Eye On Apparel: The Best Of The Best


Walking onto the show floor of the PPAI® Expo this year, there was hardly a moment to breathe—but in all the best ways. The intricate booths designed by exhibiting suppliers were simply awe-inspiring, bursting with creativity and staffed by enthusiastic owners, employees and sales reps. The products, which covered every nook and cranny of the promotional products spectrum, were eye-catching, resourceful and innovative. If there was a specific item that distributors were seeking, they would surely find it here.

Here’s a selection of apparel favorites PPB spotted at the Expo, along with product trends to look for in 2019.

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Trending For 2019

Eco-Friendly Goods. Whether labeled as “ecofriendly,” “ethical,” “sustainable” or “green,” brands can boost their reputation by selling products identified by these descriptions. These products offer a feel-good sense of ownership for the buyer, as by opting for greener brands, consumers are also contributing to the betterment of the environment.

Brands willing to explore greener options will also experience benefits. According to the Green Business Bureau, brands engaging in ethical practices will likely have an overall lower carbon footprint, reduced shipping costs due to lighter package weights and an overall growth in their consumer pool. According to Green Strategy, there are seven categories of sustainable fashion, which include:

  1. Custom-made, custom-requested clothing, which includes made-to-measure and bespoke pieces
  2. Green through all stages of design, development and production
  3. High grade and timeless design to ensure longevity of wear
  4. Just and ethical manufacturing and production practices, including adherence to human and animal rights and the use of conventional, artisanal production methods when possible
  5. Restoration, redesign and upcycle of purchased goods for continued wear
  6. Rent, loan and swap programs for extended use of items
  7. Secondhand clothing and vintage-look apparel, keeping the old-school vibe alive, recycling lightly worn clothing and upholding the timeless quality

Fashiontech. There’s no end in sight to the tech industry’s range of influence, and this includes tech-infused apparel. This may include clothing designed to accommodate tech products, like laptop cases and backpacks designed for gamers, touchscreen gloves and LCD hats. Retailer brand Inlighten, based in Costa Mesa, California, caters to the electronic dance music (EDM) scene, for instance, with its washable, color-changing garments featuring fiber optic technology, enabling the wearer to change the color of their apparel—which includes bomber jackets, bikini tops, hoodie vests and ties—using a mobile phone app, or by setting it to react to the beat of surrounding music.

Going forward, look for user-friendly, interactive apparel—along with other ways that tech is infiltrating fashion, like with artificial intelligence and blockchain. And don’t forget about wearable tech gadgets. The top gadgets in 2019, according CNET, will include these new iterations of smartwatches:

  • Apple Watch Series 3
  • Fitbit Versa
  • Amazon Bip
  • Garmin Vivosport
  • Huawei Watch 2 LTE

Standout Shades. A fresh spectrum of color choices was evident in the products displayed at Expo. Promo apparel is no longer shown in the standard black, white and grey options, but rather, companies are adding vibrant hues, like coral, seafoam green, periwinkle and canary yellow.

Each year, the Pantone Color Institute publishes its Pantone Fashion Color Trend Report, which, reviews the top colors showcased at New York Fashion Week to determine the most popular selections. For Spring/Summer 2019, Pantone anticipates the top colors to include varying shades of orange, yellow and pink, as well as royal blue and toffee brown. 

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Aflex, a division of AKWA Apparel, is offering high-quality women’s leggings with a hidden phone pocket. This made-in-the-USA product is available for customization with your brand’s logo, mascot or theme, with only a 12-piece minimum order. Decorating areas include the side panel, hip panel and back inside label. Available in full length or capri in women’s XS-2XL. To coordinate with the leggings for a full look, tees and accessories are also available.

AKWA  /  PPAI 205981  /  www.akwa.com

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These ties not only hit the mark—but they hit the ball out of the park with their spot-on, custom designs. Described not only as an accessory, but as a work of art, wearers can look sharp—and hip. In addition to its allover design, custom tags and packaging are available to keep the brand message going. Shown here are designs created for Staples Promotional Products for the Coca-Cola brand.

Diane Katzman  /   PPAI 396045  /  www.dianekatzman.com

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A popular style in retail fashion, the Moxie Tee is a restyled version of the classic V-neck. The open neck, cutout detail adds personality and sass, separating Moxie from other tees. Available in ladies’ XS-3XL in white, navy, charcoal, purple, crimson, red, maroon, royal and black (shown).

Boxercraft  /  PPAI 159420   /   www.boxercraft.com

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Pair your customers with a product that’ll be noticed all summer long. This Classic Flip Flop is cool, comfy and a top seller, and features a 15-millimeter EVA rubber sole with a soft rubber strap. For a longer-lasting impression, add a logo sole footprint, which leaves imprints of your logo in the sand. Sizes include ladies’ S-XL and men’s M-2XL with five sole and fabric strap colors, including black, white, navy blue, royal blue and red.

Neet Feet, Inc.  /  PPAI 112755  /  www.neetfeet.com

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Feel the warmth of sunshine on your chest, whether you’re inside or outdoors, with the Vansport™ Pro Maui Shirt. This polo has an attractive tonal, allover palm print, adding to the tropical feel, while also including UV protection. Stay dry with its moisture-wicking, antimicrobial properties, making it ideal for resort wear. Available in men’s sizes S-5XL in three beachy colors, seagull grey, ocean blue and sunset orange (shown).

