RETAIL TRENDS HAVE been inching their way into the promotional apparel market for some time now, but none have made quite as much headway as urban wear (comparatively speaking, of course). For the past two years especially, it’s been the embodiment of what is considered fashion-forward in the current market, and is showing no signs of fatigue.
To help distributors ride the wave successfully, Promo Marketing has developed a primer for integrating the latest urban trends into today’s apparel promotions.
LESSON 1: MARKING TERRITORY
The argument’s as old as that one about the chicken and the egg. The demand for trendy promotional apparel is high, but adding a logo makes a piece inherently uncool. Reimagining logo placement is essential for urban wear styles. “People aren’t just doing the left logo print
anymore—[they’re saying] ‘Hey, let’s do it on the sleeve,’ ‘Let’s do it around the bottom,’” said Paige Cannon, director of marketing at Norcross, Georgia-based Alternative Apparel. She also mentioned the collar line as another unique, yet underused spot.
Branding must be smaller and more integrated into the design for it to work within the urban design principles. Kevin Flynn, president and CEO of Easton, Pennsylvania-based fashion-design company Satisfashion offered up an example: “You take a really great logo … make it look like a patch, then you fray it [around the edges]. Now you’ve got something kind of cool,” he said.
Cannon noted that logo creativity not only makes things more fun, but it’s just good marketing. Flynn agreed, “It doesn’t have to stay so stale. It needs to have a little bit of ‘wow.’ You can still have your corporate branding and your identity, but you gotta make it look good.” »
LESSON 2: STAYING CURRENT
Since Satisfashion works almost exclusively within the music industry, staying abreast of urban styling is Flynn’s livelihood. “That whole washed-out, vintage look is still gonna be hot [for the next two years] because rock ’n’ roll is doing bigger numbers than ever before,” he said. In the current movement, “destroyed” and “distressed” are watchwords, and defining styles include burnout fabrics as well as lightweight layers.
The designation is not about silhouettes, those can remain standard. “What’s really been working is basics with some flair and a little twist,” Cannon said, citing Alternative Apparel’s destroyed tee—a crewneck with some frayed edges and a worn look—as working great for the company.
LESSON 3: FINDING REAL-WORLD EXAMPLES
There’s no better way of finding out what’s “street” than by actually hitting it. For a Mountain Dew campaign Flynn once worked on, the company was promoting its product toward skateboarders. He went right to the source. “I researched the skateboard companies to see what they’re doing, and what the kids are wearing when they ride,” Flynn said. He found they were cutting up their clothing, drawing on it in marker, sewing on patches—basically, anything to make it more unique to the wearer. “We watch and see what’s going on so when people come to us, we have a grip [on it],” he added.
Though this seems like standard fare for a designer such as Flynn, distributors would do well to follow his lead. Don’t suggest styles to an end-user in a vacuum. Knowledge of what’s going on in urban fashion can only help both client and distributor make the best, most market-friendly decisions.
LESSON 4: GETTING IT TOGETHER
Finally, no trend tutorial would be complete without a mention of accessories. In the urban wear category, they’re starting to matter more than ever. Hats and bags are particularly popular and bundling them with apparel promotions has been a draw for both Cannon and Flynn. “Our headwear always continues to do well for us and it’s easy when you’re merchandising … to have a hat with the shirt,” Cannon said.
For Flynn, the benefit of grouping different pieces is its overall design cohesiveness. “You really have no consistency unless you really sit down and put together a game plan,” he affirmed. Showing end-buyers the multitude of ways a logo can be applied to an entire apparel lineup (shirt, hat and bag, for example) will give a company more opportunities to get branding out to the masses, and the wearer an element of choice.