Have you explored the possibility of choosing bespoke uniforms for your company? It’s a great option for larger organisations who are looking for a truly unique uniform. In this article, we explore the pros and cons of opting for bespoke corporate clothing, and how to design and plan your uniform in our clear step-by-step guide.
What is bespoke uniform?
First things first, let’s establish what we mean by bespoke uniform. The word ‘bespoke’ means ‘custom-made’ or ‘made-to-order’. In the context of staff uniform, this means the design and production of corporate clothing and workwear manufactured to your unique specification.
Any branded workwear can be considered bespoke to a degree, as you’ve chosen a selection of garments and included your unique company logos and embellishment. As there is such a wide range of off-the-shelf clothing styles and colours available, as well as flexible branding and personalisation options, the possibilities are almost endless.
However, many larger companies are looking to go one step further - by obtaining uniform that is truly bespoke, whether that be through custom garment designs or Pantone colour-matched fabrics.
Is a bespoke uniform right for my company?
Before you begin planning your uniform, it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of going bespoke. This will help you understand the benefits while deciding if it will be practical and cost-effective for your organisation.
Standing out from the crowd
By choosing to go down the bespoke route you’ve got a fantastic opportunity to be truly creative and to make your employees stand out from the crowd. Creating a strong visual impact with your uniform could mean the difference between a customer knocking on your door instead of that of your competitors.
Designed to suit your needs
When you opt for bespoke clothing you can ensure the garments are designed to your exact specification, with special functionality to suit staff preferences and the needs of the various job roles. If you are struggling to find off-the-shelf garments that fit the bill, it’s time to consider the possibility of going bespoke.
Uniform suppliers will usually hold a stock of your garments for you for call-off when required. Going bespoke eliminates the possibility of other companies clearing out the stock, and allows you and your supplier to manage the quantities based on your usage. You can rest assured that your uniform is there when you need it, and you won’t have to make a rushed order of unbranded or unsuitable alternative garments.
Impact on staff morale
Employees will feel more pride in what they’re wearing with a carefully designed bespoke uniform that is both fit-for-purpose and perfectly tied to your brand ethos. You can use uniform to boost employee engagement, by demonstrating how much thought goes into the process of selecting it. You can even involve staff in the design process, further strengthening their psychological attachment to the company brand.
Simplifying the uniform policy
Enforcing a uniform policy can be challenging, especially if there are several garments and rules for employees to interpret. With bespoke uniforms, you can be very specific with the uniform standards expected - plus it makes getting ready for work each morning much easier for your employees!
Minimum production quantities
Whether bespoke uniforms are a realistic option will depend partly on the company size and the number of employees you’re looking to kit out. This is because factories require minimum order quantities (MOQs) in order to make production cost-effective.
Manufacturer lead times
Garment production lead times will vary depending on the manufacturer and the garment, but what is a certainty is that bespoke uniforms will not have the same turnaround from initial purchase to delivery as off-the-shelf solutions.Clothing is normally made in other countries, so in addition to production, you need to allow time for shipping, including the possibility of a delay in the goods being cleared by customs. Sea freight is a popular transport method for overseas shipments, because of the lower cost, but this takes several weeks. Air freight is much quicker but is more expensive, so will likely only be used where speed is a necessity. These are things you need to bear in mind as garments need to be made in advance, and a stockholding with careful stock management is highly recommended.
Bespoke can cost more
If your garment volumes are low and you are unable to commit to a larger quantity for future use, you may discover the price is prohibitive. This is because you will be unable to benefit from the economies of scale that larger production runs can bring. You may also find special design features will increase the cost, such as extra pockets for example. In either of these cases, you need to weigh up the benefits of going bespoke versus opting for lower cost off-the-shelf garments.
As your supplier will likely hold a quantity of the bespoke garments for you, underwriting the stock or making an upfront investment may be required. This is something you should expect when embarking on the bespoke process and should take into account when allocating your uniform budget.
Risk of stock running out
If your stock of bespoke uniforms is not well managed, or your usage increases suddenly, there is a chance that stock may run out earlier than expected. This can also happen if certain sizes are more popular than expected, and stock of those is depleted before the next bulk order has been placed or delivered. The longer lead times for bespoke garments means you do have to think ahead and predict when you will need more. Depending on how unique your special garments are, it can be difficult to source alternative similar garments in a hurry, in the event that you need to top up before more bespoke stock has arrived.
Risk of wasting leftover stock
If your requirements change or you undergo a company rebrand, there is the chance of wasting any leftover stock. Uniform should be a key consideration in a rebrand. If you roll out the updated branding but your uniforms are still from the old stock it will lead to brand dilution and may look unprofessional.
