Warm, fuzzy fleece. It’s a staple of American athleisure wardrobes and a colorful canvas for corporate branding. Your clients clamor for the latest and greatest in fleece apparel so staying on top of what’s trending with this popular fabric is important. PPB reached out to several industry suppliers to find out what’s new in the styling, decoration and fabrication of fleece.
“Lighter fabrics, decorated hood liners on hoodies, and the revival of the quarter zip are definite uptrends in the fleece category,” says Steve Pinzon, marketing director for City of Industry, California-based supplier AKWA (PPAI 205981). He also emphasizes that lighterweight fleece is becoming more popular. “Traditional 80/20 sweatshirt fleece has not gone away, but mid-weight, soft-shell fleece has really established itself,” Pinzon says.
“Soft shell is generally lighter, softer, often a higher perceived value, and was a nonfactor 10 years ago. Now, it’s thoroughly entrenched and growing. It’s more intuitive to describe soft shell, rather than sweatshirt fleece, as ‘department store quality.’ It offers style options, sublimation options, and a more corporate look than traditional sweatshirt fleece.”
Ty Cannon, national business management director for supplier Cutter & Buck (PPAI 196156) in Seattle, Washington, points to new types of fleece fabric styling that are having a greater influence in the category. “Gridback jacquard fleece has raised fleece squares on the back side of the fabric, which improves airflow and temperature regulation,” he says. “High pile and sweaterfleece are also trending. We are also seeing lots of hybrid treatments where fleece is being pieced with other knit or woven fabrics.”
Fleece is evolving from just providing warmth to also offering protection from the elements with the introduction of laminated fleece. “In addition to insulating, laminated fleece gives outerwear-like performance,” Cannon says.
Retail trends have a major impact on promotional fleece offerings and supplier Hanes/Champion (PPAI 191138) has introduced a new collection to capitalize on leading retail trends. “Premium athletic wear is dominant across retail, as are heritage brands and retro styles,” says John Spivey, marketing manager for Champion Athleticwear. “Premium apparel specifically designed for embellishment provides a unique opportunity for growth. You have advanced fabrications, such as sueded fleece, that customers may not have seen before.”
As for generational breakdown of fleece style preference, nothing is written in stone, says Pinzon, but he can point to some general trends. “In California, the younger market often prefers a fitted or fashion fleece. While the older generations often preferred traditional jackets in the past, they’re now buying soft shell [fleece]. And surprisingly, the military has bought into soft shell as well.”
What does appear to be written in stone, however, is that fleece is here to stay. “[Fleece] continues to grow and will be a relevant product going forward,” says Cannon.
Choose From These Fleece Finds For Your Clients’ Logos
Ears stay protected while branding is highly visible with this warm, soft and stylish polar fleece headband. At 10.5 inches wide by 2.75 inches high, it comes in six stylish colors including red, royal, navy, black, dark gray and light gray.
Kati Sportcap / PPAI 113758 /www.katisportcap.com
New for 2017, this 100-percent mélange polyester men’s mid-weight fashion fleece comes in both quarter zip and full zip and is made in the USA. Subtle horizontal tones add visual interest but don’t detract from a logo. It has a soft, luxurious feel. Sizes include S-4XL and it’s available in black, charcoal, navy, hunter, red and royal blue.
AKWA / PPAI 205981 / www.akwa.com
The Champion® Sueded Fleece Pullover Hood captures the essence of retro style. This 8.5-ounce, 80/20 cotton/poly three-end fleece provides warmth and comfort while a 100-percent cotton face allows for superior screen or DTG printing. The flat, woven drawstring and oatmeal-heather, jersey-lined hood add to the classic look and feel. The relaxed waistband provides additional comfort and wearability.
Hanes/Champion / PPAI 191138 / www.hanesbullseye.com
Logos and colors stay locked in and moisture is wicked away with the Sport-Tek ladies PosiCharge Electric Heather Fleece Hooded Pullover. Yarn-dyed 100-percent polyester fleece is shaped into a gently contoured silhouette with a taped neck, three-panel hood and dyed-to-match drawcords. Elongated self-fabric cuffs and hem, and princess seams with an integrated front pouch pocket complete the look.
SanMar / PPAI 110788 / www.sanmar.com
The Champ crewneck sweatshirt is made from soft Eco-Fleece, which contains both organic and recycled materials. Its simple design features thoughtful detailing, including a bound rib neckband, vintage-inspired raglan sleeves and accentuated stitching. Available in a wide range of wearable colors, the Champ is crafted on vintage machines to replicate an authentic, retro look and feel.
Alternative Apparel / PPAI 217134 / www.alternativeapparel.com
The new ODYSSEY Performance Striped Poly Fleece Pullover Hood is constructed of 7.5-ounce 100-percent polyester fleece fabric with a high (scuba) neckline, set-in sleeves and a front pouch pocket. Two companion ladies’ styles with unique construction features are also available. Choose from sizes S-3XL in three colors (granite, sapphire and quarry).
