• Niels Strohkirch

How to find a good Corporate Uniforms Tailor in Kuala Lumpur?


Kinslager Corporate Wear / Corporate Uniform

The discussion of corporate attire or also called corporate uniforms is probably one of the most controversial discussions you can have being in this line of business. Hotels, banks, insurance companies, airlines, retailers, food and beverage companies, property developers are typically customers and their requirements could not be any more diverse.


It all starts with the responsible person or persons managing the need to source for a corporate uniform supplier. It could be the Human Resource Department (HR), Marketing Department, Procurement Department, Visual Merchandising Department or even the Sales Department or the Personal Assistant (PA) of the CEO. In some cases the tasks of managing corporate uniforms can even be outsourced to an external designer or agency.

One thing for sure, those selected to take on this responsibility of deciding on appropriate corporate attire, all hail from very different backgrounds and experiences ie. from being highly skilled based on seniority and hands-on experiences in the business to simply feeling overwhelmed that the boss “dumped the job” on them, leaving them clueless as to how to even begin the process or rather the daunting search for proper uniforms that should ultimately reflect the identity of their respective organisations.


This article is targeting mainly the more inexperienced buyer of corporate attire / corporate uniforms who is looking for a bit of guidance to ensure that he/she makes the right decision when it comes to choosing the right vendor, price, materials and designs for their organisations to get the best uniform for their staff.


As usual in life, one size does not fit all and it really depends in the end on what are you looking for, respectively, what your specifications are and what your budget is. This is where I would like to begin. To make it easier I will keep it as general as possible. I will address fundamental points that organisations need to consider when deciding on the choice of corporate uniforms for their staff.


Let's start with this example. Assume a new organisation sets out to establish their mark in a particular country.



Preparation

The Management of this new brand is already building or renovating the new site and is now in the midst of figuring out what to do regarding the corporate uniforms for their staff. One of the first decisions that one has to consider is who should be wearing the corporate uniforms in the first place, and how many pieces are needed?

The next one step then would be in deciding on the design of the uniform and the potential material that has to be used to ensure quality is reflected.

The “who” is a quite personal thing and can vary from front line serving staff to Management level directly involved in guest/customer contact inclusive the General Manager (GM). In general I do suggest to our clients to ensure that all front-serving staff including the GM wears the same uniform as it shows the unity of the staff and management as well as making it clear to the guest/customer who is working in this facility. Many times you see Senior Management not wearing the corporate attire and if they do not wear a name badge or if they wear a suit which does not match the colour of the other staff one could go on guessing whether or not they belong to the establishment. This can create confusion in time of need i.e. when the customers need assistance.


Having a distinct corporate attire helps create a sense of identity and very often reflects the stability and integrity of the organisation in pursuing a common goal to offer the best service possible to all customers.



Volume To Order Per Staff


How many pieces of uniforms should you allot for the staff varies on their duties and the material you choose as well as whether you provide cleaning services (I will come back later to this very important topic). If you intend to hand out a suit (male- Jacket and pants / female- jacket and pants and/or skirts) with a shirt/blouse then I generally suggest the following distribution:

2 Jackets and 3 pants for male plus 4 shirts2 Jackets and 2 pants plus 1 skirt plus 4 blouses for female


If you are located in a country with warm or even tropical weather conditions, you most probably can either reduce the jacket to one piece or even abolish it. If your staff works only in fully acclimatized environment then it does not matter. Rather than having a jacket you could also opt for a vest which could provide a very distinctive alternative look.

If you intend to save money and hand out lesser than that there is a risk that the uniform will be too frequently cleaned and will wear out quite fast or you have the other effect that your staff will not clean it at all as they always “fear” that it will not be ready on time for the next shift. Both scenarios should be avoided.



Design and Materials


Design in conjunction with the respective material is usually the most controversial part in this process as it affects personal views as much as budgets. The most important thing is that you define the uniform for each job scope i.e. what the staff has to fulfil, in which working conditions and how long at minimum shall the uniform be wearable under these conditions. Try to stay reasonable here as no uniform will hold up for 5 years without being exchanged. If you already have an in-house designer with experience in uniform or fashion design then it is a good idea to start here and fully utilize this resource. Giving this job to a web-designer or your interior designer or even your architect may be a bit tricky as usually these people lack the experience when choosing the material. You clearly need to ensure that the design and fabric you choose matches the specifications of the job.


If you intend to engage a manufacturer for the design job ensure that they have a dedicated person who asks the right questions before coming out with “solutions”. Ensure that any design you chose is not only “fancy” and “looks good” but is also practical. If you have to compromise go rather for practicability rather than for fashion. Your staff will otherwise not feel comfortable and reject the uniform.


