Remember when Louis Vuitton brought Virgil Abloh, creator of streetwear brand Off-White, on board as creative director of menswear back in 2018? That seemingly opened the floodgates for a line of luxury houses like Balenciaga and Gucci to offer luxe streetwear at higher price points.
Recently, we saw Fendi and Fila launch a limited line that combined the two brands’ logos. And the classic Polo Ralph Lauren collaborated with street-style Palace. If you’re not already paying attention to streetwear styles and decoration, you should be: 76% of fashion and retail executives say they expect streetwear to grow significantly over the next five years.
The good news is that street style hoodies have become way easier for decorators to produce for a few reasons. Screen printers and embroiderers have upped the ante by adding more imprinting options and customization capabilities to their shops. That’s enabled them to lower order minimums for higher-margin pieces like hoodies. “Now you have a much better chance of easily creating the look that people want,” says Howard Potter, CEO of Utica, NY-based A&P Master Images.
“You need to know what decoration your client wants to go in. Then you can start creating to bring the streetwear piece to life.” Howard Potter, A&P Master Images
This year, we’re all about bold statement graphics on hoodies. Texture on texture. Heartbreaker artwork. Special-effects embroidery. Today’s hoodies are lightweight and versatile, making them ideal year-round layering pieces.
We scoped out how a few innovative decorators are imprinting street style hoodies and accessories for their clients. Ready to decorate with some edge?
BIG, BOLD STATEMENT GRAPHICS
Big, bold statement messaging is a huge of-the-moment street style decoration. “The biggest trend right now is messaging,” says Chad-Eric “Chad Rico” Montgomery, a rapper and founder of Oakland, CA-based streetwear brand Gold & Gems.
Self-expression is so key right now that Montgomery reports watching designers cutting and sewing to make custom hoodies that include a mix of fabrics, before adding statement graphics. “Part of my design point of view is making statements with the hoodies we produce,” he says. “History and culture play the biggest influence in our designs and the messages we put on our clothes.”
2020 is the year that we’re letting fashion do some talking for us, whether it’s making a political or humanitarian statement, showing your love for a band or rooting for your favorite sports team. “People want to send a message and stand out,” Montgomery says.
Style tip: Matching tracksuits are back, but upstyled from the ‘90s look with luxe fabrications and thoughtful details. If your client wants to make a bold statement, suggest a matching set where you can decorate both the hoodie and a pant leg.
TEXTURE ON TEXTURE
As we head into 2021, textured hoodies are super in, from sueded fleece to shag, to faux fur and shearling detailing. On the winter runways, Givenchy, Miu Miu, Michael Kors Collection and Shrimps showcased shag and faux fur outerwear. Textured hoodies look fashion-forward for both women and men, and also offer comfort inside and out.
“Hands-down, the biggest streetwear design trend right now is messaging.”
“The hoodie is now the universal uniform of families, as in everyone can wear them,” says Carolyn Cagle, owner of Strikke Knits. “You can also express yourself on hoodies using lots of decorating techniques, like embroidery, screen printing, sublimation, DTG, rhinestones and heat-press printing.”
Chad-Eric “Chad Rico” Montgomery, Gold & Gems
“Hands-down, the biggest streetwear design trend right now is messaging.”
Lately, Cagle has gotten lots of requests for embroidery on textured hoodies, as well as embroidery that looks textured itself. “This style is great for companies, organizations, groups, schools, teams, sports and beyond,” she says. “I help my customers select the hoodie that works best with their design.”
Add to the stitched appeal with special-effects threads, like neons, metallics, variegated, and glow in the dark, along with 3-D puff elements.
Cagle also sees a lot of requests for multilayer images on hoodies, such as sublimation combined with embroidery for texture and sheen. “For example, you can dye-sub text in white and then column stitch around the letters,” she says.
We could definitely make the argument that 2020 is a year of some broken dreams and even broken hearts. But even back at the end of 2019, streetwear decorator Dawaud Muhammad started getting requests for “heartbreaker” or “broken heart,” tattoo-inspired artwork.
