Every year, brands spend hundreds of thousands of pounds (if not millions) on guides that will tell them what people will be wearing in two years time. Most people are not aware but trend forecasting is one of the backbones of the fashion industry. Ever wondered why all of the sudden most high street shops, all of the sudden, carry the same nautical-themed clothes? It is not a coincidence.
Fashion designers have to make sure that what they put on the runway is what the customer wants, which is why they invest so much in trend forecasting — but T-shirts are different. Thanks to the idiosyncratic nature of these garments, T-shirt designers have a bit more leeway when it comes to their design inspiration. Still, there are still trends that can be seen across the industry.
Below you’ll find some of the T-shirt trends that are most popular across the industry right now.
Art School Projects
May it be collages or some experimental portrait, T-shirts have been taking inspiration from the art world. Instead of going for contemporary art or the grand masters of the Renaissance, this time around the look doesn’t have to be polished. It’s more experimental than anything else.
Another of the classic prints. Camouflage print, or ‘camo,’ for short, has been influencing the fashion industry since World War II. This season it is no different. These prints have made it to high street brand and luxury labels, alike. Whether you prefer the more traditional camo or a creative one, there is an option for you.
Fashion has always had a love affair with Asia. From the chinoiserie style which first became popular in the 18th century, the West has always liked to borrow from the Orient when it comes to aesthetics.
In 2018, I’m afraid it’s not as refined. Instead of gathering inspiration from porcelain vases, T-shirts will showcase Chinese dragons but drawn in an Ed Hardy style. If you’re one of the (very) few who miss the style from the noughties, then this is your time to rejoice.
Layering: Complex Designs with Flat Colours
Some trends don’t revolve around a particular theme but rather a technique or process. One of these examples is layering a flat colour with a more complex design. It is a simple technique that doesn’t require a lot of skill but it is effective.
Everyday Animal Print
Animal prints first became popular in the 60’s as an alternative to real fur. The new option was not only more affordable but was also kinder to animals. In the past, they were usually reserved for more elegant pieces of the wardrobe such as coats and accessories but not anymore.
In 2018, animal prints can be seen on T-shirts everywhere. These include the classic leopard but also zebra and snake. As we can see in the examples below, the print can cover the entire garment or just be part of the design.
Much like a vinyl, the design is cut from the foil which is later ironed into the final garment. This kind of technique allows you to add shine and glossiness to any artwork. May that be a logo or an original design, foil makes any garment stand up.
Who doesn’t want to go to Hawaii? Thanks to movies like Moana and spokespeople like celebrity Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Polynesian culture is now more mainstream than ever. Luckily, the prints are no longer restricted to the tourist shirt as this year, they are quite popular in T-shirts as well.
It may be the political climate — who knows? But the truth is that many garments showcasing names of places in the US have been popping up in high street shops everywhere. This is not your average tourist T-shirt, though.
The difference, this time around, is that it is viewed through a vintage lens. This effect may be achieved through a distressed print or a vintage font. Either way, we remember better times.
In today’s political climate, no public persona can afford to be impartial. This includes brands. As you can imagine, this creates quite the predicament for companies which the last thing they want to do is scare away potential customers with an extreme stance.
The way designers have decided to go around it is by creating politically-inclined, yet very vague slogans, that are hardly going to offend anyone. Benetton is probably the high street brand that has taken the biggest risk here by delivering a message about non-binary genders.
Once considered as a red flag for fashion victims, T-shirts with logos are now all the rage. Especially when it comes to streetwear, these garments have become a must-have in every wardrobe. The only condition is that the logos must be well-known and then, there are extra points if they’re from the 80’s and 90’s.
This trend has reinvigorated some classic brands such as Champion while, at the same time, making higher-end brands such as Gucci more appealing to a new target audience.
Type Centric Slogans
Garments with messages or quotes on them are a pretty common staple of the industry. Ever since we discovered how to mass produce T-shirts, there’s always been someone who used the process to say something.
This time around, though, the message is not the protagonist but the typography instead. What’s being said is not as important as how it is presented. Some of these fonts are hand-drawn while others are computer-generated but they’re all designed to get your attention. A popular design this season is the one of a slogan inside a geometric figure.
There’s nothing new about illustrations printed on T-shirts, they’re a pretty common staple in the industry but this time around they’re mostly hand-drawn. Whether real or replicated on a computer, these designs aim for a warmer and more organic look rather than the hard edges of the vector. Some of the themes explored will be maximalism, hyperrealism and nature.
Groundbreaking, right? Make no mistake that these are not your regular floral patterns. More like prints on steroids, that is. Flowers in 2018 are super-vivid, come with graphic elements and/or in neon colours. Anything but a wallflower, for sure.
Research: Hongcheng Liu, Harald Meyer-Delius
Text: Harald Meyer-Delius
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