Originally published on 14th March 2019
Updated 28th January 2020
10 Step Guide: Choosing the Perfect Bespoke Corporate Uniform
Have you explored the possibility of creating 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. We’ve also provided a handy step-by-step guide to designing and planning your new staff uniform.
What Is Bespoke Uniform?
First things first, let’s establish what we mean by a 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 specifications.
Any branded uniform can be considered bespoke to a degree, as you’ve chosen a selection of garments and added your unique company logos and embellishment. There are so many off-the-shelf clothing styles and colours available with flexible branding and personalisation options that the possibilities are almost endless.
However, many larger companies are looking to go one step further, by designing a branded uniform that is truly bespoke — whether through custom garment designs or Pantone colour-matched fabrics.
Is a Bespoke Uniform Right for My Company?
Before you begin planning your branded staff uniforms, 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.
Stand 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.
Company uniform suppliers will usually hold a stock of your garments for you so you can quickly replenish supplies as required. Going bespoke eliminates the possibility of other companies clearing out the stock you need, 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, which 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 numerous rules for employees to interpret. With bespoke uniforms, you can be very specific with the uniform standards expected, eliminating any misunderstanding of the dress code — 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 your company size and the number of employees you’re looking to kit out. Garment factories require minimum order quantities (MOQs) to make production cost-effective, so if you only need a small number of branded staff uniforms, it could work out to be too expensive or impractical.
Manufacturer lead times
Garment production lead times will vary depending on the manufacturer, the garment, the time of year and the transport method. However, bespoke uniforms will always have a longer turnaround time than off-the-shelf solutions — from initial production to delivery.
Clothing is normally made in other countries, so you need to allow time for shipping — including the possibility of a delay in the goods being cleared by customs — in addition to the production time. Sea freight is a popular transport method for overseas shipments because of the lower cost, but this can take several weeks. Air freight is much quicker but is more expensive, so will likely only be used where speed is a necessity.
Garments need to be designed, ordered and made well in advance of when you need them. Setting up stockholding of bespoke clothing 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 or technical fabrics. In either of these cases, you need to weigh up the benefits of going bespoke versus opting for lower cost off-the-shelf garments.
Requires commitment and investment
As your company uniform 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 to expect when embarking on the bespoke uniform design process and you should take it 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 you planned for. This can also happen if certain sizes are more popular than expected, and the 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 alternatives in a hurry if you need to top up before more bespoke stock arrives. In any case, the whole purpose of a bespoke uniform is that your team present a consistent brand image. If some are wearing your carefully thought-out design and others have a generic version, your branding may be compromised.
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.
The ten 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 to achieve for your company? Are you looking to build brand awareness, improve your professional image, or better position your company alongside competitors? Staff uniform can have a huge impact on customer engagement, It also has the power to boost employee satisfaction and culture while improving health and safety standards.
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 environments 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 how many employees in each role will require staff uniform, the number of male and female employees, the uniform allowance per person of each garment type, average staff turnover, new starters and expected garment lifespan. Likely, you won’t require every garment type to be bespoke, although this decision may be determined by the volume required. Discuss minimum production quantities with your company uniform supplier. Ask them to explain the variables that govern how many garments need to be produced in a batch, so you have an understanding of how to make the most cost-effective choices. For example, if there is a minimum production run of 500 polo shirts, ask if this can be made up of a mix of male and female-fit, or long and short sleeve versions.
The next step is to work out what you need to spend to achieve the outcomes you have set. Does this match your available budget? Don’t forget to take into account the previous three steps. Calculate how much you can invest initially, how much per year thereafter and whether you will ask staff to contribute if they want extra garments outside the standard allowance. Where will your budget come from? You may choose to draw from more than one pot, such as human resources, marketing or health and 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 always 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. It’s also a great idea to include your staff in the early design stages. They will be wearing the uniforms and are likely to have an insight into what will work best for them and what is most likely to appeal to your customers.
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 amount of bespoke fabric, consider buying or underwriting an 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 apply your planning from the first six steps to help you decide on your full set of staff 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 you plan to provide. Work with your supplier to create this plan, as overlooking an important aspect could prove costly.
Once you’ve made the final decisions, you and your supplier can collate your first order for production. You will need to address the following questions: What quantity do you need of each garment, for your own purposes and to ensure that you meet the factory MOQs? What amount of each size do you need? If you don’t know the clothing size of your team members, your supplier can help advise on the average usage ratios for each size. How many items will you order in the initial batch? How will you manage future batches to top up the stock — and will replenishment orders always be for the same quantity? What are the production lead times and when can you expect your first 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 company uniform 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 with the factory? 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 all stock yourselves, or will you only receive delivery for exactly what your staff need at this point? Do you want your supplier to pack and label the shipment 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 uniforms have the power to boost your brand awareness, ensure brand consistency, attract customers, motivate employees, simplify uniform policy and allow you to tailor garments to the specific needs of your staff. However, the size of your workforce and budget will play a key role in deciding whether it’s a viable option 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.
If you’ve decided that an off-the-shelf branded uniform suits your company best right now, take a look at our extensive range of corporate uniform and workwear. Most items can be personalised with printing or embroidery.