Volume 187 / November 19, 2012
Click here to read this and past issues online.
Wearables Managing Editor Joe Haley delivers hot tips on trending apparel items and other products in this edition of "The Joe Show." Click here to watch.

Got a question you want answered in a future video? Send it to cmittica@asicentral.com.

Trend Alert: Cardigans

While some may dismissively associate cardigans with Mr. Rogers and society's more senior segments, the characterization is inaccurate. These days, the garment features more edgy styling while remaining a fashion staple for both professional and recreational settings. Preppy retailers like J.Crew and Ralph Lauren offer oversized, embellished and vividly colored pieces, while Brooks Brothers continues to do well with classic cardigans made of cashmere and wool. And cardigans aren't just for women: With the growing influence of the preppy look and retro fashions à la Mad Men in recent years, the classic cardigan is also a sought-after piece for males going to school and work.

Gabrielle Rohde, vice president of marketing and merchandising at Sportco (asi/88792), which acquired the Gabrielle Rohde Royce, GabiSport and Rohde Royce for Men labels in 2011, maintains that cardigans are perfect as logoed pieces of apparel. "Cardigans are absolutely a year-round item," she says. "The hotter it is outside, the colder the air-conditioning inside. Women always carry that extra piece whether for work or pleasure."

Joey Moon, vice president of career sales at A+ Career Apparel & Image-wear (asi/84835), reiterates Rohde's sentiment about cardigans' all-season popularity: "They continue to be a driving force for us throughout the year. With the numerous styles we offer, we continue to see strong growth."

Even better for the industry, says Rohde, is the fact that cardigans are now popular with everyone from high schoolers to office professionals. While they're gradually growing more popular with men, they remain a staple in women's wardrobes. To make cardigans stay in demand, Rohde says suppliers have to keep meeting the challenge of making them desirable.

"We want to make them easy-care yet comfortable, and of course they have to fit everyone," she explains. "Companies need them to look good after washing because they don't want their logo on a garment that isn't up to par."

Sometimes clients don't realize how ubiquitous cardigans are, particularly because of their versatility and layering benefits, so Rohde says take a chance on a sales call and present one. "Make it a point to suggest and show them," she advises. "I find that most end-users aren't thinking about a woman's need for a layering piece because men don't need them. But it's the easiest add-on sale you can make. Marketing dollars spent on layering pieces account for many more impressions than one or two shirts."

Moon agrees that it's worth taking a shot at pitching them. "The ASI accounts that have ordered samples from us have seen a huge jump in sweater sales just from showcasing them," he says. "This item works regardless of the industry. They can be used for warmth or just to dress up an existing apparel program."


How To Sell It: Gloves

While gloves may not be the first item that comes to mind when you think of imprinted apparel and accessories, the fact is that if you're not selling them, you're missing out on a major opportunity. "Not only are gloves universal, but they are marketable on several different levels," glove supplier Good Luck Line, the promotional products division of Fairfield Line Inc. (asi/53510), relates in a sales primer on hand-wear. "People don't tend to think of diversity when considering the market for gloves, but that is exactly what it is. And it satisfies itself on a couple of different tiers."

Indeed, there is everything from inexpensive knit styles that can be tossed after a day's use up to premium leather gloves and specialty custom cuts for unique clients. Knowing about these different styles and to whom they may appeal can help you pitch gloves as a primary item or as an add-on to a sale.

For clients with a bit of purse interested in making a high-end impression, "leather driving gloves, the trendiest outdoor gloves and the hottest designs for the slopes" are styles that appeal, according to Good Luck Line. Best imprinted subtly (blind-stamped or embossed), these gloves present the chance for the greatest profit margin.

Meanwhile, buyers in a broad range of hands-on working industries are snapping up gloves imprinted with company names and branding. Fairfield Line President Nicole Hunt says dipped gloves have special appeal to landscapers, lumber yards, agricultural businesses and warehouses, while simple gardening gloves are a perfect fit for garden centers and plant nurseries. Good Luck Line also offers a wide variety of leather gloves that are popular with car dealerships, ranches and electric companies. "These are available in styles both lined and unlined," says Hunt. "We can brand and pad print some styles."