10 steps to buying bespoke company uniform
Now we’ve covered the pros and cons of bespoke corporate clothing, you will be closer to deciding if this is the right option for you. As we’ve seen, it's great for some companies but simply not feasible for others.
These 10 steps below will help you conclude whether or not bespoke uniform is the route you wish to take, and if so, how to go about it:
Be clear on why you want to create bespoke uniforms. What do you want it to achieve for your company? Are you looking to build brand awareness, improve your professional image, or better position your company alongside competitors? Uniform can have a huge impact on customer engagement, and also has the power to boost employee satisfaction and culture and improve health and safety.
2. GARMENT REQUIREMENTS
Consider the practical needs of different personnel and job roles, but avoid being too specific about the visual design at this stage as we will move onto this in Step 5. Here your focus should be on functionality, durability, protection and comfort. Additionally, consider the contexts in which the uniform will need to be effective; for example, outdoors or indoors, in hot or cold weather, during the day or at night, for manual work or office-based roles.
This is when you will need to do some calculations. Consider not only how many employees in each role will require uniform but also the male/female split, the uniform allowance per person of each garment type, staff turnover, new starters and average garment lifespan. It’s likely that you won’t require every garment to be bespoke, although this decision may be determined based on the volume required. Discuss minimum production quantities with your uniform supplier, and they can explain the variables that govern how many garments need to be produced in a batch.
The next step is to work out what you need to spend based on your available budget, while taking into account the previous 3 steps. Calculate how much you can invest initially, how much per year thereafter and whether staff will contribute if they want extra garments outside the usual allowance. Where will your budget come from? You may choose to draw from more than one pot, such as human resources, marketing or health & safety.
Now is your chance to get creative. Be sure to work with your brand team or design agency and your uniform supplier when deciding on your uniform design. Think outside the box, but also check feasibility with the supplier to ensure practicality and cost-effectiveness. They can offer advice and recommendations on aspects you may not have thought of, while your brand team can ensure the design is in line with your corporate brand.
You will need to decide whether to use off-the-shelf material or fabric dyed to your corporate colour. Custom fabric colours may increase the minimum production quantity but will ensure you stay 100% on brand. If you don’t have large enough requirements to make use of the minimum quantity of bespoke fabric, consider buying extra stock of fabric to be used at a later date, instead of tying up the money in finished garments. Ask your supplier about sustainable and recyclable fabrics, while ensuring they are suitable for the requirements you outlined in step 2.
7. FINALISE THE UNIFORM
Now it’s time to use the first 6 steps to decide on your full set of uniform. Final decisions will need to be made on which garments will be bespoke and which will be from stock, what colours and fabric you are going for, which will have separate male and female fit, which will be unisex, and the size range.
Once the final decisions have been made, you and your supplier can collate your first order for production, for which the following questions will need to be addressed: What quantity do you need of each garment, ensuring you meet the factory MOQs? What quantity of each size; if you don’t know the sizing of your team members, your supplier can help advise on the average ratios of each size. How many will you order in the initial batch? How will you manage future batches to top up the stock, and will replenishment orders be for the same quantity? What are the production lead times, and when can you expect delivery?
Before you receive delivery of the first order, consider where the spare stock will be held, whether that’s at your premises or with your supplier. Will you purchase all stock up front, or will your supplier finance the stock and ask you to underwrite it? How will usage and stock quantities be managed? What will trigger the next forward order? What will you do if one or two sizes run out early?
10. ISSUING UNIFORM TO STAFF
This may be simple if you have only one location, but how will you coordinate distribution of the uniform if you have multiple branches? Will you hold any stock yourselves or just receive delivery for exactly what your staff need at this point in time? Do you want your supplier to pack and label the delivery in individual Employee Packs for each member of staff? How will you handle returns, exchanges, or cancellations if a member of staff leaves? All these questions may seem daunting when organising uniform for the first time, but this is where your supplier can advise and facilitate a smooth, hassle-free process.
By now, you’re hopefully feeling well informed and excited about the prospect of crafting the unique corporate workwear and uniform you’ve always dreamed of. Bespoke uniform has the power to boost your brand awareness, ensure brand consistency, attract customers, motivate employees, make your life easier with a simple uniform policy, and gives you the opportunity to tailor garments exactly to the needs of your staff. However, the size of your workforce and budget will play a key role in deciding whether it’s a viable reality for you.
If you have decided that bespoke uniform is the way forward for your company, get in touch with the WISE Worksafe team today. Give us a call on 020 8381 1811, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to our online contact form. We’re happy to discuss your functionality and design requirements, and help you through the 10-step process and beyond...