What does a winner look like? These incredible pieces will show you.
Background: SanMar offers this athletic-inspired backpack from OGIO that’s full of features, including a main compartment with padded laptop and tablet sleeves, an additional compartment for belongings, ergonomic padded straps with an adjustable sternum strap and a ripstop polyester shell.
Best Feature: The laptop and tablet sleeves in the main compartment plus the large secondary compartment for larger belongings make this an ideal bag for students or business travelers.
Decoration Tip: Embroidery on the front pocket would make for a high-end look that complements the streamlined styling of the bag.
Background: When Hanes set out to design its nano fleece line, three objectives came into play: a lighter weight fleece construction, a contemporary fit and a vintage color palette. “We designed the nano Pullover Hood for younger consumers looking for fashion-inspired apparel seen at high-end retail stores,” says Marketing Manager John Spivey.
Best Feature: Made of a super-soft lightweight ring-spun cotton with a vintage color palette, the hoodie "definitely appeals to the college market,” says Spivey, “including fraternities, sororities, teams and fans.”
Decoration Tip: The garment is an 80/20 ringspun cotton blend but the face is 100% cotton — perfect for screen printing and DTG printing.
BEST APPAREL INNOVATION
Background: The Fleece Lounger was initially launched to address the Greek life niche market, says Rhea Aslin, divisional brand manager. “Since we introduced it, it’s just exploded in demand,” she explains.
Best Feature: The super soft fabric and comfy fit make the Fleece Lounger an ideal item for a variety of applications, including corporate gifting programs, camps and gift shops. SanMar plans to take advantage of the item’s momentum by expanding the sizing to fit from XS-4XL.
Decoration Tip: “One of the really fun things about this garment is all the possible decorating location options,” says Aslin. “Distributors and decorators can suggest the standard left chest, as well as across the sleeve and anywhere on the back and legs.”
BEST USE OF COLOR
Background: alphabroder designed the Flux Melange Bonded Fleece Jacket (88697/78697) from its North End Sport Red line with an active lifestyle in mind, and put together a fashion-forward design enhanced with performance details.
Best Feature: The stretch storm cuffs with thumbholes are ideal for an active lifestyle, offering additional protection from the elements while keeping the jacket firmly in place. “It’s a perfect piece for team-building events and outdoor activities, especially for sports-oriented markets and companies,” says Elson Yeung, director of private label design & merchandising.
Decoration Tip: This jacket would best accommodate tonal or match-to-trim color embroidery. “This garment also provides unique location and alignment possibilities, which complement its trend-forward style lines,” explains Yeung.
Background: When Holloway Sportswear first designed the ladies’ Admire Vest, they set out to offer an item for women that could serve as a lightweight layering piece that also provided warmth.
Best Feature: “It offers warmth without bulk,” says Jennifer Nixon, marketing manager, “so it’s a great versatile piece for athletes and their fans.”
Decoration Tip: Nixon recommends embroidery for this piece; consider the left chest, hip, or back yoke.
BEST TRENDY HAT
Background: The Comeback Beanie was originally designed as part of a complete collection of outdoor accessories, comprised of a beanie, headband, scarf and gloves. Holloway Sportswear used popular retail styles as its inspiration for the pieces.
Best Feature: “The pom-pom on top sets it apart from a regular beanie style,” says marketing manager Jennifer Nixon. “We’ve had high demand for this style from the high school team market.”
Decoration Tip: Consider embroidery or sewn-on patches on the hem. If possible, use an old-school logo for a true vintage look.
Background: UniFirst’s largest business segment is uniform rental programs, for which clients increasingly request casual workwear garments that are well designed and maintain a fresh look. “Our UniSport polos are part of the UniFirst proprietary workwear,” says Meghan Marcus, PR and communications specialist. “They’re perfect for portraying a company brand while offering comfortable professionalism on the job.”
Best Feature: The UniWick moisture-management fabric technology, as well as its durability, snag resistance and wrinkle-free finish, makes it a perfect item for uniform needs in almost any industry. “Everything we manufacture needs to be dependable enough to withstand the daily grind of a person’s typical workday and the industrial processing of our rental service programs,” says Marcus.
Decoration Tip: Marcus recommends high-resolution direct embroidery for crisp, vibrant colors.
Background: The Catch fishing shirt was designed with outdoor wearers in mind; it’s made of 100% ripstop polyester with added UPF 50+ sun protection.
