We report on the new products and trends at this year’s event

Nearly 50 exhibitors filled Cranmore Park exhibition centre in Solihull in the West Midlands over three days in October, where suppliers showcased new products and the very latest innovations in school uniforms and accessories. Sustainability was a recurrent theme at this year’s event, with recycled polyester taking the starring role.

Recycled polyester

Trutex exhibited with the message ‘Nurture the Future’ to highlight how sustainability informs its whole business, including new additions to its ranges. Instead of a traditional mix of cotton and polyester, the brand has introduced polo shirts and sweatshirts made with 100% recycled polyester manufactured using PET polymer from plastic bottles. The label and trim are made from recycled fabric and even the label cord is wax. “They have a very good hand feel,” noted marketing manager Rowena Allen, adding that, “they’ve been very well received.” Trutex has also added fabric made with a mix of recycled polyester and sustainably sourced viscose for its skirts and boys’ trousers. In addition, it presented the new ‘Reborn’ initiative to recycle old schoolwear into polymer for other uses such as furniture. “This gives it an opportunity for another life after the garments have been worn,” Rowena explained. “A lot of schools are really engaged with that. We are talking to schools about how to do it logistically.”

School knitwear specialist Rowlinson promoted the ethical and sustainable aspects of its business, including its new range of blazers and jackets with outers made of recycled polyester. “The eco story is about the product, but we are talking about it more widely than that including the people who make the product – making sure they are looked after and working in the right conditions,” said sales and marketing director Matt Clark. As it works towards becoming Carbon Neutral by the end of 2019 and achieving B Corporation ethical certification, the company highlighted how it gained certification to The Planet Mark sustainability programme in September. “It’s an ongoing journey,” Matt said. “There is momentum coming from our customer base. We sell into retailers who are having conversations with schools who want their uniforms sourced ethically due to pressure from the kids.

“Sustainability was at the heart of David Luke’s main stand where it began celebrations of its 10-year “eco-versary”, having introduced recycled polyester to its range in 2010. Again using recycled polyester, it unveiled the new eco senior trousers, senior straight skirt and senior stitched-down knife pleat skirt which, when paired with its jackets, create sustainable ‘eco suits’. “We have been asked for it, but it took a while to develop it to ensure it was comfortable,” explained marketing manager Bryony Pestell. All three will be available in dark grey initially but, based on feedback, may extend to navy and black.

Panel on sustainability

William Turner focused on what it is doing to “go green for future generations” on its stand. As well as introducing a new ‘cultural’ range such as longer-length garments and head scarves, it sought feedback on future ideas. These include made-to-order Eco ties, available in a wide range of shades, in recycled polyester, which will start entering the company’s stock range in 2020. Its stylish new Eco bags are also made of 100% recycled yarn, coming in a wide range of colours, while it has extended its portfolio with EcoPure biodegradable water bottles, made from BPA-free polyethylene. “The future is not just being eco but being biodegradable,” said managing director Dan Turner. “Demand is coming from retailers, schools and pupils themselves. It pushes up through the supply chain and we can now turn to our suppliers and talk to them about how they can help us do it.”

From 2020, Winterbottom’s is to switch its Kempsey and Knightsbridge blazers to 100% recycled polyester, both the outer shell and the lining, at no additional charge. Presenting them at the show, commercial director Chris Smith said: “Once we have exhausted our current stock of 100% polyester blazers, all new orders will be made with recycled polyester for delivery from May/June 2020. It’s part of a general move that we are working towards being as sustainable as we can manage. This is the first step. There’s definitely a groundswell of opinion in schools that recycled polyester is the preferred product.” The company is also looking at ‘closing the loop’ by finding ways for garments to be recycled after use.

 

Schoolwear Association Awards

The winners of the Schoolwear Association Awards, now in their third year, were announced during The Schoolwear Show.

