Video: The Stitch Report
Stitches Senior Writer Theresa Hegel discusses key findings from the 2015 State of the Industry Report. Watch it here.
Trend Spotter: Summer Hat Styles Go Boho
The 2015 runways have been full of updated Bohemian classics, with fringe, flares and florals dominating. As summer approaches, consider the appeal of another boho-chic essential: the floppy hat. These wide-brimmed wonders are perfect pool-side, at music festivals and any other outdoor event.
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The Sunset Hat (S2C26270) from Sunday Afternoons (asi/90134) is fun, fashionable and functional. Made of a breathable polyester braid, the UV-protective hat features a wide, shapeable brim, corded leatherette headband with decorative bead accents and an interior grosgrain sweatband.

The nice thing about fashion hats, says David Goldman, vice president of Philadelphia Rapid Transit (asi/77945), is that few women go out and buy them on their own. “Yet, if they’re given a nice hat, they seem to really appreciate it,” he adds. “It fills a niche in people’s closets.” In the promotional space, wide-brimmed hats work well for landscaping and garden centers, country clubs, resorts, golf events, destination-based events and corporate gifts.

When choosing a style, don’t overthink it. “Fashionable basics always win, when it comes to best-sellers,” says Meadow Lacy, vice president of sales and marketing at Sunday Afternoons (asi/90134). Goldman recommends the classic straw hat in a natural color, since bright corporate colors run the risk of clashing with the intended recipient’s outfit, limiting the item’s appeal. He doesn’t advise traditional decoration methods for straw hats, partially because the “curvature of the crown” makes them difficult to imprint, but also because an obvious corporate logo turns the hat into a “novelty item,” rather than an appreciated gift. There are creative ways to get around this, though. Pins or buttons are a subtle and removable way to include a logo. Custom hangtags are another method. For their grand openings, restaurants, for example, have given away floppy hats with hangtags that doubled as coupons for a free appetizer on the next visit. “Those kinds of promotions bounce back,” Goldman says. “It kind of brings the item to life a little more than a static logo.”

Still, if a client insists on traditional corporate branding, there are plenty of fabric-based styles that are easily imprinted, often with the added benefits of being packable and water-resistant. Sunday Afternoon’s Quest hat (S2C02261), for example, is made of performance fabric, is easily embroidered and weighs in at an attractive price point, Lacy says.

Wide-brimmed hats offer another big benefit, besides fashion appeal. They provide unparalleled protection from the sun’s damaging rays, something worth emphasizing to clients, with skin-cancer prevention an ever-present concern. All hats offered by Sunday Afternoon, Lacy notes, come with a UPF 50+ sun-protection rating, the highest achievable.

The trick, then, to firming up summer sales? Go floppy.

Stitches University: Use a Laser as Your Guide
Want to up your production by as much as 40%? Consider investing in a laser-alignment system to help cut down on setup time. The systems cost a few hundred dollars depending on their complexity, and are generally available in either two- or four-laser configurations.
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The portable heat press laser alignment system from Stahls’ Hotronix is designed to be used with any heat press brand and allows the user to position and align graphics with precision prior to heat printing to ensure accurate placement.

They allow a decorator to shoot vertical and horizontal beams in a grid or other formations, to help with positioning garments and logo placement. “It’s a no-brainer,” says Greg Kinney, a veteran printer out of Ogden, UT, who developed Laseit, which offers an array of alignment systems. “You’ve got a map that you’re looking at to load everything from.”

“It’s a no-brainer,” says Greg Kinney, a veteran printer out of Ogden, UT, who developed Laseit, which offers an array of alignment systems. “You’ve got a map that you’re looking at to load everything from.”

Laser systems are often incorporated into automatic screen-printing presses, but they’re useful for heat transfers, embroidery hooping and any decoration technique where precision and uniformity are a necessity. Stahls’ Hotronix, for example, offers a portable laser that works for both clamshell and swing-away heat presses, along with a Laser Alignment Wizard (LAW) preprinted with five popular design layouts, plus rulers for custom design placement, to help with heat printing, says Ben Robinson, general manager. “We tell everybody to follow the LAW,” he adds. To use the wizard, place the template on the heat press, then adjust the independent laser bulbs accordingly. Once setup is complete, remove the wizard and begin heat printing.

There are many benefits to using lasers, as opposed to using rulers “which takes forever,” or eyeballing it, which is quick, but lacks precision, says Robinson. Lasers cut down on costly mistakes and make cross-training easier. “It’s the same for everybody, so you as a manager can set it up in a shop and teach everybody to put ABC-123 the same every time,” he adds. If you’re on the fence, consider testing one out, perhaps at a trade show. Once you do, Robinson says, the laser system is likely to “hook you like a UFO.”

Market Watch: Try Targeting Tattoo Shops
Frankie Orange is tired of black T-shirts. But the Maryland businessman knows you have to stick with what sells, and when it comes to tattoo shop apparel, what sells is black. "I wish people would wear other colors, but it seems like I always have to have it printed in black, or it doesn’t move as well," says Orange.
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A&P Master Images (asi/702505) embroidered this Flexfit baseball cap (C865) for Eternal Images Tattoo.

The owner of Orange Tattoo Co. in Annapolis, MD, isn’t complaining, though. “We’ve had a lot of success with merchandise. We really take a lot of pride in it,” he adds.

