Decoration and Garment Trends In Major Retail
How and why you should become a trend expert for your clients.
Rapidly flashing images of fashion are constantly changing. This is visible on Instagram, in brick-and-mortar retail, in print media, and on the streets. Major brands spend years of research and a lot of money predicting the next trend. While some trends are not predictable because they grow from street style, fashion trend forecasting agencies often consult for major brands on what the future will hold.
According to fashioninsiders.co, “these types of agencies’ foresight into future trends is not limited to predicting the colors and materials that will be popular over the next two years. Forecasters also delve into the lifestyles and buying habits of your brands’ consumer to gain insight into their present values and future desires.” The top trend forecasting agencies like WGSN, Trendstop, and Stylus are setting the stage for what the masses will be seeing in retail. The insights these agencies release will trickle down to the promotional industry in one way or another.
Whether you personally like the trends or not, everything around us is inspired by fashion: colors, patterns, fabrics, iconography, and even social movements. From low-cost leaders to luxury goods, you will see similar trends pop up.
So, how do you start to make sense of the trends or understand them if you aren’t active in the bigger fashion world?
Here are four suggestions on how to become a trend expert for your customers:
1. Follow blogs and social accounts that deliver fashion trends. More specifically, follow casual wear. Streetwear accounts are great to get the pulse on what the youth are wearing. If you haven’t noticed, streetwear is infiltrating all genres of apparel and is where many trends start, so follow non-sponsored Instagram influencers to get a non-filtered view of personal style direct from the trendsetters. Setting up an RSS feed for blogs is a great way to skim through what fashionistas are talking about.
2. Deep dive into Pinterest for specialty decoration ideas. What better place to start than a platform on which millions of people have already done the research for you? You can follow my Specialty Ink & Heat Transfer board, Appliqué board, and Embroidery board to get started. Because your ideal customer base might not be as “on trend” as current fashion advocates, start to collect ideas that will resonate with their style. If you service more of a preppy crowd, collect pins you see from Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, or Vineyard Vines. Observe the colors, garments, and decoration techniques they’re utilizing. Feel free to delegate this task to your marketing team or to multiple people in your organization. The more people on your staff who understand where the marketplace is and will be going, the better you can support your customers instead of just taking orders.
3. Utilize your supplier’s marketing materials and industry magazines, like Screen Printing, to get recommendations. Many manufacturers do not lean on their suppliers to help their customers understand garment trends. Within the last year, I’ve seen the top blank companies and suppliers launch trend reports and industry-specific apparel recommendations. They’re actively showcasing how their customers are decorating blank garments. Industry magazines are a key place to discover new and trending products along with tips on using specialty processes with a focus on how to make them production-friendly so you aren’t sacrificing profit, time, or quality for the “cool factor.”
4. Take a trip to the mall. There’s no better way to research what trends your customers could integrate into their merchandise program than seeing what the biggest brands are using in their latest season release. Not only will you get insights on color, fabric, and silhouettes, you can also see the common decoration techniques used in those lines. This is an often-overlooked, “easy” way to get up to speed on current trends.
Coming from a fashion background, I schedule market research into my daily/weekly list of things to help my business grow. Even though it’s a hobby of mine to keep up with trends, I document the things I can directly apply to my customers’ merchandise lines. While the fashion trend landscape is constantly changing, things trickle down a little slower in our industry based on consumer needs/wants. That means you will have ample time to build your marketing materials and do some research and analysis before demand grows.
The consumer is much more informed than they were 20 years ago when it comes to the apparel they wear. While the heavyweight cheap cotton tee is still the most popular garment in our industry due to low cost, there’s a shift of demand that’s based more on what the masses want, which is actually not the cheapest tee possible. While I can’t get on the oversized heavyweight tee bandwagon personally (I’m sure you’ve seen these styles from all the big blank brands), I do recognize that it’s popular. I take that into consideration when developing for my customers’ merch lines. Agility will help you service the marketplace better.
Scott Trippanera, a consultant who works with major retail brands, shared with me that “stylish, lightweight fleece tees are trending for spring 2020 as transitional fleece wear for the warmer SoCal market. And a short sleeve French Terry tee fits the bill perfectly. The fleece shirt is spec’d on a traditional activewear tee pattern that crosses over from the surf and skate market; it has the stylish length, roominess, and comfort to be the perfect go-to fleece shirt for those chilly morning activities, yet light and breathable to help you stay cool as the day warms up. It’s part of the true California transitional lifestyle.” Because California influences casual wear trends, I can see this garment popping up all over the country in the near future.
