Choosing crew uniform providers and caring for crew clothing
Last updated: 03/08/2016
As superyacht owner or charter guests step aboard a superyacht to be greeted by the yacht’s crew, the very first thing they will notice is the appearance and demeanour of the crew, and the upkeep of their uniforms.
As an experienced stew will know, there is a lot to consider when designing, ordering are caring for yacht crew uniforms, with many interested parties to please. A reputable crew clothing and uniform provider is therefore an invaluable ally to any stew or stewardess.
Yachting Pages presents a guide to ordering and maintaining crew clothing worthy of the world’s superyacht fleet.
How to find a reliable crew uniform and clothing supplier
Finding a reputable and reliable uniform provider is essential to any crew clothing and uniform update, and a dynamic working relationship will account for a seamless process from first brief through to delivery.
Ed Taylor, founder of Taylor Made Designs (TMD) summarised, “Honesty, commitment, professionalism, reliability, communication, expertise, attention-to-detail, consultation, hard-work and experience are the most important factors expected of a reputable uniform provider.”
Helen Smallwood of Smallwood’s Yachtwear added, “There are many things to consider when selecting a uniform provider: It’s not all about fashion and the initial delivery, but also about the follow up and on-going service provided to maintain a successful program. A good provider understands the industry and the customer needs, listens, and is professional. It’s a luxury market, so high standards must be offered in any aspect of the relationship.
“When choosing a uniform supplier, the customer should consider the following questions: Is this supplier reliable and does he have expertise? Where can I find their showrooms and can I get there easily? Will this supplier be able to deliver worldwide and what is their delivery time?”
First and foremost, we recommend seeking word-of-mouth recommendations and asking questions of fellow crew. An experienced stew will likely have a wealth of experience of dealing with uniform suppliers around the world, so make sure to tap into this knowledge.
Online business reviews
If you are cruising a lesser-travelled corner of the globe, somewhere where you have fewer fellow yachties to rely on for word-of-mouth recommendations, or you want to make sure by double-checking testimonials, head to the internet. Online business reviews posted on marine search engines such as Yachtingpages.com can provide to-the-point reviews of suppliers and their services, helping you to weed out the best performers from the underperformers.
Once shortlisted, a meeting with the candidates will help you to decide on the work ethic of the suppliers and their ability to meet your requirements. Remember, a happy customer is a returning customer, so the majority of suppliers will always work hard to satisfy your requirements, but there might be one that stands out in particular in the service or products that they offer. Bear in mind that timing can sometimes be an issue for uniform companies, because when clothing is bespoke (as it often is in the superyacht industry), the turnaround is not immediate. It is important to plan ahead and give as much of a lead-time as possible.
How does the uniform design process work?
As can be expected, those clients who know what they want are able to move through the process so much quicker than those that don’t. As a client you will be able to specify the brands, fabrics, colours and styles that you require, so it’s worth considering this before approaching suppliers to ensure accurate and competitive quotations.
Looking at the brief itself in more detail, Helen outlined a step-by-step plan for uniform success. She said, “The first step is selecting a style and colour scheme that will match with the yacht’s image and meet the tastes of the owners. You should be able to request a full presentation that enables you to visualise how the crew will look. At this point, it is helpful to establish a budget so that the supplier can offer a selection that will stay within the crew uniform allowance.
“Once the style is decided, fabrics have to be chosen according to the preferences and requirements of the owners and crew, styles confirmed, order quantities established and then the process of confirming availability, delivery time, and continuity begins; accurate quotes are then presented. Upon acceptance of these quotes, the orders are processed.”
What needs to be considered when ordering crew uniforms?
Besides the requirements that are already determined by the on-board department and everyday activities of your crewmembers, the season, climate and activities that your yacht partakes in should also be considered when selecting yacht crew uniforms.
Helen explained, “It all starts with the right selection of the fabrics, followed by tests in the worst conditions to guarantee the product integrity after hundreds of uses and washes. Fitting is a science; it changes with the fashion trends and for us is an ongoing priority.”
A good uniform company will be able to identify the best fabrics to be used for each application, without hesitation. For example; 100% wool for a lightweight captain’s suit; a microfibre cloth for leisure shorts; natural fabrics for daytime and heavier fabrics for evening; or a recommendation to select a 97% cotton and 3% elastin blend over 100% cotton for a more comfortable fit.
As well as having a creative eye, your uniform supplier should be experienced in the more practical side of design, helping clients to avoid the common fitting and sizing problems that are experienced in the uniform sector. Ensuring uniforms are made ‘true-to-size’ in a range of fabrics is extremely important, especially when hiring a new crewmember. After all, providing them with new workwear should be as simple as asking them which size they require. Read trends and developments for yacht crew uniforms for yachtie tips on choosing a practical uniform that doesn’t sacrifice style.
Stocking and re-stocking: When to order crew uniforms
It’s important to allow enough time when planning new crew uniforms as big brands run out of stock and suppliers get busy during the peak season. As with many scenarios, communication is key: Your uniform provider should be able to advise when and what to order during the early stages of the process.
Helen said, “The replacement of uniforms will depend on several factors: If the boat is private or for charter, the prescribed budget, and of course the quality of the uniforms.
“Some owners will wish to change the uniform style annually, others will wish to keep the same uniforms for two seasons or more, which will be the case of most of the charter boats too. During this time some items will be added or changed, but the main part of the uniform program will remain the same. Regarding quantities, it depends on the items, how busy the boat is and the budget.”
Depending on how much work is being done on the uniform, the process can take one week to six months if completely re-designing or bespoke manufacture. Ed Taylor advises that lesser-known, lower-value brands often don’t run out of stock as often as the larger, well-known brands, while Helen suggested that discontinued products are the biggest source of frustration within the industry, making replacements and new additions difficult.
It’s helpful to know how many seasons the garments will be offered for before ordering to ensure easy replacements, as well as delivery speed and global distribution strategy of your supplier for dispatching uniforms for new recruits and emergencies.
Caring for yacht crew uniforms
As with all fabrics and materials aboard a superyacht, when in doubt, consult a professional. Ed Taylor provided tips for washing and drying crew uniforms aboard:
Washing crew uniforms
- Unless otherwise stated, wash cotton garments at 30°C with a specialist colour-care product - unless they are white. Other powders contain caustic agents like bleach, which stay in the fabric and then mix with salt from sweat and UV from the sun and it's goodbye colour, hello patchy faded nasty garment
- Avoid cotton garments where possible, especially if working outdoors
- Polyester and cottons can usually be washed up to 60°C, but this isn't really necessary with modern machines and powders - 40°C is usually fine
- 100% polyester garments will hold their colour and shape much longer than ones with cotton in. They will also wick away moisture from the skin.
Drying crew uniforms
- Pull into shape when wet. All fabrics will alter in size during washing - this doesn't mean they have shrunk. Knitted garments like polo’s, T-shirts and hoodies/sweatshirts will do this more than woven garments, such as shirts
- Hang woven fabrics to dry on a hanger, and try to dry knitted clothing on a flat surface or hung over the bars of a clothes horse/line, if possible
- Avoid tumble-drying where you can, save it for towels and bedsheets. If you have to tumble dry, do so on a low heat setting