Sweating the Details
WHITE LINED PAPER. Vanilla ice cream. Bottled water. Sure, these things are plain, but that doesn’t make them any less great. There are tons of things in life that are beloved by many that are as simple as a good BLT or scrambled egg. Ask the cook who perfectly scrambled that egg, too, and he or she will surely tell you that a ton of thought, planning and skill were required to get that egg exactly right.
Well, a ton may be an exaggeration, but the point is that careful design is required for any great thing, no matter how simple, be it scrambled eggs, or, say, sweatshirts and fleece.
The retail sector may be seeing more diverse and ornate designs in sweatshirts and fleece here and there, but on the promotional side of things, style is still very much sticking to the straight and narrow. “We do not see a lot of unique style treatments for fleece,” said Lori Anderson, marketing manager for River’s End Trading Company, Hopkins, Minn. “Keeping a style basic lends itself better to a colorful, interesting logo and doesn’t compete with it.” Anderson did mention, however, a few design elements currently popping up. “Some minimal style treatments you see today are different colors inside the hood or tipped color on the cuffs. Lace-up hoods are also popular as well as the front muff pockets.”
As for silhouettes, the rule of simple still applies. Christopher Levesque, vice president of marketing for New York-based Anvil Knitwear, was faced with designing three new sweatshirts for a company that has traditionally dealt with T-shirts. “I evaluated the market from a sheer numbers perspective of what sells … 80 percent of the market’s product is a 50/50, classically styled sweatshirt,” said Levesque. This evaluation led Levesque to create the three new sweatshirts in Anvil Knitwear’s sustainable line that, aside from their eco-friendliness, are quite traditional in design.
“Traditional” in this sense means the sweatshirts are the typical industry standard: 8 oz. in fabric weight; ribbed wrists and bottom cuffs; a tight, smooth cotton surface; and a napped soft fleece interior. “They’re industry silhouettes, but they also marry very well to retail trends and retail silhouettes, particularly the zip hoodies,” said Levesque.
Of course, as Anderson mentioned, one of the perks of having an apparel item that is simpler in style means it’s much easier to have an eye-catching imprint. Like the perfect scrambled egg, a lot of work goes into making sure the seemingly simple sweatshirts and fleece can handle an imprint well. Cyndi Granger, activewear buyer for River’s End Trading Company, explained some of the technical design elements. “In the basic sweatshirt fleece area, a garment made with a 100 percent cotton face (outer layer) or an air-jet spun yarn gives a garment that is more resistant to pilling,” she said. “For imprinting, the higher the stitch density, the smoother surface you have for your decoration. On a microfleece, the density of the fabric and an anti-pill polyester microfleece provides for a ‘crisper’ decoration and a better-wearing garment.”
Levesque elaborated further, going into more detail as to why cotton and polyester are often combined, and how that combination works. “The cotton can be on the surface largely, so the inks can sit on the surface without pilling or without high absorption because it’s a nice, tight-knit surface,” he said. “A lot of the polyester is reserved for the napping or the inside of the garments, so the contact with your body is the super-soft, recycled polyester surface,” and added that although the product is blended, it’s designed to have more cotton on the surface, and more polyester on the inside. “It’s about the performance of each of those on the surface we put them on.”