Regardless of the end use of a corporate apparel item, companies have become increasingly proactive in developing entire corporate outfitting programs, where selecting complementary colors and styling is constantly top-of-mind. Think of corporate outfitting as the silent way to represent the image of a brand or company. When companies have front-of-house and back-of-house staff to outfit, with a variety of functions/events to attend, brand recognition becomes an important part of representation, since the company’s logo would be front and center on the garment. All of these circumstances require some form of unity, for example, consistent color ways and complementary styles amongst the same product categories or complete ensembles. The key to successfully putting together corporate outfits is to ensure you are speaking to your target audience, while best representing the company. Let’s take a look at what’s hot in corporate outfitting right now, break down some trends that are coming to the forefront in various apparel categories, and discuss how companies can put these tips altogether to create their own effective corporate outfitting program.
With polo’s, the prominent purchasing trend is in line with customers’ expectation of combining performance, comfort and durability. From all quality supplier and brands, customers expect the latest technology, while keeping comfortable in fabrics they can be confident to last, wash after wash. Some features that will benefit the comfort of the wearer include moisture wicking and anti-microbial properties, while other treatments offer increased durability and longevity through attributes like no-shrink, no-wrinkle and no-fade. From the latest yarn technology that keeps you cool, to treatments that keep your polo’s collar curl-free, the purchasing trend in polo’s is to have the ability to suit all corporate environments and needs, while providing the most value to the end-user.
Once customers’ expectations are covered with the technical details, offering the latest color and style trends is most critical in setting one supplier apart from the next. For example, colors play a huge role in your brand identity and aside from the staple basics like white, black, and navy, colors that are trending right now add an element of newness to your company image. Colors, such as varying shades of blue (bright royals and pale blues) or silver/platinum, offer the option of a fresher color base than the usual plain white. We’re also seeing a tendency towards more earthy colors like dark oakmoss, stone, graphite, and rust (which directly ties into the Pantone color of the year: Marsala).
One of the most important aspects in successfully creating a corporate uniform program is to identify the image your company wants to portray. With the vast array of corporate apparel that is available today, selecting the right piece amongst all the options could be a challenge if you don’t start with a focus. Like the displays at a tradeshow booth, the banners at a seminar or the presentation material used at an on-site demo, the attendees’ first impression of the environment is all tied to the image of the staff, which all starts with how they’re dressed.
We looked at different options in polo’s above, but staff can also be outfitted in the latest woven shirt offerings. Even different members of the same company can be outfitted uniquely to provide the best possible image. For example, management staff is most often seen in woven shirts, whereas customer-facing staff could be outfitted in polo’s (to give off a more relaxed vibe). With the introduction of performance woven shirts, the all-day comfort attained from a polo can now be achieved with a professional-looking woven shirt!
Performance attributes in apparel were first brought into the t-shirt and polo categories as the demand for an alternative to cotton fabrics arose when athletes were looking for fabrics that were lighter, more comfortable and incorporated moisture-wicking. Now these performance attributes have evolved into woven shirts. You can outfit an entire organization from the back office, to folks who have manufacturing duties, to customer-facing professionals, all in performance materials. What was first brought into the retail market by the traditionally-active brands is now readily available to all customers at all price levels in the promotional apparel industry.
Look for introductions of garments that serve these purposes, such as performance mélange woven shirts that offer a contemporary, fashion-forward look, or performance woven shirts that embrace active styling. In general, performance wovens are intended to suit multiple corporate images/needs, and their moisture-wicking properties are intended to keep the wearer feeling comfortable and dry all day long. This new trend allows for an all-day professional appearance, with the comfort and function that was traditionally only previously incorporated into performance polo’s or t-shirts.
Mid/Outer Layer: Fleece and Lightweight Jackets
Polyester fleece is popular due to its versatility: it’s not only great during the colder seasons, but it’s excellent for the Spring/Fall transitional time period. It can be worn as a mid-layer or an outer layer, and provides warmth without too much bulk. For example, polyester fleece can act as an outer layer piece in milder winter climates, or can be thrown over a t-shirt if an individual needs to move through different environments. It is seen as being great for many end-uses across all types of industries and events including corporate events, tradeshows, charities, team wear, car dealerships and retail. Furthermore, it could be quite easy to create a corporate outfitting program when you can combine different layers of products and still have that image of unity amongst staff through the use of similar colors and styling.
A matching fleece jacket and polo, for example, may not necessarily be designed to be worn together, but rather, they may serve the purpose of potentially outfitting different staff that may require a coordinated look. Another example: front-of-house staff may need the crisp appearance of a woven shirt with a pocket, whereas back-of-house staff would benefit from a comfortable polo that has a snag protection fabric (which provides longevity to the garment and offers a long-lasting professional look).
Another mid/outer layer category is lightweight jackets. The inclusion of performance fabrics with outerwear has not only become popular, but essential! Water-resistant and water-proof fabrics continue to be prevalent, while breathability through the use of vent details and moisture wicking lining are raising the bar even further. Fabric design and textural interest have also gained immense popularity with outerwear styling. Textures, prints, embossed patterns and two-tone weaves are a few examples of how styling is going beyond the style lines of a garment, which allows for additional versatility for a brand’s image (beyond color and styling).
Trends are constantly evolving, and a quality supplier will always be looking to improve their collection based on the latest trends. Most importantly, corporate apparel trends are driven by consumers and their desire to look for the next new thing – this creates an interesting buying experience, especially when certain apparel pieces need to fall within their specific budget and functionality requirements. With this in mind, we are always looking at different ways to offer the best options in corporate outfitting that best portrays a company/brand’s image. Also, thinking of a supplier’s offering in a “best, better, good” model will no doubt make it easier to identify the right product that fits both a company’s brand image and budget.
alphabroder Director of Strategic Accounts