At a ceremony at the Village Hotel in Solihull, the title of Best Schoolwear Supplier went to Rowlinson while the award for Sustainability in Schoolwear went to David Luke. The trophy for Outstanding Service to Schoolwear went to Swarn Dulkoan for building up manufacturer Diamond Textiles. Grays Schoolwear, with two stores in Lancashire, won Best Digital Schoolwear for its fully mobile phone-compatible, user-friendly website. The award for Best Community Partner went to Lancashire-based Whittakers, which also won the title of Best Schoolwear Specialist (with more than 10 full-time staff). Best Schoolwear Specialist (with fewer than 10 full-time staff) was awarded to Cheshire-based retailer Petites Modes. Runners-up were: Total Clothing, Uniform4kids, Smarty, Fosters Schoolwear, Falcon, Trutex and Joanne Grayer from Uniformwise. The show’s sponsors included: Stevensons, Cardinal Maritime Group, Trutex, Rowlinson, William Turner and Banner.

New designs

Winterbottom’s is also looking to the future with new designs and specifications. From 2020, all its stock-supported shirts and blouses will be made of non-iron fabric, complemented by twin-needle lap seams for extra durability, but without a like-for-like price increase. “It’s a higher-specification garment so it is effectively better value for money,” Chris added. The company also showcased additions to its slim-fit blouses, including revere collars, and the latest developments for its range of tartan skirts. Launched in 2019, the tartans now come in 11 patterns, of which six are exclusive, designed by brand manager Suzanne Knowles. At this year’s show, she unveiled her new red, grey and black tartan design, which has been introduced for 2020. “I designed these to fit with one or more of our existing blazers so that the whole colour palette comes together seamlessly,” Suzanne explained.

Banner introduced a new tartan pleated skirt, made from 65% recycled polyester/35% natural viscose. “They come in tonal colours so they mix and match with the blazers and jackets in the range,” said Sarah Robins, Banner’s sustainability manager. Banner has also added three new colours for its boys’ and girls’ jackets as well as a new junior training tee in emerald green with contrast white as part of its Aptus Essentials sportswear collection.

Rowlinson promoted its sustainability message

Akoa’s old and new styles of sportswear

Sportswear

New sportswear brand Juco Delivered by David Luke had its own stand at the show – its first outing since David Luke started developing the separate collection last year. Innovations include polo shirts with blade collars and two-in-one shorts for girls featuring a longer base-layer short underneath for modesty. “We look at more aspirational sportswear brands to see what we can bring over to the schoolwear market,” added Bryony from David Luke. “The idea was to create a brand that is about inclusivity. A lot of sportswear brands are about being the next Olympian, but not everyone is like that so we are trying to create a range that engages people to join in and have a go. We also respond to children’s concern about body image through different lengths and fits.” With 50% of the Juco range made with recycled polyester, the plan is to extend this further.

Trutex had a separate stand for its sportswear brand Akoa, presenting the latest style developments. Garments have new and improved fit for 2020 such as slightly shorter sleeves, pointed out Rowena from Trutex. “We have fine-tuned some of the products after market feedback. They are sportier with a more contemporary, up-to-date finish.” It also demonstrated Akoa’s relaunched website, which includes a new 3D kit builder for schools and retailers, which will allow them to design their own made-to-order sportswear.

Trutex’s Nurture the Future concept

PenCarrie presented a wide array of accessories

New tartan skirts from Banner

Chadwick Teamwear showed off its Edge team and training range, which was introduced this summer. The range includes styles such as a contemporary polo, lightweight gilet and heavyweight polyester hoody, with subtle colour- contrast panelling. “We have had a superb reaction to Edge,” said sales director Tim Roberts. “Since we first did The Schoolwear Show seven years ago, the movement in the sportswear market in terms of design, quality and fabrics has become far more aligned to retail and what you see professional sports teams running out in.” He noted that ‘optional items’ such as leggings and skinny pants have become more mainstream in schoolwear because children want them. Chadwick also unveiled a first for the company: garments for cricket, ranging from trousers to polo shirts.

