The colours you wear for work and leisure can speak volumes about your personality and your mood. They can get you noticed and even make you seem more or less approachable. This means that the power of colours shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to corporate image and so, with this in mind, what colours should buyers look at for 2009?
Those under pressure to tighten their belts in the face of the economic downturn might consider classic colours such as black and grey – and they would be in good company. Sue Stedman, founder of Sue Stedman Corporate Clothing, says: “Over the winter months, the high street has been favouring dark shades. Classic colours like black are often chosen in suiting because they will not look dated in decades.”
But it doesn’t always pay to play it safe with colours when it comes to staff uniforms. “Without a doubt, black and navy are the most popular colours, both with managers and their workforces,” Sue says. “While dark colours can be seen as sombre, they also represent corporate efficiency, but putting staff into dreary, cold, dark colours does not guarantee that they will come across as efficient and professional.”
With the economic situation, consumers may not be as eager to splash out on a bold print dress that will be out of fashion in a few months, but Sue says that the dark colours we have been witnessing on the high street aren’t necessarily reflecting the gloomy mood of the nation – the time of year has a lot to do with what’s available right now and buyers shouldn’t read too much into it. Bright colours tend to be available in the shops in the summer when our mood is lifted by the sunshine and warm weather.
Take the spring/summer 2009 collections paraded on the catwalks of London, Milan and Paris, for example. In their determination not to be overtaken by world events, the catwalks were a burst of vibrant colours, tribal prints and shiny fabrics – so much so that you wouldn’t know there was a recession on.
Instead, the catwalk and high street spring trend for adventurous, feel-good colour seems to be trying to overcompensate for the gloom by cheering us up. Take ASDA’s ‘red recession dress’: at £9.99, it heralds the way for a more frugal approach to dressing, while the bold colour has been designed to lift the spirits.
Photo provided curtesy of easyJet airline company limited
It has never been more important to project confidence and the feelgood factor in the corporate sphere, and this can be achieved through careful consideration of colours and combinations. Brighter colours often project a warm and confident image, Sue says: “Orange traditionally represents fire and pink is seen as warm, which can help staff to stand out and present a cheerful, positive image. Meanwhile, complementary colours when placed together act to intensify each other. Blue and orange, yellow and violet, and red and green all perform in this manner.”
Colours not only affect moods and emotions that can influence the customer and the wearer – they can also trigger associations with cost and quality, and our ideas of a company’s market positioning, aspirations and service.
Take airlines, for example. Flight attendant Katie McDonnell says: “Orange has become associated with low cost and no frills service thanks to Easyjet and also branding such as Sainsbury’s own low cost brands. Darker colours are favoured the higher up the market you go as they are associated with chic sophistication, which is appropriate for airlines looking to attract premium-rate business and first-class passengers – think British Airways.”
When EasyJet Airlines launched, its bright, in-your-face orange, casual-T-shirt-and-trousers look declared that they were different from other airlines, that they were low budget and proud of it. Its latest uniform, however, which was voted for by staff, presents a smarter and more professional look while maintaining those sentiments. Tailored black trouser and skirt suits are complemented with just flashes of orange at the neck through ties and scarves, as well as badges with the option of an orange or white shirt.
Although EasyJet is still proud to be a low cost airline, staff wanted to feel more professional and authoritative by combining suiting with a toned-down orange. By looking more professional, staff are more likely to feel confident and good about themselves, which encourages respect from customers.
“Certainly, uniform colours should be selected with consideration of the effects that they have on wearers and customers,” Sue says, “but my personal belief is that customers are more affected by the overall colour and corporate identity of a company than they are specifically by the uniforms of staff.
“However, if the staff feel unhappy in what they are wearing, customer services will suffer. The key to success in uniforming a workforce is, without a doubt, having a uniform that people enjoy wearing.” .