Most Popular Colors in Promo Fashion for 2018

Written by: Joe Macharsky on Monday, February 19, 2018

Written by: Joe Macharsky on Monday, February 19, 2018


The future’s so bright, you’ll need sunglasses when it comes to apparel colors in 2018.

As color becomes increasingly important in fashion, designers are responding by featuring more shades in their collections, according to the experts at the Pantone Color Institute, a trend forecaster and consultancy, in their Spring 2018 Trend Report.

Vibrant and bold hues define the latest Pantone palette. “Fashion and the people that interact with it no longer want to limit themselves by following traditional color guidelines. Unique spring shades that make for complex and original combinations expand the opportunity for self-expression,” the report notes.

Promotional products suppliers closely watch a number of forecasting tools, including the Pantone report, New York Fashion week, and other runway and retail trends. Then they tweak and tailor to suit their clientele.

“I see a mix of colors in 2018. There are a lot of bright colors, but also new neutrals and more pastels,” says Vicki Ostrom, SanMar’s (asi/84863) trend editor and futurist.

Indeed, the promo market needs to think “mass appeal” for its wide variety of corporate clients, says Gina Barreca, director of marketing at Vantage Apparel (asi/93390). “There’s certainly a place for niche-fashion, but when buying for a group, it’s important to choose a color that everyone will want to wear,” she says.

There traditionally has been a gap in style trends between the retail and promo world, but that’s been narrowing. “It can take up to a year before we see a trend fully embraced in the promo world – it used to be two. Some manufacturers can pull it off in as little as eight months,” says Paula Gossett, senior brandologist at Geiger (asi/202900). That gap allows the promo industry to get an idea of how popular a trend will be before they commit, she notes, adding that “no one wants to be stuck if a color doesn’t make it.”

Corporate clients tend to stick to the basics due to “brand standards,” and keeping it safe with corporate apparel, says Kris Robinson, partner and executive VP at PromoShop (asi/300446). “The true colors of grays, blacks, navy and white will always be the foundation of corporate apparel. But given this year’s color outlook, there is some creativity to those blends of colors, giving apparel a better approach to the basics that we use year after year.”

Adapting new hues can refresh and create excitement for a brand and its message, and there are ways even the most conservative clients can green-light some red-hot trends. We surveyed industry apparel experts to get their take on the hottest new colors and how to work them into branding efforts.

Yellow, But Hardly Mellow
Bright yellow, like Pantone’s electric Meadowlark shade, has gotten a lot of attention as a color to watch, from fashion runways to Hollywood. Think Emma Stone’s California sunshine-y dress in the movie La La Land.

“Yellow is not the easiest color to wear – it’s not for everyone. But it works well as an accent color or a logo color,” says Barreca. “Our design team takes a high-level view and translates it into styles that make sense for our market. We won’t add 12 yellow styles, because we need to work with a lot of different color logos, but we may design within a blue spectrum.”

S&S Activewear (asi/84358) offers a Youth Fine Jersey T-Shirt (1534) by American Apparel that comes in Lemon, which is “close to the Pantone spring shade of Meadowlark,” according to S&S marketing coordinator James Andres.

If a client isn’t ready to go “whole hog” into a bright shade like yellow, bring it in as a trim, for a pop of color, says Gossett.

Think Pink
At SanMar, “pink is an increasingly important color category, including pink that crosses gender lines. Because many shades of pink have a washed-down, nostalgic look, they are extremely popular,” says Ostrom.

In fact, the shade Millennial Pink is making waves, “moving into ad campaigns and hard goods, as well as apparel,” Ostrom says. Part of its appeal may lie in the fact that it looks good on a variety of skin tones.

“Millennial Pink is not just one color – it encompasses a variety of shades, ranging from dusty pink to vintage rose,” Ostrom says. SanMar’s newest pale pink shades are Heather Rose Quartz, found in its Alternative Apparel line and Blush Frost, part of SanMar’s District Made brand. District Made is also introducing a darker shade called Maroon Astro to its Cosmic Tee collection.

Millennial Pink is particularly popular with fraternities and sororities, and is a trendy and important color to have in university gift shops and online stores for fan wear and gifts, says Ostrom.

S&S Activewear has a brand-new garment-dyed women’s style, Inside Out Sleeveless tee (2898), in Pantone’s Rose Quartz. Garment-dyed apparel is also in high demand right now, so end-users should love this piece, especially for festivals, campuses and other fashion-conscious markets, says Andres.

Teal Green Is Hip
Heathers continue to be big, but what’s new are brighter colored versions, says Geiger’s Gossett. Teal, also called jade green, is re-emerging in a huge way from its popularity in the 1990s. Creating it in a heather pattern is a fresh take on plain gray heathers, Gossett says.

Pantone’s Arcadia, which it calls a “cooler, cleaner take on green,” is one variation of this color trend.

Teal was a featured color at New York Fashion Week, according to Gossett. “I expect it will be bigger in our industry in 2019.”