The choice of the material is vital as it will define how comfortable your staff feels in it and if you expect them to serve with a smile and be friendly even on a 10 hour shift, the comfort of the clothes they wear surely makes a big difference. Many times I do see decisions only made to accommodate a pre-existing budget, forgetting that the staff has to smile and serve for so many hours a day. It makes a big difference especially in tropical climate, whether you should wear at least a pair of mixed wool pants which breathes partially and feels much better on the skin, or a pair of full polyester pants which is non-breathable and will make you feel sweaty throughout the whole day and many times it irritates the skin as well. Yes, polyester is more durable than wool in the long run and is cheaper, but the down side is in service quality and the look of a faded black suit which is shiny as we commonly see. When I observe this I usually ask the staff: “Do you like your uniform?”. Guess what answers I get? For sure, never positive and it reflects negatively in their service with a smile ability.


Hence, ensure that your vendor you deal with shows you alternative fabrics and advises you on the breathing quality of the materials available as much as on the longevity of the material of choice.

If you have the time in the process ask for samples to be manufactured in the different designs and in different fabric qualities. Even if you pay extra for it, it is worth it. Wear them yourself and wash them a couple times. You will see and feel very quickly whether it serves your purpose or not.



The right Vendor/Manufacturer


Looking for the right vendor/manufacturer is as complicated as deciding on the right design and fabric quality. The general rule is to invite ideally at least 3 of them for advise and to also provide quotations. Avoid agents or sales people who do not have access to own facilities as they usually have a much harder time when it comes to take care of defects, as they are only a “middleman or middle woman”. They depend on the manufacturing time line of someone else. Therefore, eliminating the middle person and approaching one in control of their own manufacturing line gives usually more flexibility to the vendor and in the end to you. This makes more sense when one considers the original manufacturing process itself as well as for taking care of potential alterations. If you ask this vendor also to make design suggestions you can usually get a discount on the design fees if you then manufacture with them. This saves time and money. Be careful if someone offers you “free design” advise. Make sure they are in a position to make this offer in the first place.


How exclusive is this design? It could more often than not be a standard design already sold to many others in the same industry. Ensure that the material is long running and also available in the next 24months and that the manufacturer also commits to lower quantity of reorders.




Made-To-Measure vs. Sizing Chart


Whether you decide to go by a sizing chart or made-to-measure depends on your scope. If you have a 5 star hotel or you want to sell high end real estate worth millions, made-to-measure will make your staff look much better, for sure. However one must note that the costs will be affected. I do typical suggest that our clients follow a “hybrid-approach”. Typically everyone under Manager ranks gets the uniform by sizing chart. The chart is pre-provided and a written guide shows them how to measure themselves to find the right size. If you are a bit “out of shape” pre-manufacturing-adjustments can be requested. All managers and above will be measured professionally and will get a made-to-measure uniform. This will make them feel very special and will also encourage the lower ranked staff to thrive to be promoted to become a Manager in your entity.



Cleaning


Uniform cleaning is a very tricky point and in my experience, most uniforms are unusable not because as they are worn off but because most of the time they are cleaned wrongly. This mostly happens in the combination of a fancy design with cheap fabric and the unwillingness of the management to deal with the issue. I do always recommend that management takes responsibility for the cleaning of the uniforms as this ensures that the uniforms will be cleaned professionally (if you chose the right (dry-cleaning) company). If you leave the cleaning to the staff, most will not take much care here and would rather claim a new uniform as soon as the old one is “out of shape”. If you provide an allowance in cash, some will simply not clean at all, and may use the money for something else or will use the cheapest method of cleaning. Either way this will not be in the best interest of the Management. Hence, a centralized cleaning service is the best way of ensuring that you get the most out of your uniform investment. Of course, however it also means more work for the Management.



Time Line


Start the planning process as early as you can to avoid having delays in the delivery and being disappointed in quality of the product. Typically the design and material choosing process takes between 4-6 weeks while manufacturing depending on the volume can take up to 10-12 weeks. This gives you normally a minimum of 14 weeks for the whole process. If you opt for a made to measure option for your staff rather than one based on the sizing chart, the time frame might be even longer. If you rush the process you may run the risk of choosing the wrong materials and/or designs plus rushing the manufacturing process and at the end of the day you may end up with lesser workmanship quality. Typically manufacturers also charge express fees if you should need to “force” fast deliveries. This could make your product easily 30% more expensive. An amount of money you can easily safe if you plan properly. Also, you run the risk of opening your new facility/outlet without having a proper uniform on hand if you do not plan ahead. Running a reputable establishment without proper uniforms could reflect inadequate management abilities.



Summary


Choosing the proper corporate attire or corporate uniforms can be tedious and time consuming. But having a clear idea firstly about what the uniform stands for, its proper use and for how long it should last, will help narrow down the options considerably. Getting a distinctive design with endurable and comfortable material plus finding the right manufacturer is crucial in the process. Start the process as early as possible to avoid unnecessarily extra charges and/or compromised quality of workmanship. Starting early eliminates making decisions under pressure. Ensure that the material is long running and also available in the next 24months and that the manufacturer also commits to lower quantity of reorders. Implement a centralized cleaning process to prolong the longevity of you uniforms. If you follow these rules you will get good products for a reasonable price in a reasonable time frame and ensure the happiness of your staff.


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