Just as runway looks often end up in retail, retail apparel often makes its way to the promotional world (to the delight of end-users). We spoke to Nadia Santoli, manager of corporate communications & media relations for alphabroder, Trevose, Pa., to find out why retail inspired apparel works and how to pull it off successfully.
Promo Marketing: Why do you feel it’s important for promotional clothing to have a retail feel?
Nadia Santoli: It’s no surprise that corporate apparel continues to evolve and progress—in fact, many suppliers in the industry are inspired by current retail trends and have adopted a fashion-forward mindset when designing their own garments. Unique features, technology, detail, style and coloring prove to be top of mind when developing new products and collections.
As well, customers are now expecting promotional clothing to have a retail feel—they no longer want to buy just a typical, boxy cotton polo anymore. Today, wearers are looking for diverse, versatile pieces that are fashionable enough to wear anywhere, anytime.
PM: What are a few tips you have for selling retail inspired apparel in the promotional world?
NS: Instead of pitching apparel to your clients via a hanger, take the opportunity to wear some of the latest retail-inspired pieces offered by your suppliers. Only then can you provide a true testimonial of how the garment felt on you. Also, take advantage of the technology story that is available with some of these pieces, by comparing them to more traditional corporate apparel items that may not have heating or cooling technology, breathable properties and moisture-wicking elements.
No matter the trend or details that are available from one style to the next, the most important part of the conversation with your customer is to understand what they’re really looking for. Only after knowing that need can you or your team meet and exceed the customers’ expectations. Making sure you choose the right product that is available to you from your suppliers, in my opinion, is one of the most important attributes that attracts repeat business and the key to building a long-lasting relationship with your customer.
PM: What are some fashion trends you see appearing in promotional apparel?
NS: Here are three big trends:
The Evolution of the 3-in-1
3-in-1 jackets have always been a practical source for the fall and winter months. If a wearer doesn’t want to sport a heavier jacket, simply removing a layer will do the trick. As of late, 3-in-1’s have evolved to interactive jackets (with both a lightweight piece and fleece component). A corporate active wardrobe can be enhanced with a versatile and stylish interactive jacket that features a loop system. Loops secure both layers together, and can usually be found at the neck and sleeves.
Performance Details That Work
The incorporation of the less visible, but comfort and function-driven moisture wicking performance, is evident in many mid- or outer-layer pieces this season. Moisture-wicking was initially used in base layers to keep professional athletes comfortable underneath their uniforms. Now, distributors are looking to see it presented in performance shells and fleece pieces, as well as insulated jackets, for a variety of uses and segments.
The demand for heathers (or mélange) is getting stronger and stronger, as it offers a variation of fabric interest that adds to the visual value of a garment. Traditionally seen in dark grey or dark navy, heathers are now more frequently combined with different design details like pops of colors throughout trims and zippers, or unique style lines. Aside from the navy’s and grey’s, other popular heathered colors trending right now are burgundy, forest, khaki, silver or platinum. Great examples of heathered outerwear include insulated jackets, bonded fleece jackets or sweater fleece jackets. Sophisticated, dressy mélange jackets are suitable for a versatile city lifestyle, outdoor activities or style-conscious companies, while mélange bonded fleece or sweater fleece apparel is great for team-building events, outdoor activities and sports-oriented companies.
PM: What role do popular name brands play in the promotional world?
NS: The recognition of a name brand is what drives many customers to purchase promotional apparel products, as their decision is brought together by the use of the brand’s iconic logo. But what does that logo mean? That logo becomes the point of recognition, which becomes as powerful as the customer’s name. Corporate end-users may become popular through association to certain characteristics of a name brand: good quality, trend-setting designs, advanced technology, aspirational lifestyle, defining imagery and great marketing, just to name a few. Sometimes in certain industries, this becomes a stamp of approval to the customer, if the staff and representatives are wearing retail-branded apparel.
Ashley Chiaradio is the Senior Content Strategist at Total Retail. Ashley has been creating content for more than 7 years, and provides a unique insight in covering the retail industry having worked directly for retailers in the past. She’s passionate about profiling women leadership in the space.