The owner of West Coast-based Big Printing T-shirt Co. says heartbreaker artwork on street style hoodies has continued strong into 2020—and is one of his shop’s most requested designs. Muhammad’s team creates lots of custom 3-D puff patches with these designs that communicate a toughness juxtaposed with a whimsical, bittersweet flavor.
Speaking of 3-D puff patches, you can also create custom, upstyled looks beyond heartbreaker designs with:
- chenille patches
- faux leather patches
- applique and reverse applique techniques
- heat-applied foils and rhinestones
- screen-print puff inks.
Style tip: Oversize unisex hoodies with retail-fit sihouettes and longer hemlines are huge this year. For example, new streetwear brand BOBBLEHAUS launched a whole collection of basics that transcend gender. Show your clients roomier styles that anyone can wear and feel great in.
UPSELL STREET STYLE HEADWEAR
If you’re selling on-trend street style hoodies and design, don’t stop there.
“You can easily bundle higher-quality headwear with hoodies,” Potter says. “Your goal should be to create a retail look that reflects your client’s brand, with a very custom feel.”
Trucker-style, snap-back hats and dad caps are popular this year. As far as headwear decoration trends, busy, text-heavy artwork on caps is out this year. Spot branding is where it’s at these days. See below for a sweet sample from Hattrix Team Sports.
Try embroidering smaller logos on the left front.
In addition, materials that add dimension are in demand, including:
- leather patches that are lasered, then stitched down
- puff embroidery with super-high profiles and clean contrasting logos
- sublimated patches with sewn-down satin borders.
BUILD OUT YOUR CLIENT’S BRAND
For 10 years, Potter’s shop has been the go-to streetwear decorator for R&B artist David Correy and his brand Urban Rock Records. The singer was a Top 16 finalist on talent competition The X Factor. Then, Coca-Cola signed Correy for a three-year contract. “He just blew up right away,” Potter says. “He traveled to 89 countries to sing for the World Cup of soccer.”
The lesson for your shop? You can help your clients take their company, team, group or band logo and turn it into a “clothing brand” that employees, supporters and fans will want to wear no matter what. “You can pair brand-name apparel with great artwork with custom locations. You’ll make the brand pop, and everyone can wear it,” Potter says.
If you have a client like a musician or a resort town restaurant that wants to create an apparel brand, hoodies are a great place to start. Potter’s team creates all of Correy’s merch, including his top-seller (and often sold-out) hoodies, followed by letterman’s jackets, T-shirts, joggers, hats, backpacks and even boy short underwear.
“The hoodie is now the universal uniform of families.” Carolyn Cagle, Strikke Knits
GET STARTED TODAY
Potter and his team are pros at selling streetwear programs. “You need to know what direction your client wants to go,” he says. “Then you can start creating to bring the streetwear piece to life. Aim to be more creative than other decorators, which will draw more clients to you faster.”
Here are four key steps Potter recommends that you follow to make your clients’ hoodie dreams a reality:
- Go down your checklist. Have a list of questions that you ask your client about their branding goal, what kind of artwork they want, what decorating technique they’re leaning toward, and the hoodie brand or style they want.
- Remember, seeing is believing. Potter recommends having samples of each technique in your showroom or high-res, full-color images customers can view online. “That way, you can show them exactly how the look you’re recommending will turn out,” he says.
- Customization is key. There’s lots of ways to customize, including name drops and adding additional decoration locations. “You need to be really clear on explaining exactly what you can achieve with each decorating technique too,” Potter says. “It’s about setting expectations.”
- Money talks. Review all costs to make sure that you’re staying within your client’s budget. And of course, know your own production numbers so that you can charge accordingly for your time. “Streetwear hoodies can take more time to produce fewer pieces,” Potter says. “Part of your job is to educate your customer on what’s possible for their budget and what it takes to produce, so they fully understand.”
Join the other successful decorators who are selling street style hoodie designs to clients across many industries. “With the right tools, a lot of imagination and a client who has the funds to invest into something different, the sky’s your limit,” Cagle says.