Eye on Apparel: Best of Expo


Bursting At The Seams

If you’re a clothes lover, then The PPAI Expo is a dream come true. Aisle after aisle, there seems to be no end to the new fabrics, colors, styles and decoration options for apparel. Choosing just a few wearables to highlight this month was a challenging task, but someone had to do it. 

The PPB editorial staff examined the softest fleece and the latest colors, and checked out the newest trends and a multitude of eye-catching accessories. Here are just a few that were irresistible.


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Overheard At Expo 

“Fashion fabrics such as combed ring-spun cotton with a softer wear are popular, as are lifestyle brands that are casual with an upscale fabrication.”
— Holly Bray, outside sales rep at S&S Activewear (PPAI 256121)

“Abstract prints and textures will be big in 2018. Look for modern silhouettes that utilize powerful patterns and unexpected combinations of fabric and color. Decorating techniques that mimic the look of 3D are also in vogue, such as dimensional transfers or design-tech appliques that are raised to look puffy.”
— Gina Barreca, marketing director for Vantage Apparel (PPAI 113235)

“Layering, texture and protective qualities top the list of apparel trends worth watching in 2018 and beyond. Consumers are looking for lightweight layers that provide easy options for packing efficiently. Overall, men and women are adding more core styles to their wardrobe but wearing them in dressed up ways for a ‘smart casual’ look. Textural surfaces add a much admired (and instagrammable) tactile quality to otherwise simple sport styling. With activities like walking meetings becoming more common in many corporations, styles that provide functions to protect [the wearer] from the elements, such as UV protection, are in demand.”
— Vicky Ostrom, SanMar trend editor (PPAI 110788)

“The skate and surf arena is influencing a move away from lighter fabrics to heavier weights. At retail, allover brand prints and large brand logos are trending... In branded printwear, the Champion brand grew 70 percent last year on the popularity of our retro-inspired Originals collection.”
— Rachel Newman, director of sales and marketing for Hanes/Champion (PPAI 191138)


Not Your Father’s Reading Glasses

The long-eschewed sign of aging is getting an unexpected boost.

Forty may be the new 30, but your eyes may not have gotten the memo. Forty is normally the age when presbyopia, a naturally-occurring inability of the eyes to focus, occurs. In other words, it gets more difficult to read things up close. 

This condition can be disconcerting for those who are affected, as it may be accompanied by eye strain and headaches, and inevitably results in holding reading materials farther away to see them clearly. It can also be embarrassing—look around any dimly-lit restaurant and you’re sure to see some patrons surreptitiously using their cell phone flashlights to better view their menus.

Historically, reading glasses have long been a symbol of aging, and consumers have put off buying them until they are absolutely necessary. However, The Wall Street Journal reports that Gen Xers and older Millennials are causing a shift in the market for reading glasses.

In the retail market, several new manufacturers are selling high-end nonprescription reading glasses as fashion accessories. And the aging public isn’t the only demographic that is snapping them up—young people are buying them (with non-magnified lenses) because they like the look.

The promotional products market is following this trend closely, and a few suppliers are capitalizing on it in a big way. Rainbow Symphony (PPAI 149988) has patented FocalEyes®, paper reading glasses that are durable and easily customizable. The frames are made of extra-thick, coated-board and water-resistant synthetic material, and they are available in a variety of lens strengths. 

Rainbow Symphony President Mark Margolis says, “These are one of the few imprintable reading glasses on the market. It really is an advertising specialty.” He says they have been popular with restaurants, airlines, real estate offices and legal firms, and they’ve also been widely used in the medical industry and in first-aid kits.

Rainbow Symphony offers a selection of stock items to choose from, and its art department also creates unique, full-color promotional pieces. Margolis adds, “This year we’re working on new shapes for the frames, like cat eyes and a stylish boxy shape. We can emulate what high-end shops are doing, but with paper.”

Supplier Panther Vision (PPAI 318255) is also having success in the promotional market with its Itzy Bitzy™ lighted wallet readers. These LED magnifiers are the size of a credit card and easily fit into your wallet for instant accessibility.

Chuck Freeman, director at Panther Vision, says his company uses a high-quality sticker for multicolor logos on the battery/light cover. “In addition to branding the item, we also have the ability to print on the protective vinyl pouch that the readers are stored in. The pouch gives us more room to work with to expand the brand and messaging.”

Freeman notes that the Itzy Bitzy readers are mailable, which was perfect for a promotion for the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC), who sent them as a gift with membership materials. “AMAC bought 20,000 readers every three months for two years,” he says.


Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.

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