Another garment trend that has been gaining steam for a couple years but is reaching new heights is unique tie dye and garment wash treatments. Taylor Swift, Kanye West, and The Fresh Prince have all used tie dye tees and hoodies in their recent merch releases. From multicolor dip dyes to color-shifting dyes, the typical hippie tie dye is being reinvented. While our options are limited in the blank market, for those customers that have higher qualities or further reaches, you can get custom dyed blanks from a couple different factories in Los Angeles. This helps you create a garment that is truly unique to your customer.
Other styles to expect to see more of in 2020:
- Color blocking and rugby style stripes
- Allover pattern prints on button downs
- Oversized drop shoulder tees and hoodies
- Henleys (short and long sleeve)
You’ll see even more growth of the Heritage brands like Champion, Russel Athletic, Kappa, Carhartt, and K-Swiss. If you haven’t been to the mall lately, Champion has infiltrated every store from Nordstrom to PacSun to Urban Outfitters. All have specific collections for that retailer’s demographic.
Another garment-specific trend that will gain marketshare in 2020 is activewear and athleisure. With our society as a whole living healthier lifestyles and dressing more casually, the need for transitional, comfortable apparel is ever growing. Brands like Lululemon, Athleta, Nike, Gymshark, and Fabletics are creating full outfits that accommodate going from the office to the gym and then out to social settings. This demographic is very wide, but there are commonalities among the Crossfit companies and yoga studios.
Faithful customers preach the message of activewear in a cult-like manner. This is a big opportunity for companies in our industry. There’s no better way to spread a message of fitness and wellness than with branded products that go beyond a basic corporate logo. Typographic statement tees with motivating words will build more retail sales for your customers. Moisture management tees, shorts, and leggings are core items for activewear. Athleisure garments such as joggers, drapey loose fabrics for women, and Sherpa fleece quarter zips have been showing up in retail.
There are so many print-friendly decoration techniques available on the market that most shops don’t take advantage of. I recently sat down with my main printer, Danny Gruninger of Denver Print House (a 2018 Rising Stars Award winner), to talk about his predictions for the upcoming year. “From a technical decoration standpoint, the larger brands are driving the elite developers in the industry to create more interactive apparel. With the rapid acceleration of digital and the speed to market that it provides, you are going to start seeing a lot more hybrid screen print and digital, as well as special effect techniques incorporating these advanced techniques,” he says. “Some of these include foil and digital print, flock and digital print, high-density and digital print, among many other special effect applications. We have also seen a higher demand in decorations using special pigments such as color shifting, pearls, glows, etc., which add an element of appeal to a standard style graphic. In the near future, you will also start to see many large brands having more interactive merch and/or decorations that give the end user the ability to have interaction with the design or the garment, which will be able to provide useful data to whoever is wearing it.”
Decoration techniques I’m currently loving are:
- Tone on tone printing and embroidery
- Multiple and unique location prints
- Embossing in fleece
- Multi-media using screen print with appliques or patchwork
- Metallic accents
Now, how do you take what you’re learning with trends and apply it to your clients? At the end of the day, a “cool” tee that nobody buys or wears misses the mark. Set up a questionnaire so you can structure what you’re trying to pull from the client so they give you the info you need to make
the best suggestions possible that will resonate with their audience. Take your core clients and put trend reports together for them so you can build a “blueprint” of looks that will help in the development of new merch.
Knowing the trends is not only a power edge over your competitors, but it will also establish you as the expert and give your clients a garment their audiences will love.
Jeremy Picker is the creative director and CEO at AMB3R Creative, a Colorado-based apparel design firm. He has more than 20 years of experience in the fashion industry and brings a depth of knowledge in custom design, screen printing, embroidery, applique, finishing, and promotional products. Picker has helped numerous brands launch and grow, and has managed merchandise for major label brands. He is also passionate about creating retail quality for the non-profit sector to fuel fundraising efforts and expand awareness. His current client list spans from churches to restaurants to corporations. He is a cancer survivor and a co-founder of Estaine, a high-end accessory line to support cancer education.