When you think about the hospitality industry you imagine (ideally) well-tailored and stylish uniforms that are sophisticated yet understated, striking the right balance between professional and practical. Yet at the same time thinking about uniforms can cause a shudder from the memory of the ill-fitting, unpleasant materials of the dreaded school uniform; the symbol of the end of the summer holiday and the onset of homework. This might be why over 75%-300% of staff leave hospitality roles! That’s where Bespoke Textiles comes in.
Our founder, Katie Young Gerald, set up Bespoke Textiles nine years ago to design and supply the world of hospitality textiles, specialising in sustainable yet stylish uniforms and textiles for tables, on the back of building collections and supply sources for fashion brands.
When an employer is looking to source uniforms for a large body of staff they should try and bear in mind that new bodies will arrive in different shapes and sizes and need to have the right fit in the right sex available. The problem is no one ever thinks they have a uniform or sourcing problem until they have one! But when they do, it becomes a huge headache, and usually someone’s extra work load to solve the problem and source the uniforms. Expensive errors caused by limited options, expertise and insight occur; and often bridging the gap with short term solutions can lead to an amazing amount of waste of time and money.
Embracing the fact that there is a diversity of body shapes and being able to know how to dress them well to improve self-esteem and general morale is a challenge. Happy staff are proven to be more proactive, show initiative and perform better, stay longer. They also care more.
Bespoke Textiles have honed their approach to sourcing and designing well-made, quality uniform collections.
To begin with, we sit down with a client to gather inspirational elements, using all kinds of pictures, swatches and garment references. Then, we narrow the vision down into one story, one message, one brand. You soon find that unique ideas start to reveal themselves. Combining a base garment with these ideas and brand touches provides the perfect springboard for a fresh new uniform, or other textile-based product.
People are the heart of every carefully chosen organisation that we work with, ensuring great quality relationships. Visiting clients and factories to find out what they do and how, is vital in connecting and collaborating. The businesses we work with behave like one big tribe, a team. Uniforms are vital in this, to create a sense of belonging and unity. Bespoke Textiles is dedicated to finding a solution to uniform issues.
For these reasons and many more, Bespoke Textiles is proud to contribute to the happiness of your staff.
Bespoke Textiles has a strong dedication to sustainable fashion and ethical practices, stemming from our Founder, Katie Young Gerald. She has always been passionate about vintage fashion and upcycling what may seem like tired, old garments and this has been embedded into the business.
For the next edition of our new monthly series we interviewed Francesca at Ethical Unicorn blog about sustainable fashion and how it impacts her life.
What does “sustainable fashion” mean to you?
In a nutshell I think it's fashion that is created in a way that does minimal harm to the planet or the beings that inhabit it, and hopefully benefits them instead. This can take many forms, but it essentially always boils down to that desire.
What is something you wish people knew about sustainable fashion?
There are a lot of factors to consider, which can seem intimidating, but I think it also means there's lots of different ways you can get involved that work for you! You don't have to buy from really expensive sustainable fashion designers all the time, you can try thrifting, clothes swaps with friends, or maybe even learning skills like making or mending your own clothes. There are also lots of different ways fashion can be sustainable, because there are so many materials and processes out there, so it's not as limiting as you might think.
Who inspires you and why?
So many people! At the moment in the sustainable world it's probably Alden from Ecocult, because of her relatable approach to journalism, in-depth research and ability to build something like ethical writers & creatives, but also her willingness to be corrected and hold on to humility, which I think is important in the internet world!
Which sustainable fashion brands do you like?
I love Grammar. It was really cool to write about them when they were still fundraising and now to see their products in real life! Their white shirts are beautiful (even my mum has one!). Lara intimates will probably be my favourite underwear brand for the rest of my life, not just because they're sustainable and comfortable, but because they helped me learn I was wearing the wrong bra size and they actually make bras in the right size for me. I also love Traid for thrifting.
Have you ever had an issue of ethics arise in the past?
I’ve been lucky that I’ve never had to deal with anything too bad, because I’m quite strict about who I would want to work with. I think the hardest issue is that it's impossible to please everybody. It’s part of putting yourself out on the internet and there's no completely perfect company I could work with, which is why I try and explain as much as possible in my blog posts.
Do you have any inside tips on where we really shouldn’t buy our clothes anymore?
