Build Your Business:

Pitch-Worthy Apparel Trends

Educating you customers on these new developments could lead to big profits this year.

By Ed Levy, Contributing Writer

Relevant for their layering capabilities; bold, checkerboard colors; and comfortable, soft fabric, flannels appeal to all age groups.

August 27, 2019

From fields to factories, the fashion industry is evolving its practices to meet the requests of conscious end users everywhere. While trends previously focused on the latest coveted colors and patterns, consumers are increasingly concerned with where and how their products are made and the ideas they espouse.

This awareness has elevated the apparel industry far beyond a popularity contest, now making it a means by which consumers express themselves and their businesses. Sales reps must be ready for more intimate and detailed conversations with customers, and hone their listening skills to meet multidimensional goals.
Here are five new apparel trends that will lead you into meaningful — and profitable — conversations with new and current customers this year.

1. Sustainable Fashion: Sustainability is a constant topic of conversation in the fashion industry. According to Pinterest data, searches for “sustainable fashion” increased 34% in 2018, and consumers expect suppliers to be more transparent with their sourcing, manufacturing and inventory processes. Apparel lines that highlight organic materials (think hemp and bamboo), pay fair wages to factory workers and use upcycling programs are in the spotlight, and these points are necessary in sales discussions.

Decoration Tip: Pair garments with eco-friendly decoration techniques and partner with shops that are Sustainable Green Printing-certified to ensure the finished product truly is sustainable.

2. Neutrals: Although fast fashion has named dozens of micro-seasons per year, apparel’s bread and butter always will be the timeless basics — neutral-colored garments that can be layered and worn year-round. Beige, light yellow, pale pink and other easy-on-the-eyes hues are adored by industries from wellness and spa to insurance and tech.

Sales Tip: Neutral shades provide a blank canvas that doesn’t compete with a company’s messaging. Decorate with bold colors and geometric designs for standout branding or use a water-based discharge technique for a simple, vintage look.

3. Flannel: History certainly is repeating itself with flannel fashion, and our grandparents (and the 1990s versions of ourselves) would be mighty proud. Relevant for their layering capabilities; bold, checkerboard colors; and comfortable, soft fabric, flannels appeal to all age groups and are popping up in industries across the board. They’re ideal for a variety of campaigns and are well suited for companies wanting to infuse employee uniforms with personal style.

Decoration Tip: Flannels portray a laid-back, down-to-earth vibe. Encourage customers to keep branding to a minimum to avoid clashing with the messaging flannel provides on its own.

4. Bold Athleisure: Items such as joggers, yoga pants, cropped hoodies and flat-brimmed hats represent a booming category in mainstream fashion: athleisure. As it grows, products are getting racier and bolder, with stylish slits, mesh panels and color-blocking features on many options. Consumers want comfortable and well-fitted garments that can be worn from the gym to the grocery store, then to a friend’s house for dinner, and athleisure checks those boxes.

Sales Tip: Pitch athleisure garments to companies focused on ROI, as they are worn more frequently than apparel from almost any other category. Costs per impression for athleisure can be as low as a few cents.

5. More Messaging: In the age of all-day media cycles, it seems everyone has a message to share. Industry experts predict branded apparel will follow this trend, with messaging taking a front seat to imprints. Funny or evocative phrases are replacing images, and consumers are using clever phrases to connect with their followers and help them feel included in a particular cause or lifestyle.

Decoration Tip: Because the words speak for themselves, decoration doesn’t have to be over the top. One-color, tonal printing is enough for passersby to absorb the message.

Ultimately, consumers use fashion to express themselves, whether that’s an opinion, affiliation or mood. By providing apparel solutions for your customers, you’re helping them build connections, position themselves in the world and articulate their inner life — a gift that end users will come back to your shop to receive.

Ed Levy has more than 25 years of apparel-decorating experience. Levy, who’s director of software technologies for Hirsch Solutions, is an in-demand speaker at trade shows and regular contributor to industry magazines. For more information or to comment on this article, email Ed at