The Most Creative People In Promo: Lauren Cocco, Vantage Apparel

Presenting our inaugural list of the industry’s most inventive and resourceful talents. Get to know Lauren Cocco of Vantage Apparel (asi/93390).

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Lauren Cocco combines a fashion designer’s artistic eye with the intellect of a savvy marketer.

It’s a complementary pairing that’s propelled the New Jersey native to become director of merchandising at Top 40 supplier Vantage Apparel – a position in which she spearheads the creation of one of the most popular supplier-brand apparel collections in the industry.

“Lauren is an exceptional talent,” says Vantage President Ira Neaman. “Her ability to read the future, and blend fashion with clients’ decoration needs, keeps Vantage at the forefront of the most competitive category of apparel.”

As the leader of the merchandising and design team, Cocco’s primary responsibilities include creating 15 to 20 new styles for Vantage’s proprietary collection each year. Her efforts have translated into success, helping to drive sales at the growing $50 million firm. Indeed, Cocco was instrumental in developing the best-ever selling product in the Vantage line – the 2600 Vansport Omega Solid Mesh Tech Polo. “To have been a part of that is very rewarding,” says Cocco.

To produce winning apparel, Cocco must keep her finger firmly on the pulse of trends. She stays ahead of the curve by attending promo and retail trade shows, going to fabric shows overseas, evaluating evolutions at factories, and talking with Vantage sales pros and customers about the tastes of end-buyers.

Synthesizing the information, she and her team engage in hands-on creative work to build a balanced apparel collection that will resonate in the promo sphere. Working with partner factories, Cocco drives the development of fabric for various garments – a process that includes performance and quality testing, as well as ensuring the material will hold up and look excellent after receiving decoration treatments. From there, Cocco focuses on getting the styling right. “We come up with the silhouette, the trim details and accents,” she says.

Still, all will be for naught if the fit is off, so Cocco and her team experiment until getting the sizing specs spot on. The diligent design work results in sought-after garments each year, like 2018’s 3450 Vansport Zen – a pullover that weds a natural fabric look and feel with performance features. “It’s perfect for the office, the sidelines or the morning run,” says Cocco.

Beyond building Vantage’s line and selecting products from brand partners (like the Greg Norman Collection) to offer to the corporate market, Cocco also supports the supplier’s reps and clients behind the scenes and on sales calls.

“Lauren is a fantastic partner,” says Joseph Milani, senior account executive at distributor Thomas Direct (asi/343878). “She’s been instrumental in helping with research on apparel projects we do for important clients. When she’s in front of clients, her ability to explain garments – why they’re on trend and will work for the client’s needs – is a major asset.”

For Cocco, it’s all central to a satisfying job that allows her to exercise her ample creative powers and keen business acumen. “Apparel is always changing,” she says. “It’s exciting to be part of that.”