Also in the world of work-wear, freezer gloves, which typically feature a PVC tone-on-tone dotted palm that improves grip, are high-volume sellers, too. "They're used to protect hands while users handle frozen foods, either delivering food or managing a warehouse," says Hunt.

Additionally, imprinted gloves are a great fit for community clean-up events a client may be orchestrating or sponsoring. Nonprofits have also benefitted from gloves: Good Luck Line recently completed a glove order for Habitat for Humanity, for example.

Of course, some buyers like to set their own standard and opt for custom gloves. "We recently created a photographer's glove where the index finger flipped up and the person wearing them could use a touchscreen camera," says Hunt. "We also did a custom ski glove that was bright yellow for LandShark Ale that was a very fun project to work on."

To ensure clients get gloves that will work for them, take the same approach you would when selling apparel or other products: Understand customers' objectives and how they intend end-users to utilize the handwear. Say, as Good Luck Line illustrates in an example, your client is an oil refinery that wants to distribute logoed gloves to employees. Since employees' hands likely get soiled by oil, making the hands more difficult to see when performing sensitive work, it may be advisable to suggest a durable work glove that's bright in color. Such client-focused suggestions let buyers know you're taking their concerns seriously and trying to help, rather than just attempting to push product.

Are You The Wearables Top Decorator?

Wearables magazine is holding a competition to identify the best screen printer in the industry with our new series, Top Decorator. Modeled after the popular Top Chef show and other reality competitions, the premise is simple: Participants will complete a series of screen-printing challenges over the course of 2013, with the field being whittled down until a champion is named.

What else do you need to know?

There will be prizes. The winner of the competition wins a $500 Visa gift card, while the runner-up will receive a $200 Visa gift card.

Anyone can enter. The competition is open to decorators, distributors and suppliers – anybody with access to screen-printing equipment.

This is a competition. A combination of judges’ marks and a popular vote by Wearables readers will help determine who moves on to the next round.

There will be a total of five challenges throughout the competition. If you make it to the finals, that is.

Are you interested in participating? If so, here’s your first challenge: Create the concert tee you wish you could buy. You can use real bands or make up your own. Designs must be printed on a T-shirt and sent to Wearables. (Please send four of the same shirt.) The deadline for your submission to arrive is Friday, December 7.

If you are interested in participating or have any questions, please notify Wearables Editor C.J. Mittica at cmittica@asicentral.com.

Oeko-Tex Forecasts 'The Next 20' Years

Oeko-Tex laid the groundwork for the apparel industry's sustainable future at its "The Next 20" event. Held on November 14 in New York, the event celebrated the 20th anniversary of the textile safety standard and (more importantly) looked ahead to the next 20 years in the industry. The prominent speaker lineup included noted lawyer and eco activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.; Kevin Burke, President and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association; and representatives from prAna, Eileen Fisher, Clif Bar and more.

Several themes emerged from the seminar.

  • The apparel industry needs to implement sustainable and socially-responsible practices to thrive. "If this industry is going to survive," said Burke, "companies need a strong sense of corporate responsibility. ... We have a big ‘X' on our backs."

  • Companies should stick to their values to make products responsibly. Tom Chappell, founder of the popular natural toothpaste brand Tom's of Maine, related a story about how he stood up against the FDA when it required animal testing for toothpaste products. "We didn't have to compromise our values. We had to innovate," said Chappell, who has now started Rambler's Way, which specializes in wool apparel.

  • Apparel companies can pursue sustainable initiatives that help the environment, save on costs and benefit the customer. Dow Chemical, for instance, is releasing a new antimicrobial treatment called SILVADUR (made from silver ions) that embeds into the garment, holds for 50 washes and doesn't leech into the environment. "We don't have to make those hard choices between people, profits and plans," said Mark Henning, general manager of Dow Microbial Control.

