There’s nothing wrong with wearing a brand or logo loud and proud, but sometimes end users want a professional look that’s a little more subtle. While offering customized apparel for employees provides an important benefit and branding opportunity, choosing garments they want to wear because they fit into their personal style is even better.
“I love when apparel from the promo space seamlessly fits into my existing closet,” says Taylor Borst, director of marketing events and PR with Minnesota-based distributor American Solutions for Business. “I think the future of a female-based apparel strategy is that that somebody can add all of that into their closet and not easily spot what is deemed promo or merch versus what they might have purchased somewhere else.”
When it comes to workplace attire, employees definitely have much more freedom than they had even five years ago, adds Borst. This post-pandemic shift away from straight-up suits presents an opportunity to expand branded apparel for employees, too, she adds – especially women.
“Brands who design for women first win,” says Borst. “Up to 70% of buyers in the promo industry are women. Even if they’re outfitting a male-dominated demographic, it makes a big impact when brands prove they take a thoughtful approach to the features and shape.”
She is excited to see designers for promo apparel working from the perspective of women’s wear first, not just tailoring a tee, polo or oxford shirt from the standard men’s cut. To spot a really great women’s piece, she adds, consider certain features such as the cut, the material and details like buttons and pocket placement.
“There are thoughtful features built into it, whether it’s strategically placed pockets that don’t add to your midsection, or maybe it’s the way that the fabric is cut and lays on the body,” says Borst.
Of course, you still want to brand these pieces, but when they blend right in and fit into the wearer’s lifestyle, everyone benefits. Employees will want to wear those branded garments more often and in more places than just the office or work events – which means more people see that logo.
In the era of “bring your whole self to work,” it makes sense that workers want garments that reflect how they see themselves, as well as the company’s brand and aesthetic.
Andrea Kramer, president of award-winning distributor City Apparel, says the corporate casual trend has really taken off in the past two years, and she points to SanMar’s new private-label Mercer+Mettle brand as an example.
“We’re obsessed with that brand in general,” she says. “They’ve got some great summer gear, but also fall and winter pieces that we’re very anxious to get our hands on. It is a versatile line because you can take it from work to going out to your social events in the evening.”
Kramer says she and her team wear what they sell, and they are increasingly looking for styles that feel “more retail” but still fit into their corporate culture and branding. They also do a lot of monochromatic (tone-on-tone) embroidery, as well as creative logo placement, as part of this trend.
“Back in the day, everything was left chest. Now it could be in the yoke of the back of the garment or a sleeve,” she says. “We’ve done a lot of garments in the last many years with a unique decoration location, finding the right spot for the decoration and the branding.”
Here are a few pieces that can fit seamlessly into your closet:
The Mercer+Mettle Women’s Stretch Crepe 3/4-Sleeve Blouse offers a comfortable yet stylish silhouette appropriate for a board meeting or a bistro table. The free-flowing poly/spandex crepe fabric provides a relaxed fit, and stay-put elastic cuffs mean no rolling necessary. “This is where comfort intersects perfectly with corporate casual,” says Kramer. “The line has mix-and-match pieces with an easy color story.” This blouse comes in five colors (shown in insignia blue) and sizes XS-4X.
This Mercer+Mettle Women's Double-Knit Bomber is smart and stylish. Made for layering night or day, it blends a sport-inspired shape with a casual-cool attitude. It offers all the traditional bomber design cues, like rib knit collar and cuffs, with a more style-forward, streamlined fit. It comes in 4 colors (shown in Night Navy) and sizes XS-4XL
Borst recommends the tailored, fully lined and waterproof Women’s Waterfall Rain Jacket from Stormtech for stylish wet weather protection. Additional features include flapped snap closure hand pockets, adjustable snap cuffs and a self-tie belt to cinch at the waist. An extra-high collar and extra-long silhouette provide added coverage. Available in raspberry (shown), black and navy, sizes XS-2X.
The poly/cotton Crosswind Quarter Zip Sweatshirt from Charles River Apparel offers comfort and softness as well as classic style for both men and women. Available in 13 colors and sizes XXS-4X. Purchases of this shirt in Preppy Pink (shown) support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Made of 100% Supima cotton, this soft and luxurious Women’s Cardigan Wrap provides added warmth with a graceful drape to mid hip and asymmetrical front hem for added coverage. The shawl-style collar features a tagless label for added comfort. Available in five colors (shown in berry) and sizes XS-3X.
“Bella+Canvas does such a great job in perfecting fashion basics,” says Borst, and the Bella+Canvas Women’s FavoriteTee Shirt offers casual comfort and easy style in many colors (shown in charcoal black) and sizes S-2X.