The 2018 Promotional Apparel Preview
Sometimes, style trends can be baffling. One day, some icon or celebrity dons a strange or trend-defying outfit, and the next day everybody and their mother’s got to have it. While it’s true that styles come and go, this doesn’t mean that many trends are built to last. For 2018, we look to the styles that will continue to endure and how suppliers are ensuring they stay up-to-date and popular among end-users.
This year, the trend in apparel looks to continue along the path laid out by athleisure. Styles that are both functional and adaptable to various settings will continue to be popular. The key, however, will be in adapting newer, bolder styles in order to keep this trend fresh. To find out what we should look out for in apparel for 2018, we got in contact with some suppliers for their expert insight.
Last year saw a rise in the importance of textured clothing. According to John Perez, marketing manager for Tri-Mountain, Irwindale, Calif., this trend will continue. “Texture will always be important because this is apparel. People are tactile, meaning we like to touch and feel things”, he said. “Sometimes we don’t wear something because it just doesn’t feel good against our skin. When people shop for clothing, what’s one of the first things they do? First they see it with their eyes, then they touch it. Texture is a big deal!”
Not only does texture enhance the tactile experience of clothing, it also provides visual depth to apparel that can help it to stand out to the observer. With textures such as herringbone or twill, oxford or flannel, a product can appeal to a variety of senses, leading to increased end-user interaction and hopefully satisfaction.
Norman Bishop, president of Bishop Custom Clothing, Vancouver, British Columbia, weighed in on the importance of textured fabrics, pointing to the need for customization. “Yes, textured fabrics are still a big hit,” he said. “And we are seeing end-users wanting to customize those textures. Recently, we have worked in customized roll debossed versions of three-layer soft shell, and a polyester interlock, but in the end-buyer’s specific debossed pattern. This is a very subtle way of differentiating the fabric, and elevating the branding of the garment.”
If end-buyers are allowed to customize the texture of their desired apparel, they will be more likely to purchase that specific product that better represents their brand. Since texturing consists of small details, it can be used to differentiate a product from ones similar to it, at the same time satisfying end-buyers searching for something unique to put their brand on.
According to several suppliers, 2018 will be a year for brighter, bolder colors. While neutral and classic shades will continue to be popular mainstays, there is a trend in apparel that points to a rising desire for bright, unique and exciting colors.
Nathan Lucrisia, marketing director for Atlantic Coast Cotton, Va., gave his color forecast for 2018, highlighting that very trend. “Colors will continue to be a powerhouse and key influencer of fashion trends for spring 2018,” he said. “Think Wanderlust colors, or an abundance of uplifting shades and feel good colors for 2018. The desire for colorful self-expression is a key takeaway for spring 2018.”
Just what colors should we expect, then? Lucrisia offered a few. “The key shade is meadowlark (a bright yellow), with cherry tomato, little boy blue and various hues of purple (pink lavender, ultra violet and spring crocus) also making the list.”
Bishop echoed this sentiment, while also indicating that neutral and classic colors aren’t going anywhere. “Looking at spring 2018, there will be a combination of the classic neutral colors like navy, sand, light grey and off white paired with some very bright energizing colors like lemon yellow, cherry tomato, bright purple and teal,” he said.
It’s no secret that end-users want apparel that can function in any situation. Gone are the days of strictly differentiated wardrobes—a quarter-zip sweater worn over a button-up to the office one day could be used at the gym the next, or paired with a casual T-shirt for a night out on the weekend. What, then, is the key to ensuring that end-users will deem a product versatile enough for any occasion?
According to Bishop, the key lies in a combination of style features. “End users are still wanting performance features like permanent wicking and antimicrobial finishes, but instead of wanting them on fabrics that have a polyester performance hand, they are looking for ‘cotton touch’ hand feel,” he said.
While performance capability—found typically in athletic wear—remains a sought-after feature, end-users also want those styles to have the comfortable feel of casual, office-worthy pieces.
“End-users are also looking for lightweight stretchable outerwear fabrics for air-conditioned environments,” Bishop continued. “Some of our most popular styles are hoodies or lightweight jackets made in those fabrications and with those technical features, but softness and stretch are the key factors in the marketplace and at retail.”
Now more than ever, end-users want clothing that adapts to a wide range of environments, all the while remaining comfortable and stylish. One style trend, perhaps more than any other, displays the popular demand for these types of apparel products: athleisure.
Athleisure and Functionality
One of the biggest modern apparel trends over the past few years has been in athleisure. Though the styles are appealing in how they blend activewear with comfort and street-savvy styles, it is athleisure’s adaptibility that will see to its continuing success. As Perez stated, end-users have a “desire for apparel to be functional and appropriate in different settings.”
This desire for functional apparel extends beyond athleisure, however. According to Perez, this trend is thriving because of the nature of the modern end-user. As younger generations increase their presence in offices each year, it is becoming more important than ever to cater to their unique needs.
“I think functionality over formality is trending as millennials and X’ers take over the workplace,“ said Perez. “End-users have come to expect features in promotional apparel that rival those features found in retail apparel, so what’s important is having apparel that functions not only in the workplace, but also in other daily activities.”
It is also vital that promotional apparel styles meet the standards of retail styles. This means high-quality materials used to make apparel pieces that stand up to current styles and trends. Bishop echoed this sentiment, pointing to the importance of updating fabrics in order to ensure that athleisure remains both in-demand and innovative.
“We have created new variations on lightweight stretch jackets and quarter-zips using a proprietary fabric that is extremely lightweight but brushed on one side to provide some thermal qualities, and 14 percent Spandex to provide unbelievable stretch and comfort,” he explained. “We call the fabric ‘yummy’ and it wears extremely well and has a fantastic anti-pill face.”
Bishop’s “yummy” fabric seeks to answer multiple end-user demands at once: Lightweight yet warm, stretchable, comfortable and durable, this fabric embodies the innovative, versatile nature of athleisure apparel.
Vintage is Back, Baby!
Though modern trends tend toward urban and streetwear styles, it is undeniable that vintage is back, and in a big way. In the fashion world, vintage styles recall the apparel trends of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Raglan-style baseball shirts are popular, as are higher-end items such as leather jackets. One professional acknowledged the popularity of the vintage trend while maintaining an air of secrecy, suggesting that there could be big things in store for end-users looking for vintage apparel in 2018.
“Vintage is up and coming,” said Perez. “And we may have something to say about that in 2018, so you may just have to wait to see how we update the style.”
Bishop filled us in on the importance of updating vintage styles to fit the modern end-user. Pointing to the popularity of the classic-style varsity jacket, Bishop said,
“We have seen a resurgence in that style and we are using newer, more modern wool blends or completely different fabrications like stretch technical knits to achieve an updated variety. We have also substantially slimmed down the body of those classic bombers to match the current retail trends.”
While end-users are looking more and more for products with a vintage look, they expect those products to be updated with regard to fit and fabric. It seems, then, that for every style trend, functionality remains at the forefront in importance for end-users. This proves that no matter how stylish an apparel product may be, it must also be comfortable and versatile. People want products that answer to the demands of daily life, in all its variety and unpredictability.