BTC Activewear’s head of sales discusses the rise in demand for sustainable T-shirt styles, modern twists on classic designs and the influence of the retail sector

What are the key design trends in T-shirts at the moment?

We’re seeing the popularity of returning trends including long sleeve, V-neck and baseball styles, such as B&C’s new Short Sleeve Baseball Tee, and there are modern twists on classic designs such as cropped, 3/4 sleeve and hooded styles – for example, Nakedshirt’s Cecil and Cecilia. Kids‘ versions of adult styles – ‘mini me’ and ‘twinning’ – are also growing in popularity. In line with retail, most brands now offer a choice of ‘fit’ categories, as customers demand better fitting garments.

And what are the key colour and fabric trends?

There’s been a big increase in customers asking for fashionable new cuts, modern colour palettes and innovative fabrics, including retail-inspired combinations like tri-blends and marls. Popular colours this year include soft heather shades and earth-tones, especially military green/olive.

Neil Pitcher, head of sales at BTC Activewear

Has there been an increase in demand for T-shirts made from more sustainable/ organic fabrics?

Absolutely. Following the negative publicity of ‘fast fashion’ in recent months, many customers are now demanding a sustainable option, avoiding harmful chemicals and using certified sources for raw materials, fair/ safe conditions for workers, organic farming, re-usable plastics etc. Mantis knows all about sustainability having used organic cotton since 2005, which is one of the reasons we have re-introduced the brand back into our collection for 2019. B&C, Anvil and Bella+Canvas all have sustainable options in their ranges too.

What do you think is the main factor that influences T-shirt choice amongst your customers?

For a long time, the industry was two years behind retail/fashion, but now brands need to be ahead of the game with customers demanding the same fabrics, fit and choice that they see in retail. As a distributor, we trust our partner brands to research these trends and deliver what the industry is asking for. Growth will continue with the usual volume basic tees, but the move to more sophisticated styles inspired by fashion cuts and interesting fabrics is also driven by new printing technologies, especially DTG. Price will always be a factor for promotional T-shirts, but more customers these days are looking for something extra.

What do you think have been the most significant advances in T-shirts recently, and where do you think there is scope for further development?

The renaissance of polyester into a modern, anti-wicking sports/workwear garment fabric. Polyester also has a role to play in blended fabrics and supporting sublimation printing. Also, with the advances in digital printing, the printability of the fabric surface has improved significantly, as shown with the SG Tee Perfect Print Tagless Tee from SG and Fruit of the Loom’s new Iconic range.

Are T-shirt brands in the wholesale sector launching styles more frequently these days in order to keep up with the fast turnover of the fashion sector?

Inevitably, as the industry follows in the footsteps of retail, many brands are already introducing new fashion colours to existing styles mid-year. This causes challenges for distributors, but keeping ahead with innovative new styles, colours and fabrics is important.

What’s the single best piece of marketing and/or sales advice you can give to Images readers to help them sell more T-shirts?

Branded apparel is a more effective option than other promotional items – and the humble T-shirt is the most effective choice of all. What other item offers fast turnaround, great value, stock on the floor and vast choice? Consider a supplier that offers the best choice of brands, fabrics, fits, on-trend colours and finishes to satisfy your most demanding customer.