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Talking Tees


This season’s New York Fashion Week spotted influencers in their best dressed, showing off vintage logo, quirky slogan tees or band t-shirts, giving the rest of their outfit – be it a miniskirt, favorite denim, or even a dress, a ‘laid-back’ feel. It‘s a vibe that says looking good doesn’t have to be complicated or head-to-toes looks borrowed from designer’s, off the runway.

With the increased influence of sportswear and street style on youth today, graphic tees have become ‘must-haves’ and more important that ever! The renewed interest is definitely a phenomenon, with bold wordy tees taking to the political sloganeering of this election cycle, to fashion’s love for nostalgic ’merch‘. High end fashion designer’s like Dior, House of Holland, Hood by Air … just to name a few, ensured that they have this new staple – the graphic tee – as part of their collection to strike a chord with the young and bold.

The taste of now is more of mixing high-low; it’s more iconic and cool to wear a Louis Vuitton bag with a Supreme t-shirt!”

observes Virgil Abloh, of Off-white. This is the point where ‘street-wear’ is taking a new twist, than being just about a graphic!

For starters, let’s begin this trend report, seeing whats been the hottest on streets internationally and in India, after all that’s where the world is getting it’s inspiration from. Right?!

On the Streets

Top models and Hollywood celebrities are beginning to find, there’s one old-time item that’s fusing sartorial-ism with sweat-proof practicality: the T-shirt. From Vintage band tees, to bold sloganism, to super hit TV show posters from bygone decades, the feeling of nostalgia is on a high.

At New York Fashion Week SS2017, there was not as much, but more action outside of the shows, on the streets. Fashion influencers like stylists, models, photographers dressed up, oops! in this case dressed ‘down’ with retro graphic tees! Do not miss the popular 90s ‘Ghost busters’ and the ‘Spice girls’ tees! Basic athleisure logo t-shirts from Adidas were trending, worn stylishly over lace skirt.

On the other hand, what seemed to be Popular in B-town is a lot of Text. Slogan tee was the thing for 2016, and these celebrities didn’t miss out on this trend!
We see a huge consumer response to celebrities like style icon Priyanka Chopra’s appearance at ‘Late night with Seth Myers’ wearing Fausto Puglisi sweat which got 41k shares through the blog page. How fashionably ‘Royal’! Also, this recent picture of Nehu Dhupia is seen wearing  this graphic tee from H&M x Kenzo collection, during her radio show promo.

Since we are talking about street-style, social analysis would be incomplete without understanding the influence of the influencers on the fashion streets of India. Covered below are country’s popular bloggers and their obsession with graphics as they speak their mind out – visually!

Based on the above images, drawing comparisons between Indian and International street-style graphic trends.. the 80s and 90s trend of pop culture, tour merch and 70s vintage rendering has flooded the market overseas. International brands are getting inspired from West to East – California to Brooklyn, 50s to the 90s. Whereas, the influence of these decades on graphic is yet to penetrate the wardrobes of celebs and stylists, back in India.

Stylumia Insights

After the over-saturated market of licensed graphics tees from brands like Star wars, Marvel comics etc, the T-shirt segment is finally maturing. Stylumia insights reveal graphics like Texts and Inspirational message tees topping the charts, co-existing with other graphics like floral and licensed brand tees.

Stylumia’s lens has caught the below as top ranked graphics for the seasons Summer 2016 and Autumn 2016. Brands covered are River Island, Top shop, Elle, Zara, Mango, Asos, New look, Daisy, All about you, Fab Alley, Lee, UCB, Vero Moda, Only.. to name a few.

A few new comers are spotted trending, and might be the ones adding freshness to the coming seasons.
River Island’s Tour merch spliced graphic tee, Zara’s patched digital print tee, Palm motif and playful text placement in Top shop’s Hawaii tee. Voicing anarchic slogans and heartfelt expressions is also a new trend in Text graphics, as seen in Mood and Rebel graphic tees.In licensed brands, Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Simpsons are the favorites currently.  

Online research reveals

Moving on,now that we have spotted few contenders in the running for top trend spots – SS17 graphic, lets take a look at a comparative analysis of these items
worldwide: refer trend graph below.

Tour merch, a.k.a Band tees have shot up in demand since May 2016 and is at its peak this Autumn 2016, which is far ahead of the Funny text, Logo and Slogan t-shirts.

On looking at High-street brand portfolio for graphic tees in India, the option distribution draws key focus on graphics involving Text messaging and Font play, emphasizing on observations made in the earlier section of Indian celebs and street stylists.


Text/Message and Slogan graphics contribute to more than 50% of the Graphic tee offering among these High-street brands in India. Mango has the highest % of Graphics in its T-shirt range.

What is the future

With Graphics getting influenced by almost every decade, Nostalgia is one sentiment that most Brands are relying on. This also gives way to DIY rendering,
cursive hand scrolls, paintbrush techniques and naturally faded digital for Graphics. While there will be certain graphics, that brands in India will continue to doas a part of their Core range, the following are highlights of SS17’s trend must-haves, in order stay relevant and connected with the market.

The biggest trend that seems to be influencing not just Graphics but overall design direction this season is the 90s era. The google search trend report above
shows the popularity of ‘Band tour merchandise’ in the US, though that‘s still to see the light of day in India, and Indian brands are yet to launch this graphic trend which has become so popular so soon internationally. Vintage graphics of bands like ACDC, Guns N Roses, Metallica, Rolling Stones are commonly used, with a distress treatment. 90s Fav shows like Beverly Hills 90201 and Ghost Busters are also featured. Such merchandise enforced the public’s connect tangibly with their favorite artists.

Apart from the concert tees, Number graphics and Text messages are also under the influence of the 80s and 90s.

The next trend is a ‘must have’ today. As seen in Spring Summer 2017 runway shows  – House of Holland, Hood by Air, Slogans are big for graphics.

Elle UK did an article early November‘16 quoting “People feel they have no voice, but they can wear it on a T-shirt and people can’t not read it.”

The hashtags and captions have leapt from our smartphones and on to our clothes, with a ‘single-word Slogan’ enough to make an impact and voice opinion.

An extension of Slogan tee is the ‘Message t-shirt’, which involves literally heartfelt messages and moods put down in letters on a cloth. Many of these can
also be refereed to as the ‘Mood tee’ wherein the message describes the current mood of the wearer. Adding interest further, text graphics are designed with
embroidered rice stitching, hand scribbled, constrained within a box etc, to enhance visual curiosity. Some examples:

A sense of carefree, free spiritedness also comes with the play of placement of graphics. Keeping in line with the laid-back, casual ‘I don’t give a damn’ attitude
this season, embroidered patches, text and appliques are seen randomly thrown around the canvas of a jersey. Gender neutral t-shirts, slightly oversized in nature make their presence providing the space for lengthy text prints. Spliced graphics bring the DIY feel to it.

To Conclude

We live in a mass communication information age where many people have a short attention span and an identity crisis. A printed tee is a quick, sure-fire way to communicate and express your identity, thus the come back of graphic tees in a matured version.

SS17 will continue to see the young respond to events of socio-political significance, and this is captured through slogan and message t-shirt graphics this season. Truly the ‘democratization’ of fashion!

Seen trending, and something that will catch on big from initial reads is the 90s and 70s vintage graphics that creates nostalgia, bringing back moments of
great music, carefree vibe and happiness. Aged pictures and posters are of key focus along side textually bold graphic.

Embroidery and appliques are instrumental in providing a 3rd dimensional interest, elevating graphics. Through licensed brands and message patches, the
trend for these is kept alive and not yet on a decline.

Blog by: Pooja Saraf

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