Vantage Apparel  /  PPAI 113235  /  www.vantageapparel.com

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For wear both inside and outside of the office, the Port Authority® Ladies 3/4 Sleeve Tunic Blouse boasts a lightweight, breathable fabric and figure-flattering, flowy style. A new exhibiting product at Expo, this blouse is made from 100 percent polyester crepe with a longer tunic length, rounded hem and roll sleeves with button tabs. Available in women’s XS-4XL in black, ivory chiffon, misty sage, rose quartz, sterling gray and true blue (shown), this is a modern, trendy option for workwear.

SanMar  /  PPAI 110788   /   www.sanmar.com

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With hip floral detailing on the sleeves and hood just in time for spring, the M7011 high-performance tech fleece is sure to be sought after. Offered in unisex sizes, details include a pullover, drawstring hood for added comfort and coverage, and a front pouch. The front face of the hoodie offers a prime position for logo printing. Available in men’s and women’s sizes XS-6XL.

Eversole Run  /  PPAI 199242  /  www.eversole.com

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At the show, Hanes showcased its new line of workwear tees, designed for comfort and safety. The Hanes Men’s X-Temp® FreshIQ® Workwear Pocket Tee is a high-performance shirt that is an inch longer than Hanes’ traditional tees, with an additional inch of sleeve length for added coverage. The shirt has X-Temp® moisture-wicking technology and FreshIQ® advanced odor protection to keep workers feeling fresh. The tee includes 40+ UPF for sun protection, reinforced armhole stitching for durability, shoulder to shoulder taping and a collar that lays completely flat for shape retention. An oversized pencil stitch pocket makes for a true worker’s tee. Available in men’s S-3XL in navy, black, light steel, safety orange (shown), safety green (shown) and army brown (shown).

Hanes/Champion  /  PPAI 191139  /  www.hanes.com

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The Packable EcoVest is a newly-released product designed to keep you warm during the cooler months—minus the bulk. This vest features Thermolite ® T3 EcoMade Insulation, which is made with at least 35 percent recycled fiber sourced mainly from plastic bottles. The insulation is lightweight, yet cozy and durable. For travelers, the vest can be packed into its own right pocket for compact transport. Available in men’s S-4XL in black, navy and nickel, and women’s XS-3XL in black, navy, nickel and cranberry (shown).

Storm Creek  /  PPAI 438091  /  www.stormcreek.com

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New to Expo this year was the versatile Premium Blend Ring-Spun tee; a super soft blend of ring-spun cotton and polyester, pre-shrunk jersey. Designed for work and play—and the transition between the two—the tee boasts moisture-wicking properties for all-day wear and improved sleeve construction for added relief. Available in two styles, Premium Blend Combed Ring-Spun T-Shirt (right), in 11 colors, pictured in maroon heather, and the Premium Blend Combed Ring-Spun 3/4-Sleeve Raglan in seven colors, pictured in white/charcoal heather. Both are available in unisex sizes
S-3XL.

JERZEES  /  PPAI 112791  /  www.jerzees.com

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There’s no better gear to support your favorite team—whether major, minor or little leagues—than with a custom sports jersey. This 100 percent polyester jersey is manufactured using high-performance fabric with custom dye sublimation print and a list of personalization options. Available in women’s and men’s sizes XS-6XL, this sporty look will have fans ready to cheer from the sidelines, the bleachers—or even the couch.

Eversole Run  /  PPAI 199242  /  www.eversole.com

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For brand exposure that touches everyday moments, the Pullover Hood was recently introduced as part of J. America’s COZY Collection—and it sure looks the part. This pullover is crafted from an exquisite blend of polyester, rayon and spandex, which make for a brushed jersey fabric with a heathered finish. Available in women’s S-2XL in black, smoke heather and blue topaz (shown).

J. America / PPAI 351699  /  www.jamericablanks.com

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This Men’s Body Mapping Polo doesn’t only offer a flattering fit, but it includes a resourceful tech-based design. The textured finish of this made-in-the-USA polo includes thinner mesh around high moisture areas, allowing the shirt to ventilate throughout wear. Perfect for competitive days on the golf course or rooting courtside for your favorite tennis player. Available in men’s S-3XL in heather black, heather navy, heather burgundy and heather charcoal (shown).

AKWA  /  PPAI 205981  /  www.akwa.com

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This custom-designed, hand-cast bracelet offers both exclusivity and style. There’s no limit to creativity with this beautiful, stainless steel bangle. Customize charms to complement your client’s brand message and to add personalization. Provide the brand with added exposure while clients receive a special memento or token. Shown is a  design created for Staples Promotional Products for the Coca-Cola brand.

Diane Katzman  /  PPAI 396045  /  www.dianekatzman.com   

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This Bomber Jacket is described as “sleek on the outside, party on the inside”—and we couldn’t agree more. Offered in a youthful, stylish design, the jacket’s water-resistant exterior is monochromatic, bearing an element of surprise for the allover print—and pop of color—on the inside. The 100 percent polyester jacket includes two welt pockets for  storing smaller items. Available in unisex sizes S-3XL in army green and black (shown).

FPS Apparel  /  PPAI 273314 www.fpsapparel.com

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Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.

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