December '16

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 1 6 D E C E M B E R P R I N T W E A R || 95 As far as fit with activewear, Hulon adds that the trend is moving towards new fabrications. Women especially appreci- ate styles with easier silhouettes and more draping away from the body, for layering, which can then transition into pieces out- side of the gym. STAYING POWER It would be positively impractical to as- sume that with the changing of the cal- endar, all of the features and styles that stood out in 2016 are rendered extinct. As alluded to earlier, emerging new trends are sometimes improved-upon versions of what was loved the season before, and the evolution of pieces from season to season is certainly worth noting. For example, Crow says that the over- sized jersey so popular in 2016 will continue to thrive with timely updates. "These spirit jerseys are still strong and new silhouettes are being added to keep the trend going. Worn with shorts or leg- gings, the look is comfortable and easy, and that's not just witnessed on school campuses any more. You see these shirts at resorts, hotels, airport gift shops—ev- erywhere." Other trends with stamina include: • Printed or sublimated polyester T- shirts and fleece • Thumbholes • Quarter-zips • Camo • Plaid • Triblends • Athletic striping What was old is new again, and we can all collectively release the grip on our fa- vorite pieces. Then again, the only thing "tough" about the projected trends of next season are the moisture-wicking, antimi- crobial, disease-combatting features in performance wear. With the fabric inno- vations and market-wide agreement that soft-to-the-touch blends are the way of the future, 2017's top apparel priority appears to be downright soothing. We are perfectly comfortable with that. continued from page 47 NEW STYLE TRENDS range of products and styles you can offer, slower times offer space to conduct tests and dial in these potential processes. Once you've watched the webinars and taken the courses, the best way to make learning a part of your trusted toolkit is to put it into practice. If material cost is an issue, ask for supplier samples; they will often send you a small amount of product or offer an inexpensive way for you to buy a sampling kit. Allow yourself the room to try new things, fail, and try again. Though you should be sharpening your skills throughout the year, slow periods make it easier to experiment since you are not putting paid work off of the schedule to give yourself the space to play. Capture your process with accurate notetaking of variables, reference images, or even video so that you can review and replay, particularly if you are going to be sharing the new technique with more staffers that won't be in the initial testing. Not only will you be expanding and solidifying the training you've done, but you'll also be creating content you can share, and you'll have made decorated samples for your showroom or sales kit which you can use to demonstrate your new capabilities. RESEARCH, RECONNECT, AND REINVIGORATE RELATIONSHIPS It's easy for those of us who started on this path with the urge to decorate to focus on the nuts and bolts of making great-looking garments or the physical problems of get- ting the product through the shop, but we may forget our most important asset: the relationships we build with our customers. To jump back into your customer replations, start with your books. This will be a lot easier if you have shop management software or CRM tools. Even if you rely on noth- ing more than a sense of who your best customers are, you should be able to identify who's consistently ordering, with whom you'd like to expand orders, and customers who were consistent but have receded. Add to this list any potential customers with whom you'd like to establish relationships. Refresh yourself on what you've done with them in the past, or research their businesses online for new developments. Once you feel familiar enough to discuss their activities, make some calls. Take the time to talk with representatives and send personal messages online, via social media, or through the mail. Ask about your customers' satisfaction with your work and find out what it is you can do to make working with your company as easy and rewarding as it can be. If you are testing new materials in your training time or trying out new garments from your distributors, you can even decorate some samples with logos from these customers and send them off with a handwritten note. No matter how you reach out, the key is to make it clear that you care about what customers need and are thinking about how you can improve their experience. It directly impacts sales with your con- tact and news of your dedicated service is sure to spread. Customers are delighted by unexpected demonstrations of care, even the smallest tokens of your appreciation and attention make a difference. It's an easy way to turn buyers into your biggest fans. If nothing else, you may score some off-season sales to speed up production. REFUEL AND RECOMMIT I'll never say that you shouldn't take the time to recuperate. You need to let your well of willpower and creativity recharge from time to time, lest you find it dry when you need to draw out your next big idea. Even so, it's in these moments where constant contacts and demands don't prompt us to forge ahead and do more than keep the pace. Leave room to learn and apply newfound or recharged knowledge toward advancing yourself and your business. Your customers are sure to reward your efforts with more of the work that is the lifeblood of your shop. continued from page 35 ERICH'S EMBELLISHMENTS

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