To Orange, a former screen printer, the value of promotional apparel is obvious, and there’s no reason a “room full of artists” in a tattoo shop shouldn’t be profiting from this additional revenue stream, whether by marketing original tattoo art on apparel or selling hats and other items adorned with the shop logo.

Besides basic black, tattoo shop clients tend to favor fitted styles in ringspun cotton or blends with a soft hand, says Nick Barry, owner of Pylon Press Screen Printing in Fort Lauderdale, FL. “They usually don’t mind paying a little extra for discharge printing and quality work,” he adds.

Erich Campbell, e-commerce manager at Black Duck Embroidery and Screen Printing in Albuquerque, NM, agrees that tattoo clients are looking for trendy garments, particularly dark T-shirts and tank tops that set off the ink on the wearer’s arms. Many shops, however, operate on small margins, and name-brand apparel isn’t always the best option, he adds. “They’re artistic people who have an idea of what they want,” Campbell says. “You want to help them do something that resonates with people and is out of the ordinary, but still maintains their budget.”

In addition to tanks and tees, consider pitching hoodies and headwear. Embroidered baseball caps are a good choice, but don’t neglect the knit. Every fall, Orange Tattoo Co. orders logoed beanies, and by winter’s end, those knit hats are invariably sold out. “We try to stay ahead of the seasons just like a retail store would,” Orange says.

Another reason to keep an eye on the calendar, though, is due to the large tattoo conventions that spring up regularly across the country. Barry says his clients are always looking for new T-shirts to show off their shop at the convention. “It’s a good chance to sell a lot of shirts in a weekend,” he says.

Get Social With Stitches
Have you followed Stitches on Instagram yet? What about Twitter? Or Facebook? Or Pinterest? If you follow, you’ll be able to catch up on our latest behind-the-scenes antics, stay current on the latest trends and news, and take a gander at some impressive embroidery and decorated apparel. Here’s sampling of our latest posts for your perusal.

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Barbara Corcoran of #SharkTank is fabulous, according to Stitches Editor Nicole Rollender, who shared some backstage moments with the real estate mogul at @theasishow New York. Follow us on Instagram here.


On the Screen-Printed Designs Board: Heavy-duty cotton shopping tote includes a screen print of various grocery staples, based on an original drawing by Louise Lockhart. From The Printed Peanut, www.theprintedpeanut.co.uk. Follow us on Pinterest here.


Cody McElroy of Dirty Needle Embroidery sews old-school patches freehand “using a single-needle sewing machine employing a process that he calls ‘reverse tattooing.’”: http://bit.ly/1Jlfp57 Follow us on Facebook here.

@ASI_Stitches: Who’s on this year’s Top 25 Apparel Suppliers list? Learn the business secrets behind these high-growth companies: http://bit.ly/1EcGFNu 

@theresahegel: Nearly 60% of #apparel decorators' revenue comes in the second half of year. For more industry insights: http://bit.ly/1ApbwoD #embroidery

Stitches Podcast
Barry Lipsett, president and CEO of Charles River Apparel (asi/44620) discusses how the supplier has grown 35% over the last two years and is on-track for a robust 2015. The family company’s secret? “We really look at culture,” Lipsett says. “We treat employees like they’re part of the family.” Listen to the podcast on Stitches.com.

Ask Phil: Yes, You May
Q: Dear Phil,
My client, a Christian youth organization, is looking for a Bible cover with a zipper and handle. Do you know where I can find these? – Bette

Read Phil’s answer here.

Newbie Digitizer’s Diary: Before Software, Try Your Hand at Stitching
Here’s where I’m going to give my speech on embroidery. If you really want to learn digitizing, do some hand embroidery. The process of digitizing will make much more sense if you actually know what you’re attempting to program. Read more here.

Latest News: Rana Plaza Victims Sue US Retailers
Two years after a deadly garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, victims and their families are suing a group of retailers who “should have known that the Rana Plaza facility was not safe for human habitation,” according to the lawsuit. Read more here.

Deadline Extended for the 2015 Big Decorating Challenge
Advertisement: MESA

Attention all decorators: We need your help! We’re still on the hunt for a few ambitious, talented decorators to enter our Big Decorating Challenge. Are you interested in decorating a stagewear look for an up-and-coming female pop star? Winners of this fun, fashion-focused contest will receive prizes totaling more than $22,000 as well as a spread in Stitches showing off their work.

Entries must be postmarked by Friday, May 29. Contact Senior Writer Theresa Hegel at thegel@asicentral.com with questions or to receive a copy of the design brief.

Check out the amazing prize packages we’re offering this year:

  • The Grand Prize Winner this year will receive two licenses for Melco Design Shop V10 Pro+ digitizing software, a $250 gift certificate from Madeira USA and a $250 gift certificate from Vantage Apparel. Total prize value is $22,500.
  • The First Runner-Up will receive a free two-year subscription to the Embroidery i2 plugin for either Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW from Pulse Microsystems, as well as a $100 gift certificate from Madeira USA and a $250 gift certificate from Callaway, Perry Ellis International. Total prize value is $5,350.
  • The Second Runner-Up will receive a free two-year subscription to the Embroidery i2 plugin for Adobe or CorelDRAW, from Pulse Microsystems, and a $100 gift certificate from Madeira. Total prize value is $5,100.
  • The two Honorable Mentions will receive one free yearlong Stitches Membership Package, from Advertising Specialty Institute, for a total value of $600 each.

If you’ve been putting it off, or nervous about showing off your skills, now’s your chance to create something dazzling and let your creativity shine!

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