Eye On Apparel: Dressing For The Occasion
Look Studio / DigitalDesign0770 / Shutterstock.com.
Photo illustration by SPARK Publications.
Form follows function, but in the world of branded promotional apparel and accessories, it also follows fashion. Collectively influenced by the latest in runway, streetwear and celebrities’ eclectic styles—from Hollywood stars, to high-fashion models, to social media influencers—companies can use clothing and accessories to effectively promote themselves and extend their message, bring awareness to a cause or organization they support, and, if the products are really well-received or worn by a well-known person or group, they can even go viral, creating unforgettable buzz for the brand. During a time of such unprecedented challenges, it’s more important than ever for professionals to provide end users with tangible products they like, need and will continue to use, time and time again.
This year, the fashion world, like other industries, looks a lot different in more ways than one. According to Imran Amed, the founder and CEO of The Business of Fashion, the pandemic forced many consumers to shift their priorities, with a heightened focus on purchasing essential items, causing fashion to become “an after-thought, or no thought at all in this context.” Though clothing remains wearable after time, it can go out of style, becoming less desirable to consumers; something that’s forcing many companies to offer major discounts to get rid of excess inventory. Many well-known retailers have felt the effects majorly, and safety concerns resulted in fashion week cancellations around the world, from Paris to Tokyo and São Paolo to Beijing. In “The State of Fashion 2020,” published by The Business Of Fashion and McKinsey & Company, employees of both companies and experts in the fashion industry forecast a 27- to 30-percent drop in global revenue for the apparel and footwear sectors by year-end compared to 2019, and a 35- to 39-percent decrease in global revenue for the personal luxury goods industry.
With consumers spending a lot more of their time at home and indoors, their fashion needs have also shifted to apparel that’s more relaxed, comfortable and casual. Styles have migrated away from traditional evening and high-fashion looks and more toward loungewear, with loose-fitting tees and colorful sweat suits dominating the social media scene, prompted by the work-from-home and stay-at-home mandates. Vogue writes that all of a sudden, loungewear has become all-day wear, and indeed, it has. A poll of 1,327 U.S. adults by YouGov, a market research company, even found that nearly half (47 percent) of Americans who are working from home aren’t always wearing pants during their workday, and about one in 14 say they “never” do.
Boxy tees are seeing a resurgence from the ’90s, with a bulkier look and square shape that’s looser, more forgiving and complements all body shapes. Crop tops, popular in the ’80s and ’90s—and even worn by actors Will Smith and Mark Wahlberg—are also seeing a revival, and have remained in demand in recent years. Also offered in a boxy style, crop tops are worn across the board, and are seen in athleisure, everyday wear, loungewear, pajamas and are even growing popular as a two-piece alternative to the traditional wedding gown. They’re also commonly paired with other “festival styles” that are signature of the outdoor music scene, according to Racked, and are often seen paired with Levi’s and accessories, like handbags or jewelry with fringe details, making them perfect selections for brand giveaways and retail items sold during concerts and festivals. And if they have a vintage look? Even better.
These cool styles catering to the needs of remote employees are something that Cam Barras, custom projects senior associate at San Francisco, California, supplier Marine Layer, has been seeing a lot of at his company. “We have definitely seen a big shift with our corporate clients focusing on creating unique work-from-home kits for their employees and kits for virtual conferences as well.” Barras notes that some of Marine Layer’s bestselling items as of late include joggers (women’s style shown below) and pullovers (select style shown below).
Ball caps are not usually approved by most company dress codes but when employees are working from home, caps make it easy to get dressed for the day and provide a fun way for people to promote brands or activities they are interested in when on Zoom calls. The hot trends in caps today focus on the retro-inspired trucker styles—see examples of a few best-sellers below.
But perhaps what’s making the biggest comeback of all is tie-dye. Opening the floodgates of possibility for experimental, original and colorful looks, tie-dye is back from the ’60s and according to Insider, it’s one of the biggest fashion trends of 2020—and it’s here to stay, likely through 2021, writes Elle. USA Today describes tie-dye as a “quarantine fashion trend,” and BuzzfeedNews describes tie-dye sweat suits as the “official look of quarantine.” According to Trendalytics, a product intelligence engine, Google searches for “tie dye kit” increased 333 percent from May to June of this year, followed by a 201-percent jump in searches for “tie dye joggers” and a 108-percent increase in searches for “tie dye socks.”
Read on to learn about products available in these latest styles and fashions.
Celebrity partners, from movie stars to nano influencers, can significantly assist brands with getting the attention and sales they’re looking for. With election season around the corner, brands are enlisting the help of many high-profile personalities to advertise election-related products and get Americans to the polls on November 3. Many of these brands and celebrities are using promotional products to better communicate the message, and are doing so in notable ways. The upcoming election also presents an opportunity for brands, both large and small, to offer styles—such as the trending ones in this article—to build brand awareness alongside the important issue of voting. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
During the 2020 Democratic National Convention, former First Lady Michelle Obama donned a custom necklace by Black-owned business ByChari, which delicately spelled out the word “vote” around her neck as she encouraged viewers to do just that. The necklace, requested by Obama’s stylist, was handcrafted by Jamaican-born, Los Angeles-based jewelry designer Chari Cuthbert for the former First Lady, though according to Forbes, she had no idea that Obama was planning to wear it to the DNC. The outcome? Sales soared for the woman- and minority-owned business; Obama delivered a critical message by encouraging viewers to vote while also helping to support Cuthbert’s business and providing viewers with the opportunity to do the same.
