Wearables Apparel Design Awards
By Matthew George, Maurin Walchak and Jessie Weisgal
Wearables, January 2009

We went in search of the most attractive and functionally designed apparel and ad specialty accessories to hit the market, and here’s what we found. In this issue, Wearables acknowledges the best in every category.

From performance polos to trendy hats to recycled or repurposed apparel and accessories, we’re once again honoring the industry’s best – the products that have the best design appeal, wearability, performance attributes and, when applicable, the ability to attractively feature a logo.

For distributors who want to stay ultra-competitive, presenting clients with the best, stand-out and most functional apparel and accessories is a must. So, that’s what we wanted the winners of our 2nd Annual Wearables Apparel Design Awards to be: the cream of the imprinted apparel crop. Representing nine categories, the winners of this year’s program submitted apparel and accessories that will appeal to end-users and provide an ultra-attractive canvas for companies’ and organizations’ logos. And, although that’s a difficult task to achieve, the products spotlighted on the following pages demonstrate that it can be done.

Congratulations to all of the winning suppliers on such a well-deserved honor.

How The Winners Were Chosen
In August, Wearables first asked for apparel and accessory nominations from suppliers and distributors. Each could nominate any of the products they thought were the best designed within nine different categories. In all, we received 111 product nominations. A panel of Wearables editors then reviewed each product and arrived at a list of finalists for each category. Our readers then voted on the finalists to determine the winner in each category. A total of 1,378 votes were cast.

Best Accessory: Metro Backpack (711105)
Supplier: SanMar (asi/84863)
metro backpack has a padded side-entry laptop sleeve, a fleece-lined, drop-in audio pocket with a headphone exit port and a half-moon pocket for a mouse, power cord and other tech gear. With heavy-duty reinforcements and a sternum strap, it’s great for on-the-go organization. “An innovative pack loaded with excess features, the Metro Backpack is quintessential OGIO,” says Shelley Renning, general merchandising manager for SanMar. “It has hip styling, loads of tech-driven features, such as the side entry padded laptop sleeve, and core functionality.” Available in black, brown pinstripe and indigo, end-users will love its ability to be matched with any ensemble. RSN #133

1. Eco-Fleece Exhale Glove (13585). Supplier: Alpha Shirt Co. (asi/34408) RSN #149
2. Fleece 180s Ear Warmer (11815). Supplier: Broder (asi/42090)

Best Embellishment: Long-Sleeve T-Shirt
Supplier: Northeast Stitches & Ink
Sometimes, you just have to mix things up. Combining multiple decorating techniques to create a trendy, vintage look, Northeast Stitches & Ink creates unique, interesting designs using a mixed-media approach, making shirts any customer will enjoy. “Pairing a laser appliqué with screen printing creates a vintage, destroyed look our customers have come to love,” says Deana Endieveri, owner of Northeast Stitches & Ink. “With Lake Placid being a popular destination for many of our customers, it was the perfect design to include on this shirt.” Pitch these awesome shirts to vacationers, college kids, music lovers and even business moguls, because these days, vintage rocks. RSN #151

1. Embossed Denim Fabric Bag. Supplier: Tyca Corp. (asi/92370) RSN #152
2. Sublimated T-shirt (RWSurfandskate003). Supplier: Signatures/Snapshut Oval Pkt Ashtray (asi/88005) RSN #153

Organic Apparel & Accessories: Eco-Cotton Fleece Hoodie (ECO6077)
Supplier: Boardroom Custom Clothing (asi/40705)
The Eco-Cotton Hoodie adds a new twist to the traditional with raw, reverse seam accents and wide cuff and waistband details. Since it’s made from recycled cotton, this easy-care fabric features a distinctive texture in a heathered, uneven color. “This fabric is actually one of the most environmentally-friendly fabrics that we’ve come across. It’s made in the USA, so it doesn’t have a big carbon footprint, and the recycling process that it is made from does not use any water or dyes,” says Jay Neve, communication designer for Boardroom Custom Clothing. Perfect for the casual end-user, you can recommend that this distressed full-zip hoodie be paired with some trendy wide leg jeans and Converse sneakers. RSN #154

1. Organic Cotton Pique Golf Shirt (388). Supplier: Tri-Mountain/Mountain Gear (asi/92125) RSN #155
2. Drawstring Backpack (68140). Supplier: Gemline (asi/56070) RSN #156

Outerwear: Port Authority Waterproof
Soft-Shell Jacket (J798)
Supplier: SanMar (asi/84863)
This fully waterproof, windproof jacket delivers complete weather protection without the bulk. Made with polyester interlock bonded to microfleece, this three-season soft-shell has a color-blocked style. “Versatility and customization are always important when creating solid outerwear, but soft-shells in particular are all about details and tech appeal,” says Shelley Renning, general merchandising manager at SanMar. “Pockets and access for media gadgets, ergonomic zippers, a welded pocket construction, a snap-off hood, and hem and cuff adjusters are just a few of the features we’ve incorporated in this tech-driven jacket.” RSN #133

1. Waterproof, Breathable Fabric Rossignol Jacket (R163). Supplier: Broder (asi/42090) RSN #150
2. Tehama Bette Davis Jacket (103053). Supplier: Impact Design LLC (asi/62274) RSN #157

Performance Polos: Color-Blocked Wicking Polo (3810)
Supplier: Charles River Apparel (asi/44620)
Banish unattractive sweat stains with Charles River Apparel’s Men’s Color-Blocked Wicking Polo. The 100% polyester pique knit fabric with TopShield wicks moisture away from the body and its antimicrobial properties crack down on odor-causing bacteria. “TopShield isn’t a treatment applied to the fabric; its wicking properties are built directly into the fiber’s structure,” says Vanessa Keefe, director of marketing at Charles River Apparel. This wrinkle-resistant polo is sporty and casual enough for everyday wear. End-users can wear it alone in warm climates or as a layering piece during cold weather activities. RSN #158

