“If it’s done well, uniform can be a really important aspect of your whole brand and the way its perceived,” says Turner. “It’s a way of complimenting everything you’re trying to create.”
How to design a uniform – a guide
Step 1: Understand how your uniform fits in the workplace
The first step to designing a uniform is to understand what kind of workplace environment – or experience – you’re trying to create and how a uniform might fit into it. Take note of the interior; is it modern? Formal? What colours are in the space? Think about the brand logo too – how present is this in the business? Do some wider research to get a sense of contemporary uniform design in similar settings to your business.
A uniform can contribute to the wider experience of a business in more ways than you think and it’s important to see it within the bigger picture. Turner highlights one business she worked with, Allpress Coffee, which dresses its staff in hard wearing aprons with khaki tones to match the warehouse feel of its cafes and roasteries. “At Allpress you have hooks where staff hang the aprons up at the end of the day,” says Turner. “I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen photos of that on Pinterest. It becomes part of the environment and another reason why you come back. How people experience a place is what makes people come back.”
Step 2: Know your employees – who are you designing uniforms for?
It’s always important to think about the demographic within your organisation. Are they younger? Older? Or a mix? It’s important to design a uniform that will compliment your workforce, but also to design an outfit they will enjoy – and be proud- to wear. “If you give somebody something that is breathable, fits well, looks good, that’s going to pass on in terms of morale,” says Turner.
Thanks to millennials – who have a more informal approach to work and work environments – the idea of uniform is evolving. This means you should think about how you balance the uniform against the individuality of your staff members. Are you trying to cover everyone up in the same way? Or leave space for staff to be more creative with their own outfits? Particularly in the service industry, this has changed. “It’s loosening up,” says Turner. “I used to find lots of clients wanted tattoos to be covered, whereas now it’s fully embraced in many organisations. There’s a more relaxed attitude now, and within service in general, a sense of wanting people to inherently express themselves more.”
Step 3: Make sure your uniform is fit for the job
While having a uniform that looks good is important, don’t lose sight of the fact that it has a practical purpose too – it needs to be fit for the job at hand and communicate the right message to customers. Different job roles may require different uniforms for both these reasons. For example, in a restaurant, you may want a different uniform for the manager – so if a customer has a complaint, they can easily see who might help. The bar team might require shorter aprons as they’re walking around a lot, while sleeve garters are great for keeping clothing clear from food and drinks (while also presenting another opportunity to add a flash of colour or detail). Meanwhile, a housekeeping job in a hotel is very physical work so you need to ensure the uniform can handle the rigours of the job.
“A uniform, in general, has to perform more than your average, everyday garment,” says Turner, who adds quality should always be a top priority. “For smaller businesses, keep the uniform it as simple as possible, that way you can have a better quality garment.”
Step 4: Decide on a colour for your uniform
When it comes to colour – don’t be too literal. “A lot of people take the brand colours and are very literal with them,” says Turner. “It can be more subtle than that.” With this in mind, avoid overly appropriating the colours of the interior – what looks good as decor, seating or signage won’t necessarily translate into clothing. Try being more subtle. Think about choosing a different colour for the uniform, or layering colours.
Step 5: Get a good uniform supplier
Your supplier is important for a number of reasons. You want your uniform to be high quality, and you want to be able to provide it in the appropriate range of sizes. You don’t want to sign off a uniform only to find it can’t be printed in the sizes you need for some staff members.
Having a good supplier feeds into another element of uniform design that businesses often overlooked, which is the maintenance of the uniform over time. Uniforms will experience wear and tear and, particularly in food and hospitality, are likely to get spilled on and stained. While this should inform your design in the first place, having a good supplier is important to make sure you can order replacements quickly. Still, be prepared just in case. “It’s always good to keep extra of your core sizes on site so there’s always enough to go round,” says Turner.
Step 6: Summary
The first step to uniform design is to understand how it fits into the workplace environment – think about the aesthetic and what it communicates. The second step is to consider your staff members – what kind of people are they and what kinds of outfit would suit them? Thirdly, make sure your uniform is fit for the job – different roles will require different outfits. A fourth thing to consider is colour. Try not to be too literal with it, and think about how different colours could denote different roles. Finally, make sure you have a good supplier – you want workwear to be high quality, but also, if an employee needs a replacement uniform, you want to make sure you can do this quickly.