Lucy Woodward, sales and marketing manager at Disley, takes a look at the challenges faced when creating a workwear wardrobe that caters for all.
The biggest challenge facing the corporatewear sector remains how to create a working wardrobe that caters for all, performs as it needs to and is something the wearer feels happy and proud to wear. None of this is new, but the means by which suppliers tackle the challenge is evolving.
The first to have its part to play is fabric development.
Where the typical tailoring colours remain navy, charcoal and black, customers are increasingly asking for pops of colour to sing out from this neutral backdrop and create that eye catching edge. Developments in dye stuffs mean that it is possible to achieve a new level of vibrancy and colours that have an iridescent quality, bringing a sense of depth and life that achieves an edge that goes beyond just pantone shade matching.
When requests aren’t for colours that are bright and zingy, they are for rich and sumptuous shades. Fabric developments can help here too; combine a deep shade with fabrics that have drape and fluidity and you can create a look of real opulence without breaking the bank.
Next to evolve is the way in which ranges are structured. Catalogues are no longer just a collection of appealing, but disparate items of clothing, from which end users select a single item most likely to cater for most of their needs. Brochures are now promoting a co-ordinated approach that allows multiple inter-connected styles to be selected.
Colour consistency across the styles is a given, but also key to this approach is offering different fits or even shapes within the same style family. Different collar styles within the same block for men’s shirts have been evident for some time, with every different collar configuration, slim fit and even double cuff versions of the same shirt not uncommon, but take this a step further and you can start to cater for different women’s tastes and body shapes too.
Disley now offers two distinctly different blouse styles in the same four print fabrics. Catriona is a round neck style, offering an elegantly loose fitting blouse style, with a simple contemporary neckline, while Ava is a more traditional button to the neck style, with a soft collar and gently shaped body. This instantly offers wearers the opportunity of selecting whichever style appeals to them and suits their body shape the most. Add into the mix co-ordinating ties, scarves and plain shirts and blouses and the wardrobe is complete.
Men aren’t being forgotten in all of this. The changes may be more subtle than some of the blouse developments, but they’re still there. For men, it’s all about the fit- neat, contemporary collars with short collar points and tailored fits that are slim, but not tight. Tailored through the body, with darts at the back and a similar silhouette mirrored into the sleeves, with a good fit across the shoulder key to finishing the look. Disley’s new Tramore shirt takes that concept one step further adding taped side seams, armholes and back yoke- all adding to the sense of luxury and assured longevity of appearance.
This variety of options creates a complexity of supply, stocking and manufacturing that isn’t easy to solve, particularly where mills and factories put ever more pressure on suppliers to increase minimum order quantities, but those who can balance all those challenges will take a step closer to ensuring that all wearer preferences and needs are accommodated in their uniform. Given that it’s well known that achieving wearer buy in hugely increases the success of any uniform, being able to accommodate all needs and choices at the same time as presenting a unified corporate image, in a uniform that stands the test of time, has to be well worth aiming for.