Gymphlex promoted its new GForce Signature service which oers full customisation across its teamwear with no extra charge. Garments can be supplied with retailers’ and/or schools’ names and branding exclusively throughout, including the inner neck tape and neck labels. “GForce doesn’t appear anywhere except on the back of the label,” explained sales director Simon Ward. “It’s about schools and retailers being able to build a brand. We spoke to retailers in advance of the launch and it was a popular idea.”

William Turner presented new Eco products

David Luke celebrated its 10-year “eco-versary”

Innovations

An innovative new process called Micro-Fresh Technology for acrylic-blend sweatshirts featured on the stand for Coolflow Schoolwear. The treatment gives a longer-lasting freshness so garments can be washed at 30°C. “It needs washing less which means it has a lower carbon footprint,” explained Sunny Loyal, senior merchandise for Coolflow. “We already have recycled polyester in sweatshirts and blazers. This is another push to look after the environment.” However, much of the talk on the stand was the closure of the Sussex factory of Coolflow’s partner, Charles Kirk. By the end of this year, all of Charles Kirk’s manufacturing will have moved to Coolflow’s base in Leicester but otherwise, for customers, “essentially nothing will change”, Sunny added.

Russell presented clothing from across its portfolio, with a focus on children’s styles, as well as its Jerzees Schoolgear range. The line-up included T-shirts, polo shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies from its new Pure Organic collection, made from 100% organic combed ringspun cotton, as well as its Authentic garments. “The Authentic range has been very well received so we’re adding kids’ styles as well,” pointed out Russell Europe’s country manager, Andrew Clark. These include hooded sweatshirts, zipped hooded sweatshirts and raglan sweatshirts. Children’s organic T-shirts, available in five colours, are also being added to Russell’s offering for January 2020.

Juco Delivered by David Luke

Chadwick’s new cricket range

Russell is adding children’s organic T-shirts for 2020

With more than 90 leading brands, including Next Level Apparel and Original FNB, distributor PenCarrie showcased all kinds of garments suitable for schools, including its leavers’ hoodies for children finishing primary school. Its stand also featured plenty of accessories too, such as book bags and bottles from Quadra.

To provide retailers and suppliers with ideas for school uniforms, Amaya Sales UK demonstrated the TexJet Echo2, the Melco EMT16 Plus and Oki Pro8432WT printers and the Hotronix Fusion IQ heat press. “We have had a lot of interest,” said sales director Julian Wright. “Schoolwear providers are coming to us for garment embellishment ideas.” Ideas were also offered on the stand of TheMagicTouch whose transfer printing technology can be used on products ranging from clothing to bags and bottles.

More ideas for finishes were offered by thread brand Madeira, which exhibited at the show for the first time. Innovations included its new metallic CR threads and a new hi-vis reflective thread. “Tiny shards of glass in the thread make it reflective but this has been a challenge to develop so that it runs smoothly in embroidery machines,” explained head of sales Andrew Maylor. “The Schoolwear Show has been a good place for us to network. Retailers specify the colours that they want the embroiderers to use.”

After the successful introduction of seminars at last year’s show, this year’s event included sessions on topics such as sustainability, winning tenders and product technology.

Gymphlex promoted its GForce customisation service

Madeira showcased its latest threads

The Coolflow Schoolwear stand

Opportunities to learn

“The seminars are real added value,” pointed out Dan at William Turner, one of the show’s founders. “Visitors can come and not just learn about products on stands, but also learn about what’s going on in the trade. I’m very pleased to see The Schoolwear Show go from strength to strength. This is one of the busiest and the best. Each year everybody raises their game stand-wise.” While exhibitors remained positive about the future despite Brexit uncertainty, the show confronted some of the threats facing the sector in a daily seminar session under the title ‘Clear & Present Danger’.

This focused on the need to fight the prospect of further regulation in England if the government goes ahead with turning the Department for Education’s guidelines on uniforms into tougher statutory rules curbing branded garments. “We need to make sure we are having our voice heard and represented when those important decisions are being made,” Dan commented. “This is the time we need to join together. Collectively we are very strong.”

www.theschoolwearshow.co.uk