Honestly, just the high street. Right now I don't think there's anything coming out of mainstream high street brands that I could get behind (there's a lot of greenwashing out there and murky supply chains). That doesn't mean that people have to suddenly start buying mega expensive ethical fashion, but moving over to shopping vintage or preloved (like Ebay and Depop) is a great place to start
What do you do to help slow fashion?
I haven't grown in a solid ten years, so I still hold on to clothes that I’ve had since I was an early teen. I think a big part of being sustainable is looking after what we already have. Aside from this, obviously I have more pieces from sustainable companies that get sent to me, which isn't the experience of normal people, so I make sure to look after those pieces carefully so that I can hold on to them for decades to come. Nearly everything else I ever buy is second hand. The UK has amazing charity shops, so I have everything I could ever need just at my fingertips, but funnily enough I barely ever shop, which is pretty ironic for a fashion blogger!
We would like to thank Francesca at Ethical Unicorn blog for sharing her views on sustainable fashion with us. We hope you enjoyed the second edition of our new monthly series!
Our Founder, Katie Young Gerald, is speaking at fashion trade show Pure London today. She will be discussing her 25 years experience in the luxury fashion, textiles and interiors industries; providing insights in how to source and supply luxury textiles, clothing and uniforms and how to build established partnerships across the globe.
Bespoke Textiles has a strong dedication to sustainable fashion and ethical practices, stemming from our Founder, Katie Young Gerald. She has always been passionate about vintage fashion and upcycling what may seem like tired, old garments and this has been embedded into the business. As part of a new monthly series in which we speak to sustainable/ethical bloggers who share our views, we interview slow fashion / cruelty free beauty blogger Emma from Not My First Rodeo about sustainable fashion and how it impacts her life.
What does “sustainable fashion” mean to you?
I started to learn about sustainable fashion through capsule wardrobing. Initially I just started this as a way to get my confidence back after having children and used it simply as a framework for building up a small but good quality new wardrobe from scratch. However, as time went on I started to learn more about the environmental impact of the fast fashion industry and the sustainable fashion movement.
To me sustainability is about realising that the manufacturing of clothing has a substantial impact on the environment. The clothing industry is the second most polluting industry after oil (Source: Forbes). So we need to start treating the clothing that we own with love and care, rather than seeing them as disposable. We also need to hold companies accountable for their supply chains and reject poor working conditions for clothing workers – fast fashion clothes are cheap for a reason, if we’re not paying a fair price then someone else is. Finally, the impact of different fabrics on the environment. For example, synthetic fabrics are non bio-degradable but natural fabrics such as cotton require huge amounts of water to produce. One cotton shirt takes the same amount of water to produce (2700 gallons) as a person drinks in 2.5 years. (Source)
So to me, sustainable fashion is not just about buying from niche ethical/sustainable brands but an overall shift in attitude – we buy less clothes, we wear them for longer and we generally hold them in higher regard.
What is something you wish people knew about sustainable fashion?
The average consumer is buying 60% more clothing in 2014 than in 2000, but keeping each item half as long! (Source) This is a staggering statistic showing just how the disposable clothing culture is getting out of hand.
In terms of fabric, many people don’t realise that a single cotton shirt takes as much water to produce as one person drinks in 2.5 years! (Source) Cotton is also one of the most pesticide hungry crops on the planet so it’s important to go for organic cotton whenever you can.
Man-made fibres are no better. In fact, the carbon footprint of a polyester shirt is double that of cotton (source) and when clothing made of polyester inevitably reaches landfill, it takes decades to breakdown into tiny plastic fibres that then make their way into the ocean and food chain.
Is there someone who inspires you and why?
I’m very inspired by Stella McCartney who’s been pushing the ethical and sustainable fashion agenda for decades, before it started to get the platform it has now. She was quoted as saying “I design clothes that are meant to last. I believe in creating pieces that are not going to get burnt, that are not going to landfills and that are not going to damage the environment. For every piece in every collection, I am always asking what have we done to make this garment more sustainable and what else can we do?”
I admire her for showing that it is possible to stick by your personal principles and break through into high fashion. Even her stores use electricity generated by wind power – she’s a real inspiration.
Have you ever had an issue of ethics arise in the past?
At the moment I’m trying to decide in my own head where I stand on the issue of animal leather vs synthetic. I’ve adopted a plant based diet primarily for environmental reasons but animal welfare is also very important to me. But what is best? Items made from polyurethane that’s produced from fossil fuels and produce toxic by-products; or leather from animals where leather tanning is one of the top 10 pollution problems in the world? It’s certainly something I’m really closely monitoring at the moment and any new innovations (such as Pinatex which is made from Pineapple) are firmly on my radar.