  • There are several ways to create sustainable practices. Clif Bar switched to paper shipping cartons. prAna created a scorecard to track its sustainable fiber practices, which sped up the company's adoption rate. Eileen Fisher had its Chinese factory workers film videos with cell phones to show their quality of life and the enjoyment they get from work.
At the conclusion of the seminar, Oeko-Tex unveiled its new independent certification system, STeP (Sustainable Textile Production). The system will grade textile companies on six different models, with three possible scores – Excellent, Good, or Meets Minimum Requirements. The tool will allow companies to compare vendors and manufacturers to find the best sustainable option. STeP is about 90% complete, and will likely be fully unveiled next spring.

Vote In The Wearables Apparel Design Awards

Wearables magazine is poised once again to name the best garments in the industry – and needs your help. Every year the magazine honors the best in apparel and accessories, and your votes determine the winners of the Wearables Apparel Design Awards. Choose the products you think are the best, considering design appeal, wearability, performance attributes and look. Click here to get started. Voting concludes at the end of November. And be sure to check out the January issue of Wearables to find out the winners.

Our Favorite Wearables

Winter Scarves

Brrrr! It's getting chilly out there. Help your clients' end-users stay warm with this jacquard woven scarf from Lake Geneva, WI-based Carter & Holmes. Made of 100% acrylic, the scarf can have up to four colors and can feature a different design on each side. The attractive accessory comes in a standard size of 7" x 56".  

Selling Tip: Schools and universities that want to show their pride are an obvious market for imprinted winter scarves. But don't stop there: They also work for company promotions, trade shows, movie promotions, and fundraising initiatives for churches and nonprofits.

Ask An Expert

Q: I have a client looking for a bandana-type head covering that is actually all one piece and has a stretch back so you don’t have to actually tie it. Can you help?

A: Suppliermart (asi/90262); (909) 563-8849; www.suppliermart.com; carries headband bandanas that have elastic in the back, making them flexible to fit most people. The headband, item UST-00954, comes in black, lilac, pink, purple, red and white, and is made of soft, comfortable cloth. Another interesting product is the multifunction fashion hybrid piece (item WK100) from Muddees (asi/72673); (619) 488-4455; www.muddees.com. It can be worn as a headband, bandana or neck scarf due to its thicker material and width. It’s available in several colors, plus it has wicking and UV-protection technology.

Selling Tip: This style of bandana would be a great accessory for 5K runs and walks. As you sell buyers shirts for such events, tack on this fun, brandable bandana.

Q: I am looking for fleece zip-up sweatshirt jackets with hoods that are made in America. Do you know of any?

A: Try the Billy men’s sweatshirt from International Merch Concepts (asi/62820); (800) 331-6624; www.imc-miracles.com; product RW-HDM805. Ensure client comfort in product 10196 from Union Line/Graybear (asi/92508); (312) 942-1111; www.unionmadeclothing.com; and lastly, go green with the Recycled Full Zip Hoodie from Eco Show Respect Apparel (asi/51600); (847) 520-1766; www.ecoshowrespect.com.

Selling Tip: A growing number of buyers want to buy American. Capitalize on the interest by presenting Made-in-the-USA items as part of your good-better-best pitches. Chances are you’ll score an unexpected sale or two. That could be good for your bottom line because domestically-produced apparel often comes at a higher price point – one some customers are willing to pay for the perceived better quality of the product and patriotic reasons.

News Briefs

Andrew Philips/Millennium Leather LLC (asi/36205) has launched a new website: www.andrewphilips.com. The improved site allows distributors to obtain detailed product information, create virtual specs and estimate freight. Additionally, visitors can obtain samples and quote requests as well as view a hi-res image gallery and a sales flyer library.

Clava (asi/45335) announced that it is operational again after having no power, Internet or phones for two weeks due to Hurricane Sandy. The supplier is also offering a free logo setup fee for decorated orders ($1,000 total before discount/one-time use/one plate per order) – mention code HOLIDAY2012 when placing an order.

