Mix And Match

To pay tribute to its president during its annual conference, a professional association selected promotional items relating to his favorite pastime: hunting. In addition to other items, attendees received t-shirts printed in seam-to-seam camouflage.

Dave Gephart, MAS, CEO of Hillsborough, North Carolina-based distributor Gephart Marketing (UPIC: dgep), the distributor who sold the promotion, says tying the event to the customer’s love of the outdoors personalized the promotion and enriched the program overall.

“Any market is open for this type of decoration—from banking and pharmaceutical to schools and corporate meetings. One can do a repeating logo, tie-dye or camo to get bang for their buck,” Gephart says.

While printed and patterned apparel is and will always be a part of fashion, it’s currently enjoying a moment in the spotlight and is a good way for savvy distributors to help clients up their brands’ visibility.

“Print is everywhere, and people are becoming more comfortable wearing patterns for day and evening wear,” says Shell Brown, trend director for Patternbank.com, which provides print patterns, trend reports and consultations to the fashion and home design industries.

Inside the promotions industry, prints are popping up as a way to rethink standard styles and add dimension to apparel programs.

“Special attention is being paid to visual interest with textures and patterns in outerwear this year,” says Elson Yeung, director of private label design and merchandising at Richmond Hill, Ontario-based supplier Ash City/alphabroder(UPIC: ash0001). It’s currently offering mélange heathers, textured fleece and even checkered and striped patterns in its line.

“They offer visual interest through their design, but are subtle enough to complement any decoration,” Yeung says.

Make It Work

Selecting the perfect print or pattern is half the battle, as styles change quickly. For fall and winter campaigns both this year and next, Brown suggests classic florals, animal prints and outer-space motifs. If you’re working on a spring or summertime campaign that can benefit from vividly embellished apparel, consider tropical, camouflage, abstract and even vintage Hawaiian floral prints.

If you or your client desire prints that are less bold, loosely placed geometric prints and simple color blocking are good options for less-comfortable pattern wearers. Conversely, a tone-on-tone, all-over print can make an otherwise bold print a bit more subtle.

For apparel programs that must be on-trend for the foreseeable future, Brown advises sticking to classic ditsy (small, scattered) florals, geometrics, scarf and paisley patterns, or textured prints.

Decorating And Finishing

Adding branding to patterned apparel is not difficult, but there are things to consider.

“Any all-over pattern can be tricky,” Gephart says. “One needs to work with their art department or decorator to ensure that what one sees on paper or on screen will truly work on the textile you have chosen.”

Gephart says he’s successfully used reverse printing and laser-decorated foam patches to imprint on top of patterns.

Yeung suggests larger, filled logos as good options for textured and patterned fabrics. “They draw attention to the logo and contrast nicely from the consistency of the printed background.”

Since patterns run the gamut from fun and whimsical to classic and polished, don’t be afraid to suggest them for different types of campaigns. “It all depends on the event theme,” Gephart says.

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