Best Feature: This garment includes Teflon Shield+ fabric protector, which repels water and oil-based stains. “The agriculture market is a great target,” says Jessica Strain, marketing manager. “It’s a lightweight, breathable piece that offers sun protection.”
Decoration Tip: This shirt would look ideal with an embroidered logo, whether on the left chest, cuff, sleeve, collar or back yoke.
BEST PERFORMANCE/ATHLETIC GARMENT
Background: “When people put coordinates together well, it turns heads,” says Shurli Allinott, owner/president at Brandwear. “We always have that objective in mind when designing garments. These pieces were created as performance wear that can also be worn casually.”
Best Feature: Both the jacket and leggings are made of Brandwear Omega Fit fabric, a combination of nylon supplex and spandex jersey that’s breathable, wicking, and resistant to fading, wrinkling, snagging and pilling. Fitness centers and companies’ health and wellness programs have been loyal clients for these pieces.
Decoration Tip: Allinott suggests consider hi-visibility 3M tape, not only as a safety feature but also to draw attention to a brand’s logo.
BEST SCREEN PRINTING
Background: With this project, Kotis Design set out to create a retail look using screen-printing. The team first created a custom ombré dip dye, and then screen printed it with waterbase ink and added flecks of blue foil for the fish design.
Best Feature: “Everything about it was strategically thought out,” says Marketing Coordinator Ashley Holbrook, “from using waterbased ink, to choosing a garment with a covered zipper to eliminate ink pooling and cracking. Ombré trends are popular in the college market and among our trendier corporate clients. This is a piece that people will want to wear even after the event has ended.”
Decoration Tip: Text elements are very popular now with apparel decoration, but they don’t have to be plain. Liven things up with tonal accents and additional graphic imagery.
Background: This hoodie was designed as a super-comfortable piece with athletics-inspired styling that would fit well both at sports events and as everyday wear.
Best Feature: “We matched the team’s logo and colors perfectly with the Roots73 Riverside hoodie and the embellishment,” says Alan Meinstein, Trimark's managing director of production. “It emphasized the team’s ruggedness and tough feel, which is exactly what they wanted to achieve.” Meinstein recommends the corporate market, active groups and school teams as promising target markets.
Decoration Tip: Embroidery provides a vintage look and high value.
BEST HEAT TRANSFER
Background: When Telus, a Canadian telecommunications company, wanted a branded T-shirt, Trimark took the lightweight Sarek T-shirt (TM17887) and added its exclusive True Edge heat-transfer technique for vivid, striking colors and a light hand.
Best Feature: “True Edge transfer is the best choice to make logos stand out with color and detail,” says Alan Meinstein, managing director of production. “It allows free-standing text and fine detail to come out in the design.” Meinstein recommends corporate, uniforms, trade shows, food services, active groups and school teams as promising customers of True Edge heat transfers.
Decoration Tip: Get creative with off-location printing, such as the edge of the garments, a capability enabled with True Edge.
Background: Vapor Apparel designed this T-shirt for their own employees’ race team in the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC. “We wanted to make the team look like a group of ‘cyborg-running-bots,’ ” says Christopher Bernat, chief revenue officer.
Best Feature: Sublimation on performance apparel is an instant hit with fitness enthusiasts. “This is a perfect item for races and race teams,” says Bernat. “Consider on-site retail needs at running events and small running stores.”
Decoration Tip: The gray base color of the shirt prevents the appearance of crease marks that often result during the all-over sublimation printing process.
BEST MIXED MEDIA
Background: Trimark used the Langley Knit Jacket (TM18123) as a branding canvas with tone-on-tone laser etching, felt appliqué and embroidery to emphasize the Hard Rock’s long history as an iconic eatery.
Best Feature: The production team layered the applique text over the lasered guitar, creating a clean, bold look. “This jacket can accommodate a variety of methods,” says Alan Meinstein, managing director of production. “So it’s ideal for maximum branding impact.”
Decoration Tip: Consider a variety of embellishment methods, including embroidery, True Edge transfer, debossing and laser, all on the same garment.
HOW THE WINNERS WERE CHOSEN
In September, Wearables first asked for apparel, accessory and decoration submissions from suppliers, decorators and distributors. Finalists were selected by the Wearables editorial team, judging the products on design appeal, wearability, features and look. Using the same criteria, our readers then voted on the finalists to determine the winner in each category. A total of 1,007 readers voted.