Other companies are encouraging Americans to vote with bolder messaging, and also teaming up with nonprofits to do so. In a recent partnership with Rock The Vote, Levi’s designed t-shirts and hoodies with the nonprofit’s logo, and teamed with model and TV personality Hailey Bieber and filmmaker Oge Eguonu to help raise awareness. Meena Harris, a lawyer, activist, children’s book author and founder of the Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign, joined forces with Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker to offer a limited-edition t-shirt from Phenomenal Woman that reads “Votes For Women,” celebrating August 26, the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, and donated all proceeds to the nonprofit Monumental Women. And recently, Los Angeles-based apparel brand Michael Stars teamed up with journalist, feminist and activist Gloria Steinem for its #TheTeeInVote collection of voter merchandise, which features caricatures of Steinem’s likeness, including her signature hairstyle and glasses, alongside the word “vote.” The collection dedicated $50,000 from collection sales to be used toward supporting the work of nonprofits Black Voters Matter, Voto Latino and March On.
One way that brands across all industries can help distinguish the role or rank of workers is through color-coded uniforms. Particularly helpful in front-facing positions, such as health care, trade shows and exhibitions, sales and customer service, color-coded uniforms can maintain organization by communicating important information to customers about the employee’s position. In health care, many hospitals use a color-coded scrub system to help patients identify staff members. LewisGale Hospital in Pulaski, Virginia, uses colored scrubs to distinguish by department: black for physical therapy, grape for pharmacy, pewter gray for radiology, ciel blue for respiratory therapy, Caribbean blue for lab, and navy and white for registered nurses and licensed practical nurses.
Encompass Group, a McDonough, Georgia-based supplier, recently introduced its Group One® Uniform Apparel Program, a color-coded apparel program and solution to assist brands looking to create caregiver role identity and reinforce their messaging. Through this program, the supplier caters to a wide range of health-care clients, from primary care and dental offices to senior living facilities and IDNs (a group of health-care providers). To learn more about what kinds of companies are using the apparel program and how these programs work, PPB spoke with Deanna Leonard, Encompass Group’s vice president and general manager, professional healthcare apparel.
PPB How are companies using color-coded uniforms, and how are different colors being used to distinguish workers?
Leonard Customers adopt these programs for five key reasons: branding, security, patient experience, employee satisfaction and ease of ordering. While every customer is different, the desire for an easy-to-use color-coded program is universal. We do see a fairly common trend in that most programs utilize navy for their nursing staffs and ceil blue for operating room staffs. Outside of that, there is a great deal of variety in their color choices by department, however, black, charcoal, pewter, navy and royal colors do tend to rise to the top of the color hierarchy. Patients appreciate being able to identify who is who based on the color uniform the health-care employee is wearing. From a security standpoint, it’s quick to identify who does not belong on your floor. From an employee satisfaction standpoint, we have often heard that color-coded uniforms “make us feel like we are part of a bigger team.” And from a branding standpoint, having custom-embroidered uniforms helps you stand out in a crowded space.
Most hospitals and health systems that adopt a dress code elect to color-code attire by job role—for example, all registered nurses may wear dark blue, surgeons may wear green, and so forth. This allows patients to easily differentiate who is who merely by scrub color, without the caregiver having to introduce themselves.
“Patient-first” is certainly not a new idea. We all know the importance of understanding the patient/customer experience and providing a better care experience, but how would standardizing health-care personnel attire support a customer-centric culture? Put yourself into a patient’s shoes for a moment, especially an elderly patient, or perhaps a parent with a sick child. You’re sick, upset to be in the hospital, and people are coming and going through your room and you don’t know why. On patient satisfaction surveys, patients often comment on caregivers’ lack of professional appearance and their inability to identify who was in their room. This is obviously upsetting for patients and can affect who they trust to provide their care. A lack of a provider dress code not only contributes to patients’ inability to identify who is in the room, but also why that provider is in their room.
PPB What is some of the feedback that you’ve heard about color-coded uniform programs?
Leonard We hear all kinds of wonderful feedback on a regular basis and are humbled to be in this business. Everything from the comment I referenced above, “Having a uniform program makes me feel like I am part of a bigger team,” and “I appreciate how easy the ordering site is to use,” and “You have wonderful customer service and they really do go the extra mile.” Many different teams manage these programs at facilities and they all respond very positively to the ability to pull reports, track spending and ensure their employees are taking full advantage of the service. It is key for us to ensure we are making their very busy jobs as easy as possible.
