Here's the thing: We're cold. We know it's only September and that we just listed all the best autumn products in our last issue. But fall rain has started and we're feeling icy toward changing seasons. It only takes one day of running out for a quick bite, getting caught in a thunder storm, arriving back at the office soaked, then having your boss call you in to realize you need to invest in a water-repellent coat. Better yet, multiple coats. For rain, chill, snow and blizzards. Though, to be honest, we just stay wrapped in blankets during blizzards. As Anna Wintour once maybe said, "Unisex blanket dresses are the new fashion must-have." Either that or "Never, ever wear a blanket." Either way, you should probably wear a jacket because even blankets get cold during Northeast winters. Also, refer to this list to ensure you have everything you need for a hot outerwear promotion. Make sure the jacket is:
Jackets may only be used a few months out of the year, but they need to stay sturdy while on a hanger in the summer or on a freezing body in the winter. According to Jonathan Walther, operations manager for Nucom, New Hope, Minn., top-grain cowhide leather is one of the most durable materials for outerwear. "Leather is a natural material composed of millions of fiber bundles wound together to create strength and durability," he said. "Normally a high-quality Burk's Bay leather jacket will last a lifetime with minimal care." Robert Klein, president of Pella Products Inc., Pella, Iowa, added cotton and poly/cotton blends as other long-lasting wears. "We use a lot of 100 percent cotton duck, which is favored for it long wear, low melting point, and breathable comfort," he said. "We also use polyester/cotton blended fabrics, which are more abrasion-resistant than all cotton, and have a longer lifespan."
Walther suggested 2 oz. polyester fiberfill bonded between leather and nylon lining as a good layering technique. Klein also mentioned polyester as a good lining. "Our over 100 years of experience have shown us that quilted polyester provides for the best all-around lining for our application," he said. "In many applications, we use Dacron Hollofil polyester batting quilted to either flannel or nylon."
Moisture-wicking properties and stain-release finishes used to be extra, but with retail brands embracing them as standard, the promotional market is as well. "Wicking is just another performance feature that is making its way into outerwear apparel as this category is beginning to trend to lighter weight fabrics and more active silhouettes," explained Marcus Davis, merchandising manager for branded printwear, Hanesbrands Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C.
With all of those extra properties, decoration can be difficult. "Since many outerwear garments are made from synthetic materials or from a combination of many different fabrics and trims, embellishing them can be a lot different than a traditional cotton tee," said Davis. Klein agreed. "Synthetic fabrics require different dyes than all cottons and blends," he said.
Davis advised those interested in selling outerwear to get to know ink suppliers for the best imprints. "It's best to discuss with an ink supplier what inks and machine settings they recommend for each particular jacket based on its construction and fabric," he said. Davis also noted Direct To Garment printing is a good option for fleece and cotton items.
Embroidery and debossing are other common outerwear decoration techniques. "Instead of dying or decorating a leather jacket with ink, we prefer embroidery and debossing to create a unique, custom and meaningful gift or award," said Walther.
Putting function over fashion is common for outerwear, with good reason. A chic trench means nothing if it can't combat snow or fit over a sweater. Klein explained why "garment oversizing" is one of the most important elements in creating functional and durable coats. "Some garments are cut to fit over several layers of clothing (such as a heavy parka), while others are cut to fit over just a regular shirt," he said.
For distributors, picking the right "oversize" is easy, just look to the activity. "A trim fit depends selecting a size that works best with the activity chosen," Klein said. He also noted that workwear and uniforms are less "style-dependent" than everyday wear. If you are looking for outerwear to be worn on off time, try a bomber jacket. "A leather jacket is highly regarded for functional luxury," remarked Walther.
Every sale is an opportunity to bundle multiple products together. Jackets are typically worn with scarves, gloves, hats and other cold-weather necessities. Use that common knowledge to your advantage. "Our jackets are typically sold alone but with the addition of lambskin leather gloves to our inventory, we expect to see more packages put together," said Walther. "We can deboss the gloves with a smaller version of a left chest or yoke logo," he added.
In addition, you also want to make sure you:
Know Where to Look for Business
Though all markets can benefit from a warm coat, uniform-wearing markets are mostly likely to purchase jackets. Walther listed automotive, banking, manufacturing, transportation, tournaments and aerospace as possibilities, as well as safety and incentive programs. Davis added colleges and universities, high schools, landscaping, car dealerships and resorts. He also mentioned corporate golf outings and team events as good places for jackets.
Remember the Ladies
Originally most jackets in the promotional products industry were targeted toward men, but now suppliers are expanding their lines to include female styles. "Lately, there has been an increased demand for a leather jacket solution for women," noted Walther. "We currently have nine jacket styles designed specifically for women and a dozen more that can be comfortably worn by both men and women."
Fix Incorrect Embroidery
An added benefit of embroidery: It can be mistake-free. "Mistakes can oftentimes be repaired with ease, and fine lettering and details tend to run and look smoother than when run on items such as loose knit, or textured garments," explained Davis.