What do you do to help slow fashion?
Whilst I am super interested in sustainable brands, my “thing” when it comes to promoting a slow fashion message is to simply buy less, wear more. That could be through building a small capsule wardrobe or buying more second hand clothes. My fashion blog is not aimed at an already eco conscious market but ordinary women who I’m bringing along with me on the journey to a more conscious lifestyle, one small change at a time. Breaking out of the fast fashion addiction is just the first rung on the ladder.
We would like to thank Emma for sharing her views on sustainable fashion with us. There are some points that we particularly align with and it’s great that Emma shares the same views as us. Sustainability is a core value for us, and our founder, Katie is all about creating timeless classics that last forever and buying special vintage pieces to help slow fashion, coinciding with Emma’s techniques to help slow fashion. We hope you enjoyed the first of our new monthly series!
The state of the UK textiles industry is hugely important to us here at Bespoke Textiles. Our vast-volume orders are manufactured in Asia but for small, bespoke orders, we use UK based factories. Make It British's recent survey found textile production in the UK was up 20% and 50% of businesses reported an increase in turnover compared to last year. Many argue the need for these skills in Britain is redundant because of low costs associated with manufacturing in the likes of China, India and Bangladesh; however, these survey figures dispute this.
Make It British names the exchange rate accounting partly for the increase in production and turnover. One manufacturer reported: “as the pound loses its value our turnover has increased by 30%”. The opportunity for growth remains, with a third of textiles manufacturers not yet exporting goods. In addition, more than half said that they are receiving more enquiries than they were a year ago, as more companies look to source locally and restore their production back to the UK.
Find more information here.
This week our founder Katie Young Gerald, an expert in sustainable uniform/textile design, is in Hong Kong for Hong Kong Fashion Week. On Monday, she spoke about her experience of working in the fashion and textiles industry specifically with luxury brands. Katie is no stranger to Hong Kong having lived there for two years from 1997 to 1999. During this time Katie was able to expand her knowledge and connections in the Far East for sourcing, product development, manufacturing & consultancy for British brands, which she then continued to do in London from 2000 until today. Her services filled a gap for smaller British brands who needed to build a bespoke product range and establish a sustainable supply chain with ethical practices.
See below a video of Katie taking part in a Q&A at Hong Kong Fashion Week:
Bespoke Textiles launched seven years ago to design and supply the world of hospitality textiles. Offering everything from uniforms, aprons and napkins to blankets in an ethical way, our ethos is based on a sustainable supply chain that saves waste and reduces consumption; using recycled resources, garments and vintage inspired sourcing wherever possible. We work with fabric manufacturers, factories and mills, both locally and internationally, who also operate in a sustainable manner.
Our dedication to sustainability comes from our Founder, Katie Young Gerald. She has always been passionate about vintage fashion and upcycling what may seem like tired, old garments. So naturally, Bespoke Textiles inherited Katie’s values on sustainability and ethical practice, and this has become embedded in the business. Throughout our uniform and textile design, we have ensured that our dedication to ethical and sustainable practices remain firm.
Most recently, we have been shortlisted for The Lloyds Bank National Business Awards 2017, for the Sustainability Award category. We believe our longstanding dedication to bringing sustainability to such a large sector like Hospitality has aided this.
We were also commissioned by Dyberg Larsen to create a raincoat made out of recycled resources. With the use of plastic water bottles and the help of textile designer, Emma Jeff, we designed an environmentally friendly raincoat, created from recycled plastic bottles which are made into pellets and then re-put into fibre to create a polyester woven fabric.
Did you know?
• There are an estimated 170 million child labourers working in the textile, clothing and fabric manufacturers industry.
• In Cambodia, average pay is 50 cents per day - regardless of age.
• £100m worth of used clothing goes into a landfill in the UK each year.
• Treating and dyeing textiles accounts for 20% of industrial water pollution.
• Two billion pairs of jeans are produced each year, with every pair taking an average of 7,000 litres to produce.
• Carbon, waste and water footprints would be reduced by 20-30% if you extend the life of your clothing by just nine months.
These reasons, plus many more, are why we’re proud to be a sustainable and ethical brand!
