State of Apparel Manufacturing

Please find some links and notes from the 2 Regular Guys Podcast. Over the years we have talked all sorts of techniques for decorating, but rarely have we discussed the actual blank products that you are decorating on. Well, this week we are going to tackle that subject with the VP of Activewear Marketing/Merchandising for Fruit of the Loom/JERZEES. Jeanene Edwards will be joining us to discuss the state of apparel manufacturing, current trends, and tips that decorators can use. Plus enjoy the 2 Regular Guys having a little fun by asking the hard-hitting questions about The Fruit Guys.

Sponsored by: Equipment Zone and Siser N.A.

Our regular listeners know this, but 2 Regular Guys are all about garment decorating, a bit of fun, and no rants or lectures or selling. We are not doing this for our employers, but rather for our industry. Since February 2013, The 2 Regular Guys have been the first and the most listened to garment decorating industry podcast on this planet! We are humbled by all of you tuning in each week. We work hard to bring you information that will make your business better, and our industry better. Take a look at our incredible weekly guest list and you’ll understand where this industry goes for news, interviews and the heartbeat of garment decorating. Thanks for listening!

News and Notes

  • Vastex Intl., Allentown, Pa., has broken ground on its new corporate headquarters, a 37,500-square-foot facility to be located in Bethlehem, Pa. The manufacturing portion of the purpose-built facility will house inventory, metalworking, electrical, assembly, and shipping, with the remaining space devoted to offices, a showroom and a large, hands-on classroom area with a full complement of screen-printing equipment for Vastex University, the company’s training program for entry-level to professional screen printers.

State of Apparel Manufacturing

STATE OF APPAREL MANUFACTURINGTerry: Thanks for joining us today, start off by giving our listeners a little background on you and your role with Fruit of the Loom.

Jeanene:  I am basically the jack-of-all-trades when it comes to my role at Fruit of the Loom in regards to the apparel we design and produce for the printwear channel.   I’m responsible for determining the direction of the product line for the upcoming season to figuring out what’s the “big stories” that we need to market and how we need to position them.  However my favorite thing to do really is the trade shows – not so much the set-up and tear-down of course – but being able to speak with our customers about our brands and products.  It’s always great feedback. Most of the time you hear about how they love our brands and use our products.  Occasionally someone has a great product idea – such as why don’t you have retro heather coral in your fleece?  There was one trade show we must have heard that from 3-4 customers – all of whom were either in the cheer/dance business or serving the tourist/souvenir gift market.  So we put it in our Jerzees hood the next year.

Aaron: Where does Fruit see the decoration market for them? Growing? Healthy?

Jeanene:  We’re in the blank apparel business so we’re at the start of the food chain.  We see the market as continuing to grow and incredibly healthy as it diversifies and expands into more fabrics and styles.  We divide the market into Basics, Fashion, and Performance when we evaluate the total landscape.  And there’s no question that Fashion and Performance are both growing segments of the market.  That said, there’s also price-pressure that’s occurring in the Basics segment of the market which means very tight margins for everyone.  The good news is that the customer is starting to trade up – they’re willing to pay more for better tees and fleece.

Terry: How about the apparel manufacturing group as a whole. What is the state of apparel manufacturing?

Jeanene:   I can think of 2 things that are really impacting all apparel brands.  First, there’s a lot more choice across every facet of the market including more color – across Fruit/Jerzees we offer 78 colors where we used to have just 50; and then fabrics – it’s not just OE anymore.  Ringspun, polyester, triblends and other specialty yarns are gaining popularity.  Ladies also have more style choices with styling designed just for them.  The one-size-fits-all men’s tee isn’t acceptable anymore.  Fitted tees, flowy tees, scoop necks – you name it you can probably find it.  And finally brand choice – there’s a lot of new players that have entered the market in recent years like Simplex, Citadel Brands, and Threadfast.

The second change is a greater appreciation and now even a requirement, for socially responsible apparel production. Organizations such as the US Marines, Disney/ESPN and the University of Nebraska have valuable brands and trademarks that they need to protect.  When those marks – like Mickey Mouse – are printed on a shirt, they need to be confident of the integrity of the supply chain for that shirt.   We frequently receive requests from distributors and screen printers for information regarding our supply chain.   Fortunately, we’re checking all the right boxes.  We have a Fruit Code of Conduct that lays out our social compliance platform, and we’re also members of the Fair Labor Association and the Sustainability Consortium.  All this is in addition to various environmental and product safety practices that we follow such as CPSIA.

Aaron: What are some trends you guys are seeing in the market currently and maybe dust of your crystal ball and tell us what you expect as upcoming trend decorators should get out in front of?

Jeanene:  The first trend has to do with speed to the consumer and technology.  Let’s call it the Amazon Effect. It’s become the norm for people to go on-line from their smartphone and in a day or two the box shows up on their doorstep.  So how consumers purchased goods is now affecting how business customers purchase goods.  There’s been tremendous growth in on-line decorators that deliver small run, fast turn, customized decoration,  delivered to your front door in a couple of days.  That change in the go-to-market strategy is driving the growth in DTG and heat transfer decoration and has manufacturers like us rethinking the products we offer and how we take them to market.  

Secondly is the continued diversity in fabrics across all apparel segments.   I know some decorators are a little leery about printing or decorating performance fabrics – but the consumer has voted that they love performance apparel for the combination of comfort and style that it offers.  The athleisure trend – which is where the consumer is transitioning from work to gym to play to leisure and wearing the same outfit – just is not going away.

