This week at Expo East in Atlantic City, New Jersey, PPAI’s Professional Development team is hosting 30 education seminars covering a number of topics relevant to the promotional products industry, from the essentials of a LinkedIn profile and designing a company website, to embracing diversity in the workplace, marketing strategies and fostering creativity.

Among them was Monday’s Apparel Trends, Challenges & Opportunities for 2019, led by Colleen Hartigan, a 35-year veteran of the promotional products industry and the former executive vice president of Madeira USA Ltd., a provider of threads and embroidery supplies. The seminar covered an overview of current trends in apparel, along with forecasted trends for 2020 in color, fabric, texture and style.

Following Pantone’s color palette for 2019, brighter colors, Hartigan says, like varying shades of oranges and yellows, offset by neutrals, will remain popular. For women’s apparel, she described pink as “quintessential,” encouraging distributors to present pink product suggestions to clients, while across markets, pastels are “taking a backseat” to more vibrant hues. Specific shades, like light blues, soft lilacs, sea foam green and peach are particularly popular in men’s, women’s and children’s fashion. But neon is now front and center, especially in decoration. “We all saw it in the ’70s,” says Hartigan. “It went away, it came back and it’s still popular. But what [companies] are doing most is they’re injecting [neon] into the design as an accent color to bring out a logo, especially with embroidery and embellishment.” Also worthy of mention is the use of camouflage as accents, though in blues and grays, rather than the traditional forest and desert color schemes.

In fabrics and texture, expect the widespread use of fleece—an ideal option for companies with an eco-friendly emphasis—as fleece is a 100 percent synthetic material derived from recycled materials. Other fabric choices include tri-blend, French terry, heathers, slub, poly cotton and cotton. But particularly popular is performance wear: polyester, spandex and other synthetic fibers, which are predominant in the athleisure market. “Everywhere you go, whether it’s a dress wear, business wear, casual wear, exercise wear, it’s everywhere,” says Hartigan. “It’s not showing any signs of going away.” Following the ever-popular athleisure movement, consumers are wearing performance fabrics, not only at the gym, but also during casual and even professional occasions, prompting manufacturers to incorporate unique amenities that go beyond moisture-wicking and antimicrobial properties. Distinctive features include insect repellants, pilling- and static-resistance and resistance to wind, heat and abrasion. Hartigan says the biggest challenge for decorators will be keeping up with innovation due to the massive growth in athleisure over the past few years.

When it comes to style, she says minimalism has become a thing of the past. Consumers are seeking more eye-catching, edgy and bold designs filled with personality. Staples, like the classic tee and blue jeans, are experiencing a refresh, from bleach-spattered decoration and retro prints to embroidery and patchwork. Especially trendy throughout 2019 into 2020 are hats, namely bucket hats, slouched tams and updated baseball caps. For men, favorites include the “dad hat”—unstructured or canvas baseball caps with a slightly curbed bill and a strap back—trucker and snapbacks, and beanies. Allover patterned socks remain a market favorite adorned with polka dots, contrasting stripes, clashing colors, team colors, animal prints, crazy critters and everything in between.