Unlike the bulky, boxy T-shirts that dominated promotional apparel for decades, fashion tees offer a trendy, fitted take on the staple. Hundreds of retail stores, including H&M, Forever 21, Gap and Uniqlo, sell inexpensive yet stylish tees with an unending amount of designs and prints. Singer Miley Cyrus and model Cara Delevingne, two young style-setters, are known for their creativity in taking these simple tees and spinning them into high-end, attention-getting items. In sum, these T-shirts are everywhere.
Fashion tees are usually made with softer, lighter fabrics ideal all year long. For women’s shirts, in particular, the trend is a more flowy design, allowing for comfort and breathability. Unique fabrics that make each piece an original, such as burnout treatments or slubs, are very popular.
“These fabrics allow us to look like part of a team, but still support our needs to feel totally unique,” says Mary Ellen Sokalski, director of marketing communications at Bodek and Rhodes (asi/40788). Alternative necklines (V-necks, scoop necks, etc.) and bold colors are other upcoming trends. The design options are nearly unlimited, as long as the shirt is fashion-forward and comfortable.
When looking for a target market for fashion tees, start with a younger demographic who is more likely to dress casually. Colleges are a major consumer of these T-shirts; a fashion tee decorated with their colors or logo allows a student to look stylish, while still showing school spirit. That said, the appeal spans generations, and fashion tees are quickly becoming the preferred choice of many Gen Xers and baby boomers.
The popularity of workout apparel has also had a significant impact on the fashion tee industry. Active people are big proponents of fashion tees. They can wear them to the gym and for everyday wear. “It used to be that [our Bamboo] tees were just for play and sold to organizations that had a green initiative in place,” says Dale Jalovec, manufacturer representative at Brandwear (asi/41545). “Our fashion tees and tops are sold as uniform items for service, spa and corporate as a first-layer piece.”
Be aware of the size ranges for fashion tees. Check whether there is extended sizing to fit a larger clientele. Also note the differencees in fabric. Poly tees are perfect canvases for all-over sublimation, while 100% cotton pieces can be personalized with direct-to-garment printing. “Create virtual samples before you come in to show the decorating possibilities,” says Sokalski. “The more imprint locations and special treatments, the more profitable your sale can be.”