The change is fleece fabrics is another example.  Given the warmer weather that we’ve had in fall/winter for the past 2-3 years, the consumer is moving to lighter weight fleece.  It’s simply more forgiving and easy to layer-up.  This has resulted in your traditional styles such as pullover hoods and zip hoods now being offered in a wide variety of fabrics from traditional fleece to lightweight fleece to French terries.  And factories are playing around with knitting techniques so you get interesting variations such as denim fleece, stripes, textures or fleece that has a contrasting color from the face of the fabric to the back.  

Terry:  When it comes to digital decorating, Direct to Garment, Transfers etc, what is Fruit developing or have in the market right now?

Jeanene:   As DTG started to catch on, we noticed that we were seeing a lift in our HD Cotton Tees which we originally produced as a solution for screen-printers.  Even the distributors were telling us that their customers were talking about our tee for DTG.  With that shirt, we basically produce the textile using finer gauge yarns that are knitted very tightly together so it creates a flat smooth surface.  And with OE yarns there are reduced fibrillation so it’s perfect for direct to garment as well. What’s interesting is there’s a number of brands out there that position ringspun as the best tee for DTG.  It’s not necessarily the ringspun as much as it that ringspun yarns are also typically finer gauge yarns.  

Aaron: How about sublimation? Anything Polyester?

Jeanene:  In our Jerzees line we have a Dri Power 100% polyester tee – it’s the 21M.  We’ve specifically designed that tee for sublimation – especially for wide format platens for customers who want to all over print for sublimation.  The key is in the sleeve construction – it has to lay perfectly flat to avoid those white gap areas – it’s the only tee we have with that sleeve construction for that purpose.  

We also have Jerzees Dri Power polyester fleece.  We offer a pullover hood, zip hood and a quarter zip.  The hood comes in white and if you come by our booth at the trade shows you’ll see how we’ve sublimated it.  Lastly we’ve got polyester sport shirts – we have a new style we’re launching in 2018 for men and women that’s in improved fabric with enhanced styling.  It replaces one we already had but was a little dated in fabric and styling.

Terry: All right, so now what people really want to know. Tell us about the Fruit? Are their plans to add more fruit to the team? Why don’t bananas get to join the group? Let talk new music releases, seems like it has been a while since we heard of new music from the Fruit. What’s on tap?

Jeanene:   Here’s the situation – the Apple and the Grapes are pretty agreeable but the Leaf – he’s got standards and won’t agree to new members.  Seriously let me tell you a story about the Fruit Guys who we bring to a number of printwear tradeshows.   Those are mascot costumes that occasionally just need refurbishing – they’re heavy AND they’re hot!  

There are only a few companies that actually make mascot costumes and when we inquired, it was going to run about $40,000 to replace them.  We have at our headquarters in Bowling Green KY, a sample room facility that cuts and sews prototypes for all our product lines across Fruit, Jerzees, Russell – even Vanity Fair bras.  These ladies have worked for us for years – even decades – and there’s nothing they can’t sew.  Somehow they heard about the issue with the Fruit Guys suits and they volunteered to do it – for them, this was not really all that complicated – it was just a big craft project. They took the current suits, deconstructed them and stripped everything down to the frame.  They created patterns for each costume – just like someone would do with a t-shirt – and then used our fleece fabrics to make the new costumes.  The Leaf even required some quilting.  So we were back in business this year at the ISS Long Beach Show –  So I’d like to get a shout out to our sample room ladies as they did a terrific job.

Jeanene Edwards is the VP of Marketing/Merchandising for Fruit of the Loom/Jerzees Activewear which produces blank tees, sweats and sport shirts for the printwear channel. Jeanene has over 20 years of experience in apparel with global brands such as Fruit of the Loom, Jerzees, Hanes and Just My Size.

www.fruitactivewear.com Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @FruitActivewear
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4kzv7ed4R2AWw8A3jVxDxw

www.jerzees.com Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: Handle @JERZEESApparel
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCj1Aa9M1-ZAbaHPzHWBD3RA

Other Events

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Screen Printing: A Practical Guide to Starting Your Own T-Shirt Business Just $4.95 as an e-book.

Direct to Garment: A Practical Guide to Starting Your Own T-Shirt Business Just $4.95 as an e-book.

Scheduling and Estimating Production Time for Garment Screen Printing Just $2.99 as an e-book


This show is brought to you for a full hour by:

Equipment Zone, with 20 years experience selling garment printing equipment nationwide. Equipment Zone offers the new Epson F2000 SureColor direct-to-garment printer, their own VelociJet-XL DTG printer, and the all new SpeedTreater-TX automatic pretreat machine with a full 16”x24” pretreat area. Equipment Zone also carries a full line of DTG inks and supplies. Go to EquipmentZone.com

Siser North America’s new and improved website! Just recently Siser NA’s website was updated with a ton of new colors, helpful tools, and fun things to read. Head over to www.siserna.com and check out for yourself. A new great add-on to the site is the “Cutter Settings”. You will be able to get an idea of how you should have your vinyl cutter set up for each Siser material type. Then find out how each Siser product is applied, with the instructions available right there for you. Have you heard about the EasyPatterns™? There is a whole separate tab that will show all the different printed patterns Siser offers. Then while you’re at it, check out the Siser Blog. Get a great scope of all the “out of the box” ideas you can achieve with Siser HTV!


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