With winter around the corner, offer end users something they can cozy up into, but also wear during a virtual call. Made from 100-percent cotton jersey—with variations for certain colors, including ash, light steel, charcoal heather and oxford gray—the Beefy-T Long-Sleeve Tee is 6.1 ounces for added durability and features a full cut for a looser fit. Details include shoulder-to-shoulder taping and two-needle trim at the sleeves and bottom hem. Available in S-3XL in 20 colors, shown in deep royal.
Hanes / PPAI 191138, S10 / www.hanes.com
Whether recipients are jamming out to music at festivals like Coachella, or kicking it back and attending a virtual concert indoors, the Women’s Festival Cali Crop is sure to become a fan favorite. Lightweight with a silk-like feel, the top is made from a blend of 65-percent polyester and 35-percent ring-spun cotton, with a crew neck, tearaway label, and raw-edged sleeves and hem. Available in women’s XS-2XL in 12 colors, shown in royal pine (left) and desert blush.
Next Level Apparel / PPAI 272027, S3 / www.nextlevelapparel.com
Individually dyed, no two of the Tie-Dye Pullover Hoods are alike. Made from 80-percent cotton and 20-percent polyester, this 8.5-ounce pullover features a relaxed fit with a drawstring hood. It also has a complementary youth style, and is available in 21 hand-dyed color options. Available in unisex S-3XL, shown in multi rainbow.
alphabroder / PPAI 156993, S16 / www.alphabroder.com
Not only does the Tie-Dye Adult All-In-One Loungewear make for a super fun giveaway item, but tie-dye loungewear is also trending on social media. This onesie is made from 80-percent cotton and 20-percent polyester and has a baggy fit, with details that include a side-zippered pocket with a small hidden opening for a headphone cord feed, a tearaway neck label for easy rebranding, a jersey-lined hood and a kangaroo pouch pocket. Available in unisex XS-2XL in eternity, reactive rainbow, spider pink, spider royal and blue ocean (shown).
alphabroder / PPAI 156993, S16 / www.alphabroder.com
With its super soft hand, the Women’s Sport Jogger in charcoal offers a slim fit that’s a mix between leggings and sweatpants. Available in a complementary men’s style, the joggers are made from a 83-percent polyester and 17-percent spandex blend, with heavyweight, active fabric that’s both snug and long-lasting. Made using a cationic dye to give the fabric a texturized color, they’re available in women’s XS-XL.
Marine Layer, Inc. / PPAI 690355, S1 / www.marinelayer.com
It won’t be long until the Men’s Sunset Pullover Hoodie becomes a go-to favorite for recipients. Super soft with a lightweight fit, it’s made from the company’s signature sustainable fabric blend of 50-percent USA-grown Supima cotton and 50-percent micromodal; modal is made from recycled beech wood. And as Marine Layer says, it’s the perfect item to “pull over” when “the sun starts to set.” Available in men’s XS-2XL in charcoal and black (shown), and in a complementary women’s style.
Marine Layer, Inc. / PPAI 690355, S1 / www.marinelayer.com
There’s no doubt that safety concerns have changed the landscape of what constitutes as “trending fashion.” To subdue end users’ apprehensions, present them with the Made In USA Sublimated Gaiter. This multipurpose face and neck cover, shown in a galaxy print, can be customized with a full-color design for branding that’s truly “in your face.” Made from 100-percent spun polyester, a soft, stretchy fabric, it can be used as a headband, face cover, neck warmer, wrist band, hair tie and more.
FPS Apparel / PPAI 273314, S1 / www.fpsapparel.com
A style that was popularized in the 2000s, the 112 Richardson Trucker Snapback is a structured, six-panel cap, made in the classic trucker style. This bestselling cap is made from a 60-percent cotton and 40-percent polyester shell, with a 100-percent polyester pre-curved contrast-stitch visor and an adjustable snapback closure for the ultimate fit. Available in more than 90 color combinations.
Kati Sportcap / PPAI 113758, S5 / www.katisportcap.com
The structured, retro-inspired 6606 Yupoong Retro Trucker is also a bestseller, featuring a six-panel construction in the classic trucker style. Made from a tri-blend of 47-percent cotton, 25-percent polyester and 28-percent nylon, the cap has a pre-curved visor with a plastic tab closure, and features a three-and-a-half-inch crown. Available in 35 colors, shown in heather/white.
Kati Sportcap / PPAI 113758, S5 / www.katisportcap.com
The Gaiter Hoody has been getting a lot of attention, and for good reason. This unisex hoodie features a double polyester built-in neck gaiter to help wearers feel more protected when they’re out and about. Featuring a soft hand and a tearaway label for added comfort, the pullover is available in XS-3XL in black, black heather, cool royal heather, true navy heather and grey heather (shown).
J. America / PPAI 351699, S1 / www.jamerica.com
To appeal to industries and clients with an interest in going green, consider the Women’s Side Vent Drapey Hi-Lo Shirt Tail Tee. Made in the USA from 60-percent hemp and 40-percent cotton, the tee is also made to last—hemp is one of the strongest and most durable natural fibers, and holds its shape far longer than other fabrics. Available in S-XL in graphite, bone and aloe (shown).
Expert Brand / PPAI 267226, S2 / www.expertbrand.com
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.