Take It To The Streets
Over the past half-decade, streetwear has emerged as one of the dominant forces in fashion. Mixing hip-hop, sports and preppie-style skate culture into an unlikely amalgam, streetwear can be found on New York runways and in Newark malls, represented by brands like Supreme, Obey and Stüssy, and made popular by the likes of Pharrell Williams and Justin Bieber. Hoodies, sweatshirts and graphic tees are the bread and butter of this style—making it a perfect match for the promotional apparel industry.
Unlike many retail trends that find their way onto the fashion catwalk, streetwear focuses on apparel basics. “The aesthetic has an overall casual influence that is a bit sporty and athletic,” says Dana Fried, managing director for Delphic Group, an apparel industry consulting group with ties to Tommy John, Nasty Gal and Taryn Rose. Many of the popular promotional categories—including sportswear, t-shirts, performance apparel, rugged outerwear and even some Tommy Hilfiger-style polos—have all found their way under streetwear’s umbrella. As Fried says, streetwear aficionados are “offering a new definition to the idea of what’s ‘classic.’”
Speaking of classic, streetwear places a lot of emphasis on authenticity, which is why the 99-year-old Champion brand has become such a staple in the market. “A new generation of consumers has discovered Champion, and they share their love for the brand with each other and on social media,” says John Spivey, marketing manager for Champion, part of HanesBrands, Inc. in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
“Throwback vintage and heritage styles are driving a lot of what you see at retail today,” Spivey adds. “Look at the archives to what was popular 30 years ago, and then look around at today’s styles. The differences are fabrications. Zippers may be bigger to where the zipper becomes a highlight. Oversized pockets are key for both function and fashion. And wider cuffs add to the retro look.”
Fried believes today’s suppliers are in a better position than ever to stay ahead of this growing market. “The advantage manufacturers have is the ability to produce goods at exceptional margins, plus the barrier to market has never been easier or more cost-effective,” he says. “By finding the right people on the design, branding and marketing side, it has become easier to create and distribute their own brands without taking abnormal risks in inventory positions as they learn how to adapt their product offering and branding message based on market feedback.”
While streetwear looks to continue its reign of popularity for years to come, smart companies will start marketing their products that way now before it becomes ubiquitous. To get started, look to clients in adjacent industries, like gyms, sports clubs, fan wear and specialty stores. They’re already buying promotional workout gear and jerseys, and many will have a young audience primed for the more modern styles. Work with your clients to create bigger logos and bolder designs on their garments and encourage them to spread the Instagram-worthy looks on social media. When Pharrell is spotted wearing that t-shirt at a red-carpet event, they’ll thank you.
Three Retail Design Trends For 2019
When it comes to retail looks, what goes on a shirt is as important as what goes in it. The printing, decoration and branding of an item play a major role in its appeal to end users.
1. Big—really big—prints:
If ’80s neon was back in fashion in the first part of the decade, the oversized graphics of the early ’90s will be all the rage in 2019. Big names and bigger logos are all over today’s apparel and will continue to be popular. High-fashion brands like Alexander Wang and Gucci have been pushing big prints for several seasons, and those bold design choices have trickled down into retail and now promotional markets. Full-chest and full-sleeve prints, allover graphics and step-and-repeat designs are all good styles to add to your next apparel campaign.
Sportswear and heritage brands are more popular than ever. Companies like Adidas and Levi’s are dominating fashion conversations, combining a sense of history and quality with more modern fabrications. Co-branding has always strengthened end buyers’ products by tying themselves to recognized brands, riding on their credibility and adopting their values. With the emphasis on iconography in today’s fashions, having a client’s name appear next to those three distinct Adidas stripes can tell a story better than any commercial or print ad.
3. Color blocking:
Color blocking has always been a staple in the promotional world, and its rise in popularity among the fashion crowd means suppliers and distributors are poised to take maximum advantage of the trend. Today’s color blocking has some small but significant differences from what you’ve seen in the past. Bolder colors with more contrast are in demand, sometimes even emphasizing contrasting shades. Mixing color blocking and printing is also growing in popularity, allowing the wearer to draw more attention to the logo on the clothing.
The face of fashion is ever-changing. While the latest trends come and go with the seasons, there are even bigger shifts happening behind the seams. New fabrics, eco-friendly dyes, performance technology and printing techniques are constantly evolving to produce more luxurious and longer-lasting clothing. Today, those changes are bringing the latest trends in smart technology and beauty to consumers.
Women’s Wear Daily reports that Seismic, a Menlo Park, California-based startup, has launched a line of robotic-infused textiles called Powered Clothing. The garments, which look like a futuristic unitard, use an integrated series of motors to assist the wearer in everyday activities, adding additional strength when lifting items or hiking. “We understood early on that everyone wears clothing, but nobody wears robots,” says Rich Mahoney, CEO and co-founder of Seismic. “We want to bring new functionality to clothing, but maintain that relationship of comfort, functionality and emotion.”
While it will be a few years before suppliers are selling battery-assisted polo shirts, other brands are incorporating modern technology in more subtle and useful ways. Tommy Hilfiger announced a range of smart apparel this summer which embeds smart chips into each item. Users can download an app that connects to the clothing, earning points each time they wear the item that can be redeemed for merchandise.
This technology can create brand loyalty by rewarding people for repeatedly wearing the same item, increasing exposure for the brand. In the promotional products world, this kind of encouragement can pay huge dividends for brands. This technology can be used to track how often and where an item is worn, providing valuable metrics on brand exposure and the effectiveness of promotional shirts as marketing media.
Not all apparel advances are so hard-wired. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Seattle-based fashion brand Buki has created a proprietary fabric embedded with natural collagen. The garments can impart the benefits of collagen to the wearers, including slowing the aging of skin and easing joint pain, says company co-founder Stacy Bennett. “The fabric is essentially crafted of collagen,” she says. “Body-conscious silhouettes allow skin to absorb the collagen peptides that make it feel softer and plumper in less than a minute.”
To create its material, Buki grinds fish scales into a powder that is then turned in fabric. If the idea of wearing fish scales leaves you feeling slimy, there are more basic advancements happening with textiles that may be more appealing. Moisture-wicking and UV-protection may be commonplace now, but they represent real advancements in apparel, and perforance brands like Under Armour are continuing to push the envelope on what clothing can do for athletes.
As for promotional products today, the biggest changes are happening in construction and material choices. “Something that was 100 percent cotton before may be a tri-blend today,” says John Spivey, marketing manager for Champion. “In recent years, lighter, softer fabrics have been driving the markets.” When talking with customers, focus on how these changes result in more comfortable, more wearable t-shirts and jackets, leading to more wear and loyalty from end-users.
For specific product ideas, please refer to the flipbook.
Kyle A. Richardson is a writer and editor living in Philadelphia and the former editor-in-chief of Promo Marketing magazine. Reach him at www.karichardson.co