As sales director of Epona, an approved supplier to the National Union of Students for more than a decade, Antony Wilson is ideally placed to discuss collegewear trends and what students want from their garments
What’s the connection between the National Union of Students (NUS) and Epona?
Epona has been an approved supplier of Fairtrade merchandise to the NUS for 11 years, successfully supplying on-trend apparel to the student market. In 2012, the NUS purchased Epona.
What research does Epona carry out into the collegewear market?
We held a series of focus groups at universities to better understand the student market regarding ethics, designs, colours and buying patterns and so on, and created our new ranges based on this feedback.
How important are Fairtrade fabrics to students?
Students are very aware of exploitation in the apparel supply chain and understand that if they purchase a Fairtrade-certified garment, the whole supply process has been rigorously audited.
What are the key garments students buy?
Epona offers a wide range of garments, but the bestsellers tend to be hoodies with the name of the university printed across the front. At the same time, students replicate what they buy on the high street and premium jackets are very popular.
What are the current trends in collegewear in terms of style?
Several years ago the student market was mainly basic black, navy and grey hoodies with a simple print. More recently, students have started to demand more fashionable ranges replicating the garments they buy on the high street – Epona has led the way in reacting to this demand.
And in terms of colours and fabrics?
Students are interested in having the colours they see on the high street so suppliers need to react quickly to this and not just offer the same colours every year. Likewise with fabrics.
What are the main types of decoration seen on collegewear?
The main decoration is still a screen print across the chest with the university name as this appeals to UK and international students. There is also, however, an interest in limited edition prints.
Have you heard of any particularly unusual decoration demands?
We are occasionally asked to supply ‘glow in the dark’ prints or glitter prints, but these are limited edition and not mainstream.
Are you planning on expanding the range?
Yes, we are always expanding the ranges and have some great new collections to launch for autumn/winter 2016/17.
How big is the collegewear market is in the UK?
When Epona first entered the collegewear market, it was seen as an American trend and there wasn’t a tradition of buying hoodies with the university name. Now, every university has a shop selling merchandise and the trend is towards offering a more sustainable and ethical range.
What’s the best piece of marketing and sales advice you can give to Images readers to help them sell more Epona garments?
In recent years, many companies have taken steps to make their supply chain more transparent and have signed up to certifications. However, we believe that the most rigorous certifications are the Fairtrade and Fair Wear certifications, which Epona is signed up to. We also believe that ethics alone doesn’t sell fashion, so we create on-trend, fashionable garments that are sustainably manufactured, and the combination of the two is the key to success in this sector.