embroidery.”
The majority of caps are six panels, which is better suited for embroidery, says Krakower. “This is because there is a seam in the front, and printing does not always line up well [with it],” he says. “Of course, if the logo is very intricate or it is a picture, printing or sublimation can be better in that case, but you might be better off switching to a five-panel cap.”
Laser Etching: This technique is effective, says Epstein, but it is fabric and color dependent and cannot be done on all head- wear styles and colors. “For the polyester- based headwear styles, we are seeing a lot of requests for laser as well as crown-to-peak laser for decoration,” she says. “We are also seeing increased demand for woven labels on headwear, which allow logos with a lot of small details to be applied to caps.”
Emblems: Applying emblems and transfers with heat offers many options. “The best emblem styles are those that accommodate the natural curvature and shape of the hat into its design,” says Michelle Serrano, marketing coordinator at World Emblem. “Something like our digital print emblems are made on a thin piece of fabric that is pretty flexible and can be easily sewn or heat-sealed onto any hat. Our embroidered patches and appliqués are a popular choice as they are more affordable and can be placed on any part of the cap as well, depending on its size.”
It's official: Army green isn't just for GIs anymore. It's become increasingly popular in recent haute couture collections, and not just as an accent color. Designers are outfitting their models in head-to-toe army green, making it a must-have shade for 2015. Even celebrities are getting in on the action. Rihanna recently turned heads in an army green jumpsuit while out and about in Los Angeles.
Army green has enjoyed continuous popularity in fashion-forward apparel lines. "It's part of an earthy, natural palette that, while fluctuating with seasonal and fashion trends, definitely has staying power," says Andrea L. Routzahn of alphabroder. Popular from catwalks to retail to wholesale, these neutrals, including army-inspired greens, grays, navys and khakis, "are definitely a fresh break from the neons and brights that dominated the market for the past several seasons."
Meanwhile, Vicki Ostrom, senior designer at SanMar, sees inspiration for army green and similar hues stemming from preparations for the 2016 Olympics in tropical, lush Rio de Janeiro. "There's also a lot of interest in military-inspired items, from baby clothes on up, including on the runways," she explains. SanMar offers a stain-resistant roll-sleeve twill shirt (S649) from its Port Authority line in the shade that Ostrom says is "perfect for uniforming and has military-inspired epaulets and a crisp, professional look."
Routzahn says army green is perfect for uniform programs at forward-thinking companies, because "it's a fresh take on the traditional corporate identity look. We're thinking entrepreneurial companies involved with environment, craft and new-industrial movements." She also cites craft breweries, farmers markets, landscapers, organic farming and environmental industries as companies who should also consider this look.
Outdoors-centered companies are definitely a good fit for army green, adds Ostrom. "There was a lot of army green in winterwear this year," she says. "It's ideal for avid sportsmen and any company looking for a military-inspired look and feel."
THE COLOR-BLOCKING CRAZE is still quite alive and well, as evidenced by this spring’s high-contrast, high-fashion interpretations by DSquared, Cedric Charlier and Balmain. This retro-inspired decorating style is an imaginative way for companies to put a spin on promo staples like polos, sweatshirts and jackets to create a successful branding campaign.
“Color-blocking is a trend that’s bold and fun and doesn’t quickly go out of style,” says Jennifer Bailey, spokesperson for Dickies. “It’s unique in that it’s multifunctional yet simple at the same time.” The look is a fit for just about anything, from fashion to work wear. And while color blocking is in itself decorative, it leaves plenty of room for logo embellishing.
Color-blocking can be used in a way that’s not overpowering and keeps company logos as the main focal point.
You might think that a baseball cap is simply a baseball cap. In reality, there are many versions, looks and features to consider. Caps can range in size, fabric, number of panels and types of bills and closures.
One key difference is ready-made vs. custom. Hundreds of suppliers offer many inventoried styles, some fitted and others one size fits all. The benefits include quick fulfillment and plenty of affordable choices, but that is counterweighted by limitations on how the caps can be decorated.
By contrast, creating a cap from scratch can take much longer (eight weeks for samples and production, with up to another month for shipping), but offers a much more robust selection. “Total customization or manufacturing from scratch is the better way to go when using headwear as a promotional tool,” says Mitchell Krakower, president of Topwear International.
What else should you consider? On-trend material, for starters. Cotton is a classic casual choice while polyester performance fabrics are very popular. “Performance fabrics look good, they can be waterproof, easy to care for, fast-drying, breathable, moisture-wicking and sun-proof,” says Krakower.
Patterns and looks with a fashion-forward vibe add even more appeal. SanMar’s “The Style Network 2015 Trends” issue highlights Sporting Luxury – the intersection where fashion meets fitness. Camouflage is key for men, but with an upgrade such as the Sport-Tek CamoHex Cap (STC23). It’s a digital, tone-on- tone pattern rather than straightforward camo. Another trend: Varsity designs. A varsity-style cap, like the NE206 from SanMar with a heathered melton wool crown and cotton twill bill, has an old-school collegiate vibe that’s definitely current for today’s young adults.
The best news: there are year-round opportunities for headwear. Knits and camouflage in the winter, rugged headwear in the fall and performance and colors in the summer.
A STUNNING CURRENT fashion trend, rainbow patterning offers a stand-out contrast to the enduring popularity of neutral apparel. This trend exists in a number of varieties, from gradient patterns and traditional stripes to knit apparel and tie-dyes.
“This trend is significantly unique because there are so many different ways in which each designer or company can achieve their own variation,” says Yvette Corona, marketing representative for American Apparel. “From varying methods of layout and design to the colors that are used, the possibilities are really endless!”
Tim Tousignant, president/owner of Kerr’s Cotton Creations Inc., agrees. “There is a high level of interest in bright rainbow colors for spring apparel,” he says. In addition, tie-dye designs are especially applicable to wearable promotional items. “Tie-dyed apparel, especially shirts, makes the perfect choice for staying in tune with this high-fashion trend,” Tousignant says. “They’re great for a promotional campaign aiming to incorporate a solid area for decorating on the center or left-breast area of a garment while also featuring bright, bold rainbow colors.”
HAILING DIRECTLY FROM 1950s and 1960s fashion, gingham is one of this season’s most significant fabric trends. Just take a look at the latest offerings from Michael Kors, Bottega Veneta and Diane von Furstenberg for an impressive display of checks in all hues and sizes, adorning everything from flowy dresses and pencil skirts to button-down blouses and woven shirts. Accessories, such as handbags and totes, are getting “checked” too.
“The gingham revival has real staying power because it’s being used in such a variety of ways and for different products,” remarks Senior Designer Vicki Ostrom of SanMar. “Overall, gingham’s current popularity is due to the fact that it’s retro and modern at the same time, so it suits a broad customer base and age range.” She feels this pattern lends promotional apparel tons of charm and fashion appeal: “In this industry, a gingham shirt has a fresh energy to it. And the color ‘pops’ effectively, either matching customers’ logos or [creating] a visually compelling background that highlights them.”