When uniforms can fire the imagination

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As uniform designers we draw our inspiration from many sources. The catwalk and the high street are the obvious ones, but we also look to the environment in which the clothes will be worn and the history of the building when we are putting together concepts for hotel uniforms.

So it was interesting to see that uniforms can provide inspiration to couture designers, as our Product Development Manager Richard discovered. He visited Paris last week, and top of his list was the exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs about fashion designer Dries Van Noten.

The exhibition, called Inspirations, considers the influences that have stimulated the imagination of the Belgian designer and his contemporaries, and one of the reference points featured is uniforms, starting with 19th Century military apparel.

The commentary explains, “The officer’s uniform conveys a universal virility, while a school uniform signals order, authority and a sense of the group.” Although perhaps not when worn by Britney Spears…

We love this clear understanding of the role that uniforms play in our lives. At its heart is the importance of the message that a uniform transmits – the statement that it makes about the person and the organisation to which they belong. It’s to do with the impression created – and that impression is instant.

Getting clients to buy in to understanding what goes in to designing couture uniform is one of the challenges we face. Yes, there is the immediate visual reaction, which can be as much about personal taste as anything.  But behind this is a rationale – there is a reason why colours, styles and shapes are chosen. It’s not random, and it is always for a combination of reasons, ranging from the functionality to being sympathetic to the culture and environment in which the uniforms will be worn. It also presents the opportunity to add a new interpretation.

Dries Van Noten clearly ‘gets it’. So, as a fellow aficionado of uniforms, we salute you, Mr Van Noten !

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