Each Tuesday leading up to Christmas this December, I will be interviewing members of the team, to share their extensive knowledge of uniform!
From the international trends we see emerging, to the five things every purchasing team should avoid when buying a uniform, you are in for a treat!
Today I sat down with Elise, Studio 104’s Designer and Project Manager. She prvides some insight into the importance of fabric in a hospitality uniform.
Why are performance fabrics so important in hospitality uniforms?
We are not designing fashion garments, uniforms endure a lot more wash care and movement, staff wear their uniforms for 8 hours a day every day. This means that the fabrics have to withstand rubbing around the arm area, and pulling in stress areas. For example pure wool may look beautiful in a garment, but when you put that fabric through several washes the fabric will fall apart. From a stand point of longevity, fashion fabrics aren’t really the way forward in our uniforms.
People can underestimate the importance of choosing the right fabric, they may like a certain weave or print from a mill, but the fabric will snag easily, and therefore will not stay the beautiful garment it was designed to be.
What are the main features you look for in a fabric used for uniform?
The five key features that I look for when souring a fabric for a client are found in the fabric’s technical ability.
The first is the fabric’s abrasion resistance, which means how much rubbing the fabric can withstand before the fibres begin to break down and reveal a hole. The abrasion resistance of a fabric is hugely important in corporate wear due to the amount of times the garment is worn by the employee. I also look at the strength of a fabric, this usually means that the fabric has a tighter weave, but the fabric will not necessarily heavier. This means that delicate blouses can be as durable as a corporate shirt. Another test carried out on fabrics which is important to Studio 104 is the pilling resistance. Pilling is a surface defect which can occur in fabric from general wear, but some fabrics have a high pilling resistance. Trousers are prone to pilling, so this is something the team always consider when sourcing fabrics.
I ensure all the fabrics we select have a high colour fastness, especially in shades of blacks and greys. The colour fastness of a fabric can be helped by the amount of polyester content. Customers will come to us and talk about using new wool and silks, but it’s the polyester that provides durability and strength. The technology in mills now means that polyester is a lot more refined and can feel luxurious against the skin.
We also consider the stretch in fabrics, especially in waiters’ uniforms, which will allow for an ease of movement and is a lot more comfortable to wear. We follow a rule in our uniforms and would not advise the use of more than a 3% lycra content in a fabric. This is because a higher percentage can cause a visible effect in the fabric after general wear where the lycra starts to break down and you can see little white flecks and a shine in the fabric.
We want our uniforms to maintain their smart appearance and the most important stage in development is sourcing the right fabrics to produce a performance uniform.
How can aftercare effect a hospitality uniform?
The aftercare of a uniform is the most crucial stage of the garments life, and can hugely impact the garments appearance. The high temperatures in industrial processes the hotels use can cause shrinkage in woollen fabrics, and can even burn polyester, which leaves a shine on the uniform. With this in mind we include an allowance in the pattern of every garment to accommodate for shrinkage, to ensure that the uniform is still comfortable for the employee.
Mills provide the wash care for the fabrics we use, and it is important for us to ensure that the hotel or restaurant will care for these fabric in the right way to ensure longevity of their uniforms. By understanding hotel’s processes we can tailor the uniforms to their needs. Hotels need a quick turn around on their uniforms, so all shirts will be tumble dried. This means that at the stage of sourcing for fabrics, we must ensure that the shirting can be tumble dried daily. In contrast suits are made with lots of interlinings to maintain its structure, and so the wash care is not just about the outer fabric, we must consider all internal fabrics that could react differently.