Diane Katzman Design (asi/63988) announces that owner Diane Katzman has designed a 5-foot fiberglass peacock embellished with jewels, stones and feathers interspersed with messages written by students of College Bound, an organization that helps under-privileged students apply to and succeed at four-year colleges. The Peacock Project will become a permanent installation at the College Bound Knowledge Center in St. Louis, MO.

GSG now offers fast-drying Kiwocol Poly-Plus ER, a tack-free, high solids diazo-photopolymer emulsion used to create UV, solvent and plastisol resistant stencils. It creates a smooth stencil while offering a rapid build with few coats. For more information, visit www.gogsg.com.

HanesBrands (asi/59528) has expanded its exclusive partnership with Box Tops for Education. In August, the supplier announced that it was adding Box Tops to select packages of underwear, socks and outerwear for adults and children sold at retail. To date, schools have earned more than 600,000 Box Tops through Hanes4Education. Additionally, HanesBrands is making an initial donation of three tractor-trailer loads of underwear and fleece apparel to victims of Hurricane Sandy. HanesBrands has partnered with Fashion Delivers, a NY-based nonprofit that delivers apparel and furnishings to natural disaster victims across the globe, to distribute the items in the region.

Imprintables Warehouse (asi/58475) offers Eco-Print printable cutter material made of PVC-free and environmentally friendly polyurethane. This new film is thinner than current offerings on the market and delivers a super-soft hand. For more information, call 800-347-0068 or visit www.imprintables.com.

Pedre Promotional Products (asi/76675) has resumed full operations after Hurricane Sandy. For more information, contact the Pedre sales team at 800-969-2151 or e-mail sales@pedre.com.

Prime Line (asi/79530) recently donated merchandise and gave support to Autism Speaks and Susan’s Rock – Stand Strong Against Domestic Violence in keeping with the company’s long tradition of helping charitable organizations that benefit children and families.

Quality Certification Alliance (QCA) has hired Jeffrey P. Jacobs as executive director. Jacobs will be responsible for increasing visibility of QCA both within the supplier/distributor community and outside the industry.

STAHLS’ Transfer Express (asi/91804) has added five new Christmas designs to its Transfer Extreme line of four-color simulated process transfers. New designs include a decorated Christmas tree, Santa checking his list and the three wise men with baby Jesus. Designs are available in packs of 10 for $24. Call (800) 622-2280 or e-mail info@transferexpress.com for more information.

SVP Worldwide has announced the creation of a new embroidery software brand called TruEmbroidery. The solution provides personal embroidery products exclusively for Mac computers, and is compatible with most embroidery machines. The brand’s first product, TruEmbroidery Software for Macs, was unveiled last week as the sewing industry’s premier embroidery software designed specifically for Mac users.

World Emblem International (asi/98264) offers new Digital Print Emblems that feature high-resolution photographic images, small clean details and unlimited colors. Each is available in standard or intricate laser-cut shapes and can include an optional merrow border. Contact customer service at 800-766-0448 to request pricing and free generic samples.

Wearables Terms

Seersucker: A woven fabric that incorporates modification of tension control. In the production of seersucker, some of the warp yarns are held under controlled tension at all times during the weaving, while other warp yarns are in a relaxed state and tend to pucker when the filling yarns are placed. The result produces a puckered stripe effect in the fabric.

Sharkskin: A hard-finished, low-luster, medium-weight fabric in a twill-weave construction. It is most commonly found in men’s worsted suitings; however, it can also be found in a plain-weave construction of acetate, triacetate, and rayon for women’s sportswear.

Sisal: A strong bast fiber that originates from the leaves of the Agave plant, which is found in the West Indies, Central America and Africa. End-uses include cordage and twine.

Show List  
Dec. 2-5, 2012, Myrtle Beach, SC
Grand Strand Gift & Resort Merchandise Show
(678) 285-3976; www.grandstrandgiftshow.com

Jan. 5-7, 2013, Orlando, FL
The ASI Show
(800) 546-3300; www.asishow.com
Feb. 15-16, 2013, Columbus, OH
Embroidery Trade Show (NNEP)

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