Luckily for Gossett, jade happens to be the logo color of one of her clients, so it’s “easy to find apparel for them.” Recently, she’s provided the client with heathered jade ladies polos, some with sparkle in the fabric.

Seeing Red
A clear standout, “red is a bold shade from a fashion perspective,” says Barreca. “Also it’s a popular corporate color, so there’s lots of opportunity for crossover.”

Pantone’s Spring 2018 Color Trend outlook features two red hues: Cherry Tomato, an orangey shade, and Chili Oil, more of an earthy brown-based red color.

“There’s a lot of buzz around the ‘power of color’ and what color will do for you,” Ostrom says. For example, there is “vibrancy” in bold red, she notes. SanMar’s Port & Co. brand has some “beautiful, rich reds – strong bold colors – in its line of hoodies and crewnecks,” according to Ostrom.

Red is a great, strong color for athletic apparel and works well in performance apparel segments, Barreca says. Vantage’s new VanSport Zen pullover (3451) is on the cover of its catalog – in bold Sport Red.

Feeling Blue
If you know fashion, you know that “everything goes with blue,” and the wide spectrum of available shades makes it a color that translates well into the corporate market, says Barreca.

Pantone’s Trend Report features two blues: Little Boy Blue, which First Lady Melania Trump wore at her husband’s inauguration a year ago, and Sailor Blue, a navy-based color that Pantone calls “comforting.”

“I’m seeing lots of Carolina Blue (the color of the UNC Tar Heels) and it makes a great color to use in a print,” Barreca says, noting prints, both geometric and abstract, are increasingly important for both men and women.

Vantage is offering a new print combination, Greg Norman Play Dry Foulard Print Polo (GNS8K462) in Caribbean Blue. In addition, the company has also introduced two new striped polos this year. “The corporate market can be conservative when it comes to stripes, but the fact that we added two new striped patterns says it’s a trend worth following,” Barreca says.

Geiger’s Gossett says her clients favor more subdued patterns for men, such as tone-on-tone checks or plaids. “Sometimes the print is used in just a small area of the garment – for example, a solid color jacket with a soft, subtle camouflage sleeve, as done by Vantage,” she says.

Denim has slowly been making a comeback, says S&S’ Andres, and as a result, the company has added some new headwear to its line. “Mega Cap has a new cotton Washed Denim Cap (7610) that will make a fashionable accessory to accent any denim outfit,” he says.

Purple Reign
Shades of purple across the spectrum are going to be a big color in promo fashion this year, according to Rachel Leone, president of Leone Marketing Solutions (asi/251966). The fashion world drives color, and purple was big last spring. “Purple evokes energy and excitement,” and Leone expects the color to pop up in branded sweatshirts and vests in the corporate world.

Pantone’s blue-based Ultra Violet is part of its 2018 Spring palette, and according to Pantone, the shade is “more modern and less prom dress when paired with Chili Oil.” Lavender is forecasted to be a dominant color for spring, says Andres. “Some even say that lilac or lavender might replace the popularity of Millennial Pink at some point,” he says.

The sporty Women’s Ideal Colorblock Racerback Tank (1534) from Next Level is a new style for S&S and is offered in a lilac color that closely resembles Pantone’s Pink Lavender swatch, which is in its 2018 Spring forecast.

White Haute
Statement whites remain important in performance and athleisure wear, says Ostrom. The Concept collection from Port Authority is launching some new items soon, featuring updated neutrals, ivory and cool gray, that are an evolution from stark white, she says. One shade, Ivory Chiffon, is a “warmed up” white, which is offered in knits and woven drapey styles for women. “They’re more blouse-like, to reflect the way women dress. They want the option to layer their look and be more comfortable,” says Ostrom.

A ¾-sleeve split-neck Henley tunic is also offered in Ivory Chiffon, she notes. Pantone calls its new shade, Coconut Milk, “the classic mainstay of a white and/or off-white for the Spring 2018 season.”

“T-shirts continue to be important in fashion, both graphic and solid,” Ostrom says. “What’s new is an elevated core tee idea, especially for men, where tees have special details and a super luxe hand feel. They can be worn under a suit or a bomber jacket.”

Shades of Gray
A neutral palette remains important to the corporate market, says Barreca. “There’s a lot of variety with regard to gray in our market. Heathered grays and charcoal usually pair well with corporate colors,” she says.

Pantone’s newest shade in this color family is Harbor Mist, a mid-tone dove gray. Cool gray is important for both men and women, particularly for the “smart casual” trend, which is a look that includes both tailored and sporty styles, according to Ostrom. SanMar has some new colors in that spectrum.

“We’re paying attention to the ‘athluxury’ trend,” she says. SanMar’s Ogio line features jackets for men and women with colorblocking that looks like liquid metal. “This fabric gives a luxe feel and is a beautiful performance piece,” Ostrom says.

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