With spring finally here and summer just around the corner, now is the time to consider practical products for your high-energy clients. However, with the abundance of available items, honing in on the ideal choice can be challenging. When in doubt, consider active lifestyle bags. They run the gamut, from cinch backpacks and totes, to duffels, laptop bags and more. But they all have one thing in common: They're versatile, functional products the recipient will be glad to put to use.

Duffel and barrel bags are in high demand as ‘on-the-go' items. They're great for transitioning from day to evening, like heading to the gym after work. Sailcloth duffels are perfect for day trips, flights and, of course, water-based activities. Sailcloth has all the qualities that are important to on-the-go consumers: it's waterproof, washable, stain-resistant and UV-protected. 

While duffels are very popular with companies investing in on-site fitness facilities, cinch backpacks are also an ideal choice for wellness programs. They can be used for the gym, a charity race, even corporate outings. They even have laptop pockets and tech protection, so they're great for everyday use. We've seen huge improvements in lightweight materials, like ripstop and durable nylon, many of them waterproof. 

Embroidery is the most common method of decoration with the highest quality appearance, while heat transfer is often used for intricate designs.

Because active lifestyle bags frequently evoke an enjoyable activity, they're sure to be valued.  A product that appeals to interests outside of work – like sports or the outdoors – is a gift they'll truly appreciate and, most importantly, use. It's a great way to communicate your brand or message.


Trending Upward: Rainwear

A classic yellow rain slicker never goes out of style. The vibrant hue is evocative of half-remembered childhood images: the girl in the canary dress and giant umbrella poised mid-stride on the salt canister, or that burly, bearded fisherman steering through a storm on the bag of fish sticks. And what about the Man in the Yellow Hat who lives with Curious George? Didn't Paddington Bear sometimes wear a yellow hat too?

Maybe the brilliant buttercup of a glossy raincoat just recalls sunshine-soaked summers, keeping us cozy against the chill and damp of a relentless April shower.

Whatever the reason, rainwear trend upward lately, thanks in part to image-heavy social media sites like Pinterest. "Our women's New Englander rain jacket is one of our most popular ‘pinned' styles," says Heather Brunner, marketing manager at Charles River Apparel. Hooded with a straight silhouette, adjustable cuffs and a reflective safety stripe accent, the jacket is a stylish take on a closet staple. Front vented capes allow easy decorating access.

More important than the cut and color of a raincoat, of course, is its practical application: How effective is it at keeping the rain out? The New Englander is made of polyurethane, woven to be 100 percent wind- and waterproof, yet still breathable, Brunner says. Heat-sealed seams and an adjustable drawstring hood provide further protection against the elements, she notes.

Over at River's End Trading Co., Columbia-brand rain jackets feature proprietary Omni-Tech waterproof-breathable protection. It's meant to keep rain from getting in while allowing moisture to wick away from the skin, says Lori Anderson, marketing manager. "The result is outerwear that keeps you dry and comfortable, no matter what," she says.

 Raincoats are great for every business, since everyone needs protection against the rain, but few people think of rainwear first when considering outerwear, Brunner says. Outdoor-oriented companies employing construction workers, landscapers, utility linemen and emergency service providers should consider adding raincoats to their uniform program.  

And if yellow just doesn't strike your client's fancy, the New Englander jacket comes in an array of colors for women, from hot pink to aqua. Men's jackets are available in navy and black styles. The Columbia coats from River's End are available in black for women and men. No matter the color, these coats can shine in the rain.


Say it Loud with slogan T's 

Look around malls and schools and you’ll see plenty of T-shirts that read “Say It Like You Mean It.” Big, bold letters and cheeky sayings are ubiquitous these days. “We do lots of slogans,” says Gina Barreca, director of marketing for Vantage Apparel, which offers in-house decoration. A few examples of the typical basic text order include promotions for bars, colleges and universities (along with social/academic clubs) as well as destination and travel-related organizations. “Companies often take advantage of printing on the front and back of the T-shirt,” she continues, “and many times will com- bine social media efforts or campaigns such as a Twitter hashtag.”

Honestly the ‘Slogan T’ is a cyclical trend that has just come back around. It's attractive to the 15-25 ages because it allows them to speak their mind without getting ‘hushed’ by anyone who doesn’t agree with their viewpoint. Text designs, while straightforward, do not have to be boring. For certain promotions and audiences (depending on budget), you can upscale a text-only imprint with special effect inks and interesting techniques.  It really depends on the goal of the design or use of the shirt. Is it for a special event or new product introduction? There are ways to elevate the imprint using glitter or gel or rhinestones.

There are several ways to add interest to any one-color artwork: distressing, gradients, half-tone effect, outlining the text or using a drop shadow. A slogan- style design can be made all the more compelling with the right special effect inks. Imagine using the slogan "Cold Steel on Ice" and printing this shirt with a Soft Metal Ink, or the slogan "Shhhhzizzle” in a metallic foil or a gooey glitter or even rhinestones or sequins. Adding special effects that complement the slogan really help drive home the message and add interest to the finished garment.


French Terry Pullover: sporty yet sophisticated

Look to the Adidas French Terry Pullover for a sporty yet sophisticated appearance that is an ideal option for corporate gifting, colleges, universities, as well as tech companies and sports teams. It stands up to all types of weather yet is breathable and wicks moisture. The soft 100% polyester French terry fabric is enhanced with contrasting sewn stripes on the left arm, a contrast Adidas logo on the right bottom hem and a rib-knit mock collar. To top it off, it comes in a variety of color combinations, including university red-black, chrome-black and navy-white.


WINDSHIRTS: in and out of office wear


Golf season is soon to kick into high gear across the country. In addition to golf caps, gloves and those ubiquitous performance-wear polo shirts, pros and amateurs alike require windshirts when they take to the greens. 

Classic lightweight outerwear pieces, windshirts can add a trendy dimension to a golf outfit – and give wearers an added layer of warmth to keep the nip out on crisper days. When it comes to popular looks, half-zips are steadily replacing classic crews. Meanwhile, full-zips are gaining ground because they offer versatility. Quarter-zips are catching a lot of attention, too, with suppliers like SanMar seeing strong performance in the category. "Our new Sport-Tek piped colorblock ¼-zip wind shirt demonstrates the more sport-minded look with classic wind fabrication that is also a quieter fabric with a soft drape," says Shelly Renning, SanMar's general merchandise manager.

While the golf greens are fertile grounds for windshirts, these items are popular with other industries as well, including corporate and education. In some areas, says Renning, tastes in windshirts have been transitioning to more knit-based fabrications that offer ease of movement and cross-functionality, such as the Nike Golf Sport Cover-Up. "Wind pieces with knit fabrication are more applicable for in-and out-of-office wear," she says.

When it comes to embellishing these layering piece must-haves, there are decoratoring options. "Traditionally," says Renning, "windshirts are embroidered. But in the sports world, screen printing can be a beneficial approach for larger, more impactful logos."