What Women Want
WOMEN’S APPAREL IN the promotional products industry is a single creature with two contrasting personalities. The Dr. Jekyll of promotional apparel is the side of the industry focused on office workers and business-casual attire. After hours, Ms. Hyde likes to come out wearing tank-tops and scoop-neck T-shirts in flashy colors.
Both sides of the promotional business are trailing behind the younger, crazy sister known as the retail market. Dean Vuong, vice president of Kavio, Commerce, Calif., said it is a “good thing” that promotional apparel is “one step behind” retail. “We know that if you can modify from [retail] to the promotional, then you will become successful,” he said.
Gabrielle Rohde, vice president of Gabrielle Rohde Royce, Minneapolis, agreed with this statement. She said, “When there is a trend that’s hit the mass market, we can be comfortable that we can run with it for a while.” Of course, one can’t simply copy a retail style and then reintroduce it at a promotional products trade show half a year later. “We cannot just take exactly from the retail end and apply to the promotional,” said Vuong. “We have to modify to our customers.” The style curve must be extended to meet the demands of the promotional industry. Voung said promotional styles have fashionable lifespans double, triple or quadruple that of retail. To ensure a garment meets the criteria for a long promotional life, the styles and colors are subdued. “Hot pink is hot, right,” said Vuong, “but, for our customers in promotional [marketing], we had to tone that down a little bit” to make it more versatile and thus give it a longer run as a fashionable item.
Choosing styles and colors suitable for a wide range of different body types is one problem promotional apparel manufacturers and distributors face. Since most promotional items are gifts, end-users rarely have the option to find a better color or fit. A successful promotional garment must be color- and style-suited to the majority of women. “Women are very, very conscious
about colors that they can and can’t wear,” said Brian Thigpen, national sales manager at Jensen Apparel, Portsmouth, Va. According to Thigpen, a woman’s eye color, hair color and skin tone comprise her pallet, and sharp, bright colors do not mix well with certain pallets. The need for softer colors and styles is
especially prevalent when dealing with women’s apparel for corporate programs. “Mainly, if [a garment is] for an office worker, it needs to be more of a polo shirt or a woven button-up shirt,” said Thigpen, “and if you’re doing a program for a company, you have to be mindful of [color pallet], you just keep it basic.” Thigpen suggested white, black, chocolate brown and some shades of blue as colors that will match a broad spectrum. Vuong agreed colors for corporate women’s wear must be “very subtle,” but he also pointed out a recent acceptance of new colors.