s the corporate clothing provider to global brands such as Virgin Atlantic and Specsavers, Incorporatewear have to meet the differing expectations of thousands of wearers all over the world.
Wherever they are located, and whatever their size or shape, those wearers demand style, practicality and, of course, fit.
Sizing is important to those who make the buying decisions as well as those who wear the garments. Managers understand that winning wearer approval is crucial for the successful roll out of any new corporate wardrobe or uniform. They also realise that a poorly-fitted wardrobe will compromise their brand. So our ability to get the sizing right is a key advantage for us in winning and keeping new business, alongside the fundamentals such as price, quality and delivery.
In this article, I want to focus on four areas that add to the sizing challenge – obesity, global size differences, maternity and online ordering.
The rising number of seriously overweight people in some countries is one of the issues that contribute to sizing problems today. Newspapers recently described the UK as “the fattest nation in Europe” with a quarter of adults classed as “clinically obese”. In the US that figure is one in three.
Countries with rising rates of obesity are seeing strongly rising demand for plus-sized clothing in the retail market, and suppliers of work wear and corporate clothing have to adapt.
At Incorporatewear, we have put a great deal of investment into understanding the changing shape of people and developing design strategies to meet the needs of the modern population. In our design studio, we have installed an array of mannequins with a whole range of different specifications. These help us adjust the styling of garments to suit anyone from a slim, petite size six to a more rounded size 26 to 30.
Global size differences
Incorporatewear designs and supplies corporate clothing for clients all over the world so we make sure we consider differences in body sizes and shapes from nation to nation. For example, the Dutch are the tallest people in Europe while UK women have the largest bust measurements.
We also have to be aware of significant variations in body size that occur within most countries. For example, three quarters of Americans are forecast to be overweight by 2015, but that country also has many recent immigrants from other places with very different body shapes and sizes. By contrast, the Japanese are the most homogenous population in the world.
In my experience, a “one-size-fits-all-countries” approach to tailored wear won’t work. Organisations that have tried it have failed, even when rolling out across a single continent, let alone the whole world.
Our solution is to supply garments in petite, regular and long fittings as well as a wide choice of sizes. For many clients, we also offer a selection of garments within overall corporate wardrobes. This lets wearers choose from different styles, fabrics and sizing, including body shape and height, to increase the range of garments that suit them.
We think all staff should feel they are being treated fairly so every corporate wardrobe ought to have enough flexibility to accommodate special requirements such as maternity.
Maternity is a factor that we take into account at the design stage of developing a new range. With maternity garments, we like to offer styles that allow for the expansion of waistbands. We also ensure that maternity garments work alongside the rest of the corporate wardrobe worn by colleagues. We want the expectant mother to be comfortable and to feel part of the team, not isolated in an oversized ‘tent’.
Online ordering and returns
Incorporatewear has been a pioneer of online ordering. We even have an iPhone application so that wearers and managers can get real-time information about garment orders. Now that customers can order online, we have to work hard to avoid people ordering the wrong size since they are not able to try on garments beforehand.
Most of the items returned to clothing companies are due to size issues - items being too small, too large, too tight, too baggy and so on.
To try to ensure our wearers get it right first time, communication is vital so we issue “how to” guides, measuring packs including tapes and size charts, and DVDs. We hold workshops on self-measurement, and we provide a home measuring service. We regularly survey all the main retailers’ size charts and adapt our sizing books so that our sizes reflect what our wearers are used to on the high street. We also provide bespoke measuring guides to help wearers get the best fit for comfort and shape.
If people follow our guidance, it virtually eliminates returns. Of course, there will always be some wearers who don’t take the advice and others who may be in denial about their ‘real’ size so we do have to deal with some returns and queries on fit.
Fitting people of many different nationalities, working in a variety of occupations in countries all over the world will always be a challenge but the benefits are clear. Everyone involved in corporate clothing must give this complex issue the attention it deserves.