As this year is quickly coming to a close, it is a perfect time to review a few key stories and products that will only continue to grow in 2023. Most major organizations have seen the rise of managers, decision makers and owners who are part of the Millennial generation. The consumer market is even more familiar with Gen Z, taking the baton of social responsibility and adopting a holistic approach based on greater information at their fingertips than previous generations. Being aware of a brand’s stories helps your team share the message and meet your customers where they want to be.
Social responsibility can entangle a plethora of topics and considerations, which we don’t have time to review in entirety. Suppliers will likely have documents and articles available that introduce you to their different programs and certifications. Let’s explore the consumer’s continued desire to see onshoring (USA-Made), purpose-driven manufacturing and recycled or organic raw materials which decorate amazingly!
At the root of onshoring is the reduction of resources used to create a product. The most widely identified savings is in shipping; however, it also lays the groundwork for increased jobs in local manufacturing. While some products are completely manufactured within the United States others are produced with imported fabrics.
When searching your suppliers, you can find USA-Made products in the American Apparel, BELLA+CANVAS and Volunteer Knitwear brands. Within Volunteer Knitwear, finding the best t-shirt for your customer will be easy as you will have a range to choose from, starting with the All-American Tee (open-ended cotton) to the Daily Tee or Chore Tee (ring spun options) and rounded out with the Tri-blend Tee. When decorating, if you’re needing a private label, they all have tear-away neck labels to provide the best solution no matter the project.
It’s easy to read the ingredient list of a shirt to understand if you need a poly ink, stretch additive or a quick cotton ink when screen printing. What you can’t see are the measures in place to support resources for the people producing the shirt. While the United States has OSHA, the world has international organizations like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Fair Labor Association, Quality Certification Alliance, Science Based Targets initiative and the Palermo Protocol. Corporations are even going beyond best practices for manufacturing and are supporting the community directly. The Millennial generation is known for its strong desire for experiences and part of their focus is having stories around the products they use.
T-shirt brands like Port and Company, District and Allmade (among others) have a purpose-driven footprint that goes holistically beyond the facilities that make their garments. Some projects include reducing the amount of waste going into local landfills, collecting and recycling rainwater around the community, sponsoring the development of new classrooms in partnership with the Mhotivo School Foundation and providing support around financial management with employees who never held a job previously.
There are apparel products like the Core Blend Tee and Hanes EcoSmart T-Shirt that incorporate up to 5% recycled polyester, which helps alleviate their global impact on the world’s plastics. A project in place today is the C-FREE designation, where carbon offset practices create a carbon neutral position. There are also products from Allmade, Sport-Tek, Port Authority and District which utilize a much higher percentage of organic cottons, recycled cottons, Tencel modal from beech wood, and recycled plastics. Some of these products are even part of the C-FREE program.
Quick Definitions you may see:
- rPet: Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (recycled plastic)
- Repreve: A specialized rPET made from post-consumer plastic water bottles. Allmade uses this polyester today in a number of products.
- Recycled Cotton: For the Re-Tee® family of products, the recycled cotton used are from scraps collected during normal tee shirt manufacturing and repurposed into new fabric. These scraps would otherwise be discarded.
As your team starts to think about marketing and sampling opportunities for 2023, it’s important to look toward some of these fabrics and products. Items like the Re-Beanie from District are great to include in orders as additional marketing gifts, as they feature a universal fit and can be embroidered, heat pressed (cotton/poly blend) and screen printed while not breaking the bank. In general, these products are not only amazing to decorate on, but they’re also meeting buyers and end users where they want to be met!
In a future article we’ll dive into some of the sustainable solutions available from ink, transfer and embroidery material suppliers to support a finished product that resonates from start to finish.
In the words of the famous naturalist John Muir: “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”