Did you happen to catch Rihanna’s ultra-happy pink tie-dye dress by Asai? The demand for the throwback-patterned style hit such a fever pitch that the designer created a ready-to-wear version, with 100% of the proceeds going to charities that support Black Lives Matter.
That Asai dress definitely hit a cultural note in 2020. Yes, tie-dye has trended in and out for years, but it came to the fore in 2020’s runway and retail offerings—and promises to continue into 2021—because of the feelings it evokes: comfort, nostalgia, cheeriness, casualness and youth, even the sunny idealism of its ‘60s heyday.
Fashion designer Pamela Ptak attends lots of themed conventions, like Comic Con, throughout the year and noticed a trend toward super-happy consumerism that’s only grown stronger in 2020. “Right now, people are hungry for connection and meaning,” says Ptak, ARTSandFASHIONinstitute.com co-founder. “They’re looking to the past for a time of prettiness, peace and kindness. Designers have featured tie-dye’s optimism for several years, but now the general market is embracing it.”
No doubt, the global pandemic and hanging out at home in quarantine definitely broadened tie-dye’s reach. Case in point: We watched the tie-dye tracksuit become the stay-at-home uniform du jour for celebs. Hailey Bieber wore a rainbow set with a crop top from Drew, her hubby Justin Beiber’s line. Along with Dua Lipa, Kylie Jenner and Candice Swanepoel, lots of younger wearers picked up on the trend’s youthful, casual, cheer-filled vibe.
Tie-dye also evokes the carefree fun of music festivals, concerts and other packed positive-vibe gatherings, all of which COVID-19 made impossible—so we’re gravitating back to those happier places, but at home. Celebs like Katie Holmes, Victoria Beckham and Bella Hadid tried tie-dyeing their own clothes, and then posted the results on Instagram. For example, Beckham got her daughter and son in on the act to help her tie-dye T-shirts from her fashion label.
Jessica Jacobs, an Inside Sales Manager here at S&S, says “People are tie-dyeing at home with their families, evoking feelings of togetherness.” Springing from the homemade tie-dye activities, Jacobs sees commercial bleach-dye prints with bright colors and fun patterns to accentuate the design or message people want to communicate.
In 2021, expect to see tie-dye in lots of iterations: different patterns and color stories, on all types of garments, for all types of wearers. Here’s what you need to know to sell the trend.
Tie-Dye Catches Your Eye
We’re seeing T-shirts, hoodies, track suits, masks and caps (even dresses and trenches) in tie-dye patterns on the market, helped along by the work-from-home trend and the casualization of workplace attire. “The trend toward optimistic clothing will continue because actual life is becoming less optimistic,” Ptak says. “We hunger for balance. We never go fully in one direction.”
The key: showing clients a variety of tie-dye patterns and colors so they can choose what matches their markets best. “Some can use a full-on tie-dye motif easily, but others will need a gradation of hues or a gradation of tints and shades,” Ptak says.
Online webstores have flooded with sales of tie-dye apparel, and Jacobs thinks she knows why. “When someone casually scrolls through Facebook or Instagram, what’s more likely to catch their eye to stop and maybe visit a website?” she says. “Another black or grey T-shirt, or that fun-loving, colorful tie-dye? An end-user can go to 100 different online boutiques for similar shirts with similar content. The tie-dye aspect can make that one vendor stand apart from all the others.”
Of course, the classic spiral tie-dye tee will always be the nostalgic fan favorite. For example, Dyenomite’s Multi-Color Spiral Short Sleeve T-Shirt, style 200MS, has expanded its kaleidoscope of colors in this tie-dye pattern exponentially —with funky names like Day Glo, Hazy Rainbow, Illusion and Inferno—giving a fresh look to a classic.
We’re not only seeing tie-dye patterning in T-shirts, though. 2020’s newest accessory, masks, are also being tie-dyed. Two bestsellers to watch: Sportsman’s Maverick USA Made Comfort and Adjustable Face Masks in styles MAV20 and MAV25. They’re available in several tie-dye shades, including Pastel, Rainbow, Pink/Orange and Teal/Peach—to fit various markets and end-users.
You can also wow your customers with tie-dye headwear like the Lido Tie-Dyed Trucker Cap GB470 and Asbury Tie-Dyed Twill Cap GB482, by The Game. Aside from the usual brighter shades like Pastel, Sorbet and Sunrise, these hats come with some more neutral options. Greyscale and Navy Tonal are perfect for those just starting to dip their toes into the world of tie-dyed fashion.
Tie-Dye’s Here, There and Everywhere
Yes, there are die-hard tie-dye fans who’ll never want anything but Grateful Dead swirls, but we’re seeing other interpretations of tie-dye patterns, like boho and street style. The wholesale market is bursting with patterns and color stories to appeal to wider audiences. “Many of our brands recognize this trend, and they’re jumping on the train to add their own spin,” Jacobs says.
The more minimal the variation, Ptak says, the greater the market share it’ll have, so smart designers offer a range of patterns, from minimal to wild. “This year, Lilly Pulitzer has strong, happy prints,” she says, “but also offers some that are absolutely riotous with almost no calming influence in sight.”
At the subtler end, Independent Trading Co.’s Midweight Mineral Wash Hooded Sweatshirt (PRM4500MW) offers a tonal black tie-dye pattern. A slight step up in patterning, Dyenomite’s Crystal Tie Dye T-Shirt (200CR) comes in Black Crystal, along with Black/Red Crystal, Black/Columbia and Black/Teal patterns. Plus, go a little brighter with shades like Gold, Purple, Red, Royal and Turquoise.
Streetwear has also been tapping into the tie-dye market, so we’re seeing more unique variations of the popular trend show up on the wholesale market as well. Dyenomite’s Splatter Tees (200SL) come decorated with strokes of color that might remind you of a Jackson Pollock painting, but are perfect for clients that need the vibe of a tie-dyed shirt, with an artistic feel to it. On the pullover side, Independent Trading makes a Midweight Tie-Dyed Hooded Sweatshirt (PRM4500TD) that has kind of a graffiti feel to it, which will definitely appeal to the streetwear crowd.
Because of the rise in tie-dye’s popularity, tees with printed patterns are rising in popularity as well. “They’re fun and a little different from solid-colored tees,” Jacobs says. For example, LAT’s Fine Jersey Tee (6901) in Vintage Camo and Storm Camo is in demand. And don’t miss Code Five’s Star Print Tee, which come with both complementary men’s (3929) and women’s (3629) styles available in a wide range of colors like Burgundy Star to Coyote Star, to Military Green Star and Smoke Star.
Is Tie-Dye the New Neutral?
With an abundance of tie-dyes on the runways and at retail, the pattern has moved into “neutrals” territory, like the white T-shirt or khakis. “It’s definitely time to let the flower child association drop and enjoy the tie-dye motif for its own sake,” Ptak says. “Fashionable women into their 70s wear tie-dye unapologetically.”
Jacobs counts traditional tie-dyes in that ‘everyone-can-wear-it’ category. “People still love the bright colors and patterns, which express the happiness everyone’s searching for right now,” she says. “However, the more muted tones can reach a broader audience that don’t want to make a bold statement, but want these patterns.”
One style that should be easier to pitch to clients is Alternative’s Cotton Jersey Go-To Tee (1070). It offers a more universal tie-dye colorway in muted shades like Gray Tie Dye, Blue Tie Dye and Gold Tie Dye.
“With tie-dye, people are blending comfort with color and creativity, so now’s the best time to tap into the trend” Jacobs says.