1. Dri-Fast Solid Mesh Polo Shirt (CH100). Supplier: Broder (asi/42090) RSN #150
2. Mesh Polo Shirt (7407). Supplier: Dunbrooke (asi/50930) RSN #159

Recycled or Repurposed Apparel & Accessories: Lightweight and Layerable Guide Jacket (11397)
Supplier: Patagonia (asi/76442)
Whether climbing the corporate ladder or climbing vertical rock, this is the go-to jacket for the season. The fabric is 47% recycled through Patagonia’s Common Threads Recycling Program. The company’s goal is for all of its gear to be recycled, recyclable, organic (cotton) or chlorine-free (wool and hemp) by the year 2010. “The Guide Jacket was conceived as our most versatile, weather- and tear-proof, stretchiest soft-shell. It was designed to be used for rock climbing, ice climbing, and ski touring,” says Tanya Faw, corporate sales manager at Patagonia. It can be paired with khakis and dress shoes for a sporty, business casual look. RSN #160

1. Fleece Vest (F121). Supplier: SanMar (asi/84863) RSN #133
2. Full-Zip Hoodie (9997). Supplier: Broder (asi/42090) RSN #150
Trendy Hats: Athletic Cap (C4683)
Supplier: Broder (asi/42090)
Looking for a cap that will be a winner with any sports client? Try this athletic baseball cap from Broder with a front cotton panel and mesh back. Available in black-white, navy-white, red-white, royal-white and white-white, you’re sure to find something to match any team colors and embellish with a team name or mascot. “Our newest cap from the Champion brand offers athletic styling with a seamless cotton front panel for decorating ease,” says Andrea Engel, vice president of merchandising at Broder. “Everyone will love the cool mesh backing for athletic performance and decorative contrast piping detail.” RSN #150

1. Baseball Cap (1917). Suppier: Alpha Shirt Co. (asi/34408) RSN #149
2. Brushed Twill Cap (3251). Supplier: Dri Duck Traders Inc. (asi/50835) RSN #161

Use of Color in Apparel & Accessories: General Carry-All (MTL-SHS)
Supplier: Built NY (asi/42422)
Think neoprene is just for wetsuits? Think again. Neoprene has taken big steps in recent years, and Built NY has sparked strong demand for its neoprene line (which includes laptop bags, lunchboxes, wine totes, bags and electronic accessories) by adding pops of color. Available in bright color patterns and contrasting hued patterns such as a retro paisley and soho stripe, these items are anything but basic black. If you’re looking to add a unique, versatile item to any promotion, try switching up your color palate. RSN #144

1. Sport Shirt (737). Supplier: Tonix Corp. (asi/91440) RSN #162
2. Microfiber Tote (A557). Supplier: Vitronic Promotional Group (asi/93990) RSN #163

Woven/Button-Front Shirts & Blouses: Executive No-Iron Royal Oxford (1865)
Supplier: Vantage Apparel (asi/93390)
This button down is the ultimate easy-care shirt. Made from 100% cotton 80s two-ply pinpoint royal oxford cloth, this shirt offers a smooth, comfortable hand. “Its special no-iron treatment and taped seams keep this shirt looking new and wrinkle-free straight from the dryer,” says Gina Barreca, director of marketing at Vantage Apparel. Fashion details include a spread collar with removable collar stays, polished pearl buttons and a left-chest patch pocket. Style tip: Pair this classy shirt with a navy suit and polished black dress shoes. RSN #164

1. 100% Ring-Spun Cotton Polo Shirt (57090). Supplier: PremiumWear (asi/72725) RSN #165
2. Open Neck Shirt (763). Supplier:
Tri-Mountain/Mountain Gear (asi/92125) RSN #155

Readers' Choice Award: Broder (asi/42090)

Girisha ChandrarajHere’s one of our favorite parts of the Apparel Awards. We asked distributors to nominate their favorite supplier for the Wearables Readers’ Choice Award. The winner was chosen based on its product selection; size range; brands, fabrics
and colors offered; and available inventory. Broder is this year’s winner.

Broder’s Vice President of Marketing Girisha Chandraraj chats with Wearables about his company winning the 2008 Reader’s Choice Award:

Wearables: What’s your reaction to being chosen by our readers as favorite supplier for having the deepest inventory, great selection of styles (cuts, colors and sizes) and customer service?

Girisha Chandraraj: We’re truly thrilled and excited that customers view us with such high regard. We work very hard on earning our customers’ trust and to be acknowledged for that hard work is greatly appreciated.

What steps have you taken to be strong in these areas? What’s your secret to success?

GC: We’ve gone through a pretty aggressive change with the singular focus in helping serve our customers more effectively and efficiently. Elements of that have been consolidating a number of distribution centers and call centers. We even augmented our Web site. We’ve also been extending credit where it’s needed so customers can grow their business.

It’s very clear that not one element is the ultimate secret. However, we’re firm believers that in order to be considered on the short list of preferred suppliers for our customers, you always have to be in stock and available.

Wearables: What advice would you give to a distributor who really wants to pick the right wearables to pitch to her clients? How does a salesperson hone in on the “perfect” garment?

GC: Always provide customers with alternatives. A customer always needs to know what a good choice is and what the alternatives are, to stretch their thinking. Successful customers do a real good job of that. If a customer wants a product and it’s very clear, bring two alternatives so the customer can always understand what they’re trading off when they’re making a choice. It could increase their willingness to pay or the number of items they’re willing to buy.

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