CHICAGO — How important are uniforms to a business or organization? Customers respond more favorably to an employee in image apparel than one who is not, according to the North-American Association of Uniform Manufacturers and Distributors (NAUMD).
In a recent survey by Weintraub Associates, 97% of the public said it believed that image apparel programs make employees easier to recognize, while 70% felt employees looked neater and more professional.
“As businesses seek a competitive edge in an uncertain economy, providing employees with a fresh look can be a cost-effective way to appeal to existing and new customers,” says NAUMD President Richard Lerman, whose association honors the best corporate and image apparel programs annually.
And because employee apparel is so important to the branding of any organization, perish the thought of it being behind the times or—gasp—out of style.
Just as the leading fashion designers unveil their new styles each season, uniform makers are also in tune with the “hot” designs and colors.
Runway-inspired apparel can easily be translated to the workplace and help build brand identity and uniformity, according to Cintas, which designs, manufactures and implements corporate identity uniform programs.
“Fashion makes a statement, and work wear uniform programs are no exception,” says Michelle Dortch, senior apparel designer at Cintas. “We strive to produce comfortable, stylish uniforms that maintain a highly professional look. This way, we can make a positive impression on guests and ensure that staff members feel and look great, which translates to a welcoming work environment.”
The company recently released its 2011 Fall Fashion Trends Forecast for the hospitality sector, detailing emerging trends and providing hoteliers a sense of direction when considering seasonal changes to apparel programs. Here’s what Cintas sees as the top fashion trends this fall:
- Slimming Separates — Both men’s and women’s work wear pieces are tailored to give a slimming illusion this season. Drainpipe pants and pencil skirts elongate women’s figures to create thin silhouettes. Men’s pants are also cut to be more slimming and can be accentuated with blazers cut away from the body.
- Sweater Dressing — For an updated take on the preppy trend, lightweight sweaters and sweater vests in a variety of colors are a stylish choice. When accented with a dress shirt, tie and tailored pants, sweaters can be a great alternative for properties that want to look professional without relying on suits. Sweaters are also key for creating a sharp, layering effect.
- Soft Details — Drape, tie and bow details add a feminine, chic touch to work wear tops. The elegant and comfortable pieces are great alternatives to the classic dress shirt.
- Sleeveless and Cropped Tailoring — Sleeveless blazers for women provide a softer look for a jacket. Hoteliers can pair these with blouses to create an eye-catching, layering effect. Additionally, slim, cropped pants bring height to the lower body and allow the option of combining with a pair of fall boots.
- Dramatic Colors — Gray and chocolate hues such as charcoal and mocha provide relief from the usual black suiting and white dress shirt while allowing businesses to differentiate themselves. Bright tones such as teal, curry and red also bring a lively splash of color to work wear for the gaming and hospitality industries. Lighter suiting in shades of stone and oyster are an ideal alternative for the resort market.
- Precision Suiting — The return of peaked lapels—a phrase which describes when the folded flaps in front of suit jackets or coats point up and out just below the collar line—brings a precisely tailored look to suiting this season. Satin lapels and single button closures make the peak especially fresh this season, allowing dressy suits to double as black-tie appropriate.
- Menswear-Inspired — Menswear- inspired jackets and ties are also emerging this cold-weather season. Smaller ties, with a width from 1 1/2 to 2 inches, are an excellent and polished choice for banquet and foodservice employees.
- Small Doses of Print — Small neckerchiefs for women in floral and geometric prints can add just the right amount of fun. Subtle plaids and jacquard patterns also bring desired texture and depth.
The desire for staff to look and feel their best while at work has extended to the healthcare segment, according to Scott Delin, national healthcare marketing executive for Superior Uniform Group.
“Many facilities now desire garments that are designed to be not only more stylish, but also durable, commercial laundry-friendly and provide comfort for the wearer,” says Delin. “This includes comfort not just in terms of touch but also in modesty.”
Simple, cost-effective things such as offering customers a long, waffle-knit robe instead of a thin, coarse gown or, worse, a scratchy disposable paper “garment” can evoke the feeling of a luxury hotel, he says. Patients who may be sensitive to cold temperatures need a garment that offers more warmth than a thin fabric or paper.
Ensuring examination gowns and jackets provide the proper coverage is important, too, Delin says. Even the color of the gown or jacket can help ensure a positive patient experience, and facilities are looking for on-trend colors in patient wear, in-cluding unisex jewel tones, modern prints and more.
For those healthcare workers who have the option to not wear the standard hospital-issued scrubs or coats, there are many fashion-forward options available.
One such line of nursing uniforms, Infxous Scrubs, is a trendy, high-quality line of scrub uniforms for nurses and medical workers who want to add style to their career, says creator Melody Merritt, who worked in medicine for several years.
Several styles and colors of both top and bottom scrubs are available from the company. The square-neck lace top and button-up top bring a sense of style for women, while the unisex top and dog tag screen-printed top are perfect for male nurses with keen fashion tastes, the company says. All are made of a water-repellent micro-suede material.
Medelita, a manufacturer of gender-specific lab coats and medical apparel, has introduced a program designed to help doctors, dentists and clinicians display a consistent and professional message for their office or practice.
At the heart of Medelita’s “Office Make-over” program is embroidery service. The company believes that name-and-title embroidery is the finest finishing touch that one can add to a lab coat or scrub set. Custom embroidery offers an artistically rendered and sewn display of the wearer’s office, hospital, or practice logo.
Not only does an apparel program identify staff and professionals to guests or patients, image apparel can extend a company’s brand, increase safety, enhance interior décor and improve employee morale.
A hotel’s front-desk clerk or a medical center’s chief surgeon may not picture themselves as runway models, but the vibrant garments they’re wearing today could be worthy of this month’s cover of Vogue.