Multi-functional apparel with marketing and motivational effect.
New fabrics and manufacturing techniques are bringing functionality to corporate fashion. Far beyond the external effect, company clothing is developing more and more attributes. It is technologically versatile, of high quality and of decidedly attractive design.
A+A, with around 1,300 exhibitors and the leading international trade fair for health and safety in the workplace, will showcase product innovations for all industries from 24 to 27 October 2005 in Düsseldorf.
Depending on the field of application, workwear must fulfil special functions and in the field of work, three main end use areas are highlighted.
One, dungarees, coveralls or aprons to protect personal clothing, for example for painters. Secondly, jobwear or corporate fashion, worn instead of personal clothing and at the same time identifying its wearer as a member of a company or profession.
The third element is represented by foul weather and high visibility safety clothing as part of personal protective equipment (PPE).
A+A will show that there is more and more overlap between these areas. Modern jackets, for example, allow the wearer to display the company colours and at the same time protect against wind and weather.
Particularly in the area of corporate fashion, remarkable developments have taken place over the past few years. It no longer serves solely to increase image and recognition, but is also highly functional.
More and more companies, even in the service sector, rely on corporate fashion. This fashionable and functional type of jobwear has led to an increase in earnings for German manufacturers of work clothing of 2.6 percent to €263 million by October 2004 compared to the previous year (source: German Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden).
This puts Germany in third place behind Denmark and Sweden, both of which achieved even higher revenues with jobwear. This year, the industry expects another increase.
As a tour of A+A 2005 will show, product innovations in the industry are not based on materials alone. Particularly in relation to styles, design and production techniques, there has been continuous development. Highly functional foul weather and highly visible protective clothing can be very fashionably attractive these days.
Materials from the field of athletics in conjunction with new production techniques and ergonomic shapes are creating clothing that offers the wearer a high level of comfort and the ultimate in functionality in all weather conditions.
Design itself increasingly takes its cue from the area of athletics. Elisabetta Birmelin, designer of sports and jobwear in Munich, said: "Just think of snowboarding pants, which are reinforced and padded at the knee with Cordura or similar materials. The same makes sense for trades such as tilers and floor covering specialists who do a lot of their work kneeling down.
“Stretch fabrics for the shoulder area borrowed from ski clothing makes it easier to work overhead. Mesh inserts at the back and under the armpits provide ventilation during sweat-inducing activities, not only for athletes.
Heat-insulating fabrics that are lightweight and water repellent, such as Gore-Tex, which is widely used in mountain climbing, protect workers who are exposed to the elements in their work.
In this context, Uvex conceived its "texpergo" collection, which was designed by Birmelin Design Studio. Here, experience in the fields of athletics, industrial safety and current trends in the materials sector merge into a clothing system that can be combined in many ways.
Using modern materials, current workwear meets several requirements at once and therefore usually requires fewer pieces. Described as multi-functionality, jobwear is more and more conceived as year-round clothing.
At Fraport AG in Frankfurt, the 4,500 loading dock employees have been equipped with windbreakers since last autumn. The jacket keeps out wind, draughts and light snowfall. With its fleece lining, it also insulates against cold.
The windbreaker can also be worn on its own in outside temperatures as low as 5°C. In this example, a wool sweater and light jacket were combined. During winter and in the rain, the combination of ‘Gore-Tex and windbreaker’ keeps employees warm and dry.
Fewer pieces with increased functionality not only translate into monetary savings for employers, but those who wear them benefit especially. They can be dressed in less bulky clothing during wind and/or cold with no reduction in functionality.
Lighter materials allow for trendier cuts and a better fit, which in turn makes them more comfortable to wear. And comfortable clothing increases employees’ motivation.
Corporate fashion also offers a whole range of industry-independent advantages. Whether for car mechanics or security personnel – jobwear is considered an effective marketing and image tool.
For example, the apparel of the 1,400 BMW ‘Servicemobil’ service vehicle employees carries a high recognition factor. Since May of 2003, they have been wearing corporate uniforms whose colours and design reflect the silver service vehicle.
The jackets, which conform to EN 471, are extremely heavy-duty, durable and low maintenance. They are wind and water-resistant. A detachable inner quilted jacket creates insulation against cold temperatures. The cut was modelled on outdoor clothing, so that the jackets offer a sporty look in addition to a high degree of functionality. Polo shirt and sweatshirt retain their shape even after repeated washings and ensure that moisture is wicked away from the body.
Leasing saves time and money
The entire handling of workwear has become easier. Today, many large suppliers work together with textile service providers – many of whom are represented at A+A 2005. They look after the subject of clothing from idea to logistics to product maintenance.
Again, Fraport AG serves as an example. Right from the start, it implemented the clothing for its loading dock staff in co-operation with textile service provider Bardusch and functional fabric manufacturer Gore. It was also sensible to involve employees in the development of the concept.
The result? Employees have a modern clothing system at their disposal which meets the wearers' requirements even during hard physical labour on the cold, windy tarmac. All of the clothing can be leased and it withstands up to 36 industrial washing cycles. This is a world premiere at A+A 2005 with respect to the so-called windbreaker jacket.
Bardusch even looks after storage and logistics. Added to this are washing, ‘maintenance’ and repair of the clothing, ensuring that employees are always dressed in clean clothing that conforms to the standards for their protective clothing.
To meet the individual requirements of each employee even better, the industry is not only working on new materials – A+A 2005 will show that clothing is more and more designed with separate cuts for men and women. The times when female police officers and others had to wear straight-cut pants and sports coats will soon be history. The Austrian police department has already equipped its female police officers with special styles for women.
A tour of A+A 2005 will also show that the functional material manufacturers and membrane specialists are always working to develop new materials and improving existing successful products. In addition, textile finishes are available to make clothing stain repellent or odour resistant.
‘Smart clothes’ go even further, with garments that respond to sensors, cameras or satellites through built-in devices. Already proven in the world of skiing as signal transmitters for avalanche victims, integrated microchips are capable of measuring pollutant levels or signal accidents to a central office.
Intelligent materials are still in the developmental phase. They work without built-in computers or sensors. They can change their characteristics depending on the climate, e.g. absorb heat to release it when needed.
But, since only few employees work under such extreme conditions, the main focus is on the development of materials that fulfil many functions without being obvious about it.
Fashion trends and the technical aspects of work and safety clothing are the focus of the "Corporate Fashion and Corporate Wear Innovation Show" as part of A+A 2005. Here, experts in their field can get to up to date on the latest trends in design, materials and functionality in daily fashion and functionality shows.
Further information on A+A 2005, the offerings of the exhibitors and information about their products is available at www.AplusA-online
Based on an article by Kirsten Rein for A+A 2005 organisers Messe Dusseldorf GmbH.