Zoom Shirts and More: What's Trending in Women's Promotional Apparel
The apparel market is different right now. For those who are still working from home, things like jeans or nice shoes are just a thing of the past, like Zubaz or the dodo bird.
Luckily, for apparel suppliers and distributors, there are still needs for very specific looks right now. You might be familiar with something called a “Zoom Shirt"—basically it’s the garment you’d wear for video meetings while you’re working from home. You still need to look professional and maybe display some brand identity, but you want it to be comfortable. This is where button downs, sweaters, polos and more have come in handy.
Also, we’re living in a time where athleisure was already a blossoming category, and with so many people working from and exercising at home, it’s never been more important to mix fashion and function. It’s a tough market right now, but there are still some opportunities in women’s apparel. Be ready for them.
Style Hasn't Changed Much
Let’s get this out of the way: While things are different, the entire universe hasn’t been upended to the point where we’re all going to start wearing drab jumpsuits. Fashion is still fashion, and thanks to the internet and TV, we can still keep track of the newest looks. We can use that as our primary yardstick for what people want, and, as usual, retail trends serve as a guide.
“What’s new and relevant in women’s promotional apparel is not unlike what’s selling at retail,” said Gina Barreca, director of marketing for Vantage Apparel, Avanel, N.J.
“Retail styles play a big role in the promotional side of women’s apparel,” said John Hein, sales for Landway International, Hayward, Calif. “Companies like Lululemon and Patagonia are leading the way in women’s comfort and style.”
As Hein puts it, comfort-focused, ready-for-work apparel was already gaining in popularity, but the immediate change from COVID-19 obviously caused even more of a drastic spike.
Seasonal colors are still important, summer fabrics are still crucial and the changing fits with developing trends still play an important role in promotional apparel and workwear. And, like those “Zoom Shirts” we mentioned before, people who work from home still need to find a way to look their best when they meet with colleagues and clients, even if it’s not face-to-face.
“The work-from-home movement brought about by the COVID pandemic pushed the need for comfort in clothing, making stretch fabrics in all product categories important,” Barreca added.
“Comfort is key in the women’s apparel world,” Hein said. “Buyers should be thinking about items that women will choose to throw on as they work from home or hop on a video conference call. Also, garment technologies such as Landway’s Active Dry moisture-wicking fabric have been popular for a while now, and we continue to see their success in the promotional apparel market.”
For comfortable, work-ready classics, think about items like cardigans and sweaters.
“We’ve introduced a couple of wrap cardigans in our Lilac Bloom Collection,” said John Perez, marketing for Tri-Mountain, Irwindale, Calif. “These are great for work-from-home situations. They are beautiful draping fabrics and versatile. They’re also great for office settings in the summer when the AC is blasting.”
These are products that look good on Zoom calls and in the office, and have plenty of opportunity for branding and matching a company’s color scheme.
Save the World
Aside from the ongoing athleisure revolution in apparel, the other milestone change in promotional wearables has been the push for responsibly sourced, eco-friendly apparel. Companies are using recycled materials for shirts and implementing manufacturing practices that minimize use of resources like water.
Barreca said that eco-friendly apparel is especially important to younger end-users. Because of this, companies including Vantage have developed their own eco fabrics and products, so being environmentally conscious doesn’t mean sacrificing quality or comfort.
“We’re seeing better recycled polyester fabrics that are softer and more luxurious than eco-friendly fabrics of the past,” she said. “Vantage uses Repreve premium recycled polyester in the new Earthwise Collection. The fabric for these styles, which is made with post-consumer plastic bottles, also includes the moisture management properties of the Vansport line.”
Likewise, Landway has introduced its 2020 Eco-Land Initiative—a partnership with international vendors and buyers to implement social and corporate responsibility to reduce waste and spread sustainable practices. This has included using yarns made from solution-dye pellets to reduce water, recycled polyester for insulation, and water-repellant fabrics made using PVC-free treatments to reduce the carbon footprint of the clothing.
Reach Your Clients
As the economy sputters, buying habits are different and budgets are slashed. Industries reliant on events and in-person business have felt this the most. But, just like many have pivoted to new revenue streams despite the hardship, apparel distributors can do the same and solve customer pain-points as much as possible.
Meet them halfway where you can. Perez said that Tri-Mountain has implemented a discount pricing program for all of its customers, and has put an added focus on “work from home” styles and messaging to appeal to customers in all sectors.
Hein said that Landway also added other relevant products like face masks, which appeal to everyone regardless of market or location and are one of the few booming product categories.
That’s the key takeaway here: widespread appeal. Pandemic be damned, that will always be the case when it comes to women’s promotional apparel. Certain tenets of demand are set in stone. The athleisure boom will leave a lasting mark, too, even after we’re all done working from home.
“Comfort is key,” Hein said. “And if you can combine casual comfort with a professional look, I think that is the future of promotional apparel.”