As you may know, we have recently had the privilege and honour of being nominated as finalists for the National Business Award for Sustainability for reducing textile waste. We wanted to talk about some of our methods because we feel strongly about embedding sustainability in our company culture, and impacting attitudes in the wider business community.
So, why Bespoke Textiles?
After 8 years in the industry we have identified the problems our clients face, which not only waste time and money, but also textiles and other precious resources.
Sourcing uniform can be a huge headache. Errors, limited options and short term solution lead to MORE WASTE! Often when managers buy uniforms, they try to buy cheap, which means they end up buying twice! Mistakes like this not only cost a lot of money, but lead to unnecessary textile waste. We are all about the tailored supply chain that saves waste, Bespoke Textiles products are made to last, so won’t need to be replaced.
Increase staff morale, performance and retention by investing in a carefully considered uniform that your staff really love and enables them to feel considered and their needs understood.
We tend to match materials to the nearest factory location for manufacturing, with a core network of family businesses over the world, and we’re proud to say that over 50% are in the UK.
Lack of consistency and choice
Most businesses cannot find what they want in the shops or off the shelf. Staff (and their bodies!) come in all shapes and sizes, and finding a uniform that fits and flatters them all can be difficult! Not only that, but standard uniform suppliers can sometimes supply dull and dated product, and fashion retailers change their styles every 6 months, so you can't often buy the same thing again. This means that uniforms need a complete overhaul much sooner than necessary.
Staff turnover is higher in hospitality than almost any other industry. Statistics estimate between 50% - 300% leave annually and often so does the uniform! This can add huge headaches for managers because it costs thousands in loss of time, money, textiles and loyalty.
What is the Sustainability Award?
All the nominees for this award demonstrate an outstanding commitment to sustainability. Focusing on policies or projects that positively impact on society and the environment as well as the economy, judges are also looking for examples of where the organisation has not only changed behaviour internally but is also helping to change behaviour among customers and suppliers. This represents values of how we create and make textiles products as well as how we treat others.
More info here
We've made the headlines! Bespoke Textiles has been nominated for the National Business Award for Sustainability. Grab yourself a copy of today’s Times to read all about it, thank you for your support and recognition!
Wondering how to get the most out of your branding and uniforms and therefore, ultimately, your staff? Over the years we've created a formula for our clients to dig deep and bring to life their brand through textiles. Read on to find out how to use the B.E.S.P.O.K.E. Model to communicate your brand with clarity!
E. Endless supply
To begin, we sit down with a client to gather inspirational elements, using all kinds of pictures and garments references. Then, we narrow the vision down into one story, one message, one brand. You soon find and unique idea starts to reveal itself. Combining a base garment with these ideas and touches provides the perfect springboard for a fresh new uniform, or other textile based product.
With food, people are becoming increasingly fascinated and educated on where it comes from and how it was produced. Where is the farm? Is it organic? If you are a restaurant that subscribes to this ethos, it’s only congruent to extend that to the rest of your business. Knowing where, how and by whom your uniforms are made is an important factor to extending these ethical values to other aspects of your business.
Whether it's colour or fit, a few little tweaks can make all the difference to what you want the garments to portray for you. After we have established the tone of your brand, we can work with the key features to translate your message and enhance your brand.
People are the heart of every carefully chosen organisation that we work with, ensuring great quality relationships. Visiting clients and factories to find out what they do and how, is vital in connecting and collaborating. The businesses we work with behave like one big tribe, a team. Uniforms are vital in this, to create a sense of belonging and unity.
We have a six step programme that ensures you whole experience is organised and structured: Discover, Source, Design, Develop, Production and Deliver. The process easily covers brand style, sources for your sustainable supply, prototype samples, quality control, paperwork prepared with the packing list to you and your shipper/courier if overseas, and more.
What you give is what you get, and being kind doesn't cost a penny. Building close relations with clients and factories, by treating them like precious jewels, creates a bond in which we all receive a seamless support system. This is something we have created and upheld with our factories. You can’t buy loyalty and authenticity in relationships, it has to be built.
Sustainable, seamless and repeatable supply chain is key to manufacturing and making your products again and again. It needs to be a long term system to get the best value return for your invested time and money, you need to make sure it’s future proof. We make sure we give you the structures needed to scale up or repeat what you need easily, when you need it, and that the costs are as calculated from the beginning.
All excerpts taken from Katie Young-Gerald’s upcoming book “The Textile Touch”. Available for order soon.