J. America / PPAI 351699 /www.jamericablanks.com
Add a touch of class as you add warmth over an oxford, polo or tee with the 100-percent polyester men’s Snap Front Sweaterfleece Pullover. The sweaterfleece fabric provides incredible softness with the unmatched look and feel of heathered wool. A three-snap front placket adds the perfect amount of style, while the soft brushed, poly-lined collar and cuffs add comfort.
Storm Creek / PPAI 438091 / www.stormcreek.com
This heavyweight hoody features luxurious sueded 70-percent cotton/30-percent polyester three-end fleece and includes a security/smartphone pocket inside the pouch pocket, a YKK three-inch zipper, rib knit side gussets, cuffs and a bottom band. The hoody is available in 15 colors and 18 sizes (XXS-6XL, LT-6XT) and there is no upcharge for big and tall sizes.
White Bear Clothing Company / PPAI 236468 / www.whitebearclothing.com
The Game Day is a campus classic that has been reinvented in French terry fleece for year-round versatility. Made from a 7.5-ounce cotton blend, it features contrasting rib trim, forward shoulders, slash-front weld pockets and a tagless label for comfort. This jacket is available in sizes XS-3XL and comes in dark steel. The women’s style, the Fleece Moto, features an asymmetrical front zip that adds a bit of edge and attitude, a hood with contrast flat drawcords and fashionable raglan sleeves. It is available in sizes XS-3XL and in color options dark steel and black.
Vantage Apparel / PPAI 113235 / www.vantageapparel.com
The Callaway Ladies’ Waffle Fleece Jacket is constructed with a 5.9-ounce, 100-percent polyester waffle knit fleece back and a heather knit fabric front. The jacket’s Opti-Therm fabric is designed to withstand the cold and provide a layer of thermal comfort. Contrast zipper binding, the Callaway logo rubber zipper pull and feminine coverstitch seam detailing add visual interest. A heat seal label provides tag-free comfort. Choose from blueprint heather, castlerock heather and highrise heather in sizes: S-3X.
Heritage Sportswear / PPAI 177353 / www.heritagesportswear.com
Intelligent weather protection and ultra-soft warmth merge in the Cedar Park fleece, available in men’s and ladies’ full-zip and vest styles. This 100-percent polyester SPARK Systems style is engineered to zip into the Trailhead jacket for truly unstoppable WeatherTec protection, or it can be worn alone. The end-on-end tonal striped brushed fleece (the black color is solid) features a self-fabric mock neck to keep the wind away while the hybrid fabric piecing at the collar, shoulder and back yoke repels water. Other features include a concealed Vislon® zipper, C&B pennant embroidery at the back neck, a locker loop and decorative coverstitch seam detailing.
Cutter & Buck / PPAI 196156 / www.cbcorporate
AL FRESCO FLEECE
When Kanata Blanket Company (PPAI 217153) was tasked with creating a custom-printed fleece blanket as an anniversary gift for Cirque du Soleil employees around the globe, the company chose its popular Explorer blanket, a water-resistant, PVC-coated picnic blanket reversed with 100-percent polyester fleece. The dyes Kanata uses in screen printing its fleece blankets are all fully cured and sublimated, so the fabric maintains its softness and the design stays true with repeated washings. The client was thrilled with the outcome of the product and was proud to present a unique gift that its employees could use and enjoy.
Know Your Fleece
Gridback jacquard: Raised fleece squares on the back side of the fabric improve airflow and temperature regulation
Sweaterfleece: Provides unmatched softness with the look and feel of heathered wool
Microfiber: A low-pile, lightweight fabric commonly used for hats, scarves, gloves and children’s clothing
Performance: A light fabric commonly used to make activewear and pajamas
Soft Shell: Lighter weight with a higher perceived value
How To Care For Fleece
Fleece is made from synthetic fibers (usually 100-percent polyester). Eco-friendly fleece is made of fibers derived from recycled products, including plastic bottles, or from sustainably harvested wool. Consider including care tips like these on a garment hangtag.
DO wash a fleece garment after six to seven wearings.
DO turn garments inside out and wash in cold water with like colors.
DO use a mild powder detergent and rinse garments twice to avoid detergent residue.
DON’T wash with lint-producing items such as towels.
DON’T use heat to dry fleece. Air dry or set dryer to lowest setting.
DON’T use fabric softeners and dryer sheets if the fleece has a water-resistant finish.
DON’T use bleach. To whiten fleece, set out in the sun for a few hours.
*Hint: the easiest way to remove stubborn pet hair is by wiping fleece with a wet rubber glove.
Source: Real Simple, Howtocleanstuff.net
Julie Richie is an Austin, Texas-based writer and former associate editor for PPB.