Stylish uniforms for stylish yachts: Designing yacht crew uniforms
Last updated: 10/06/2020
Yacht crew uniforms and clothing offer guests an all-important first impression of a superyacht and its crew, setting the scene for the charter or trip ahead.
Well-made, stylish crew uniforms grant crewmembers a feeling of inclusion, boosting team morale for all aboard; they are an extension of the yacht’s décor, and are worn around the clock. As a result of this, they should be smart yet practical, fitting to the crew as well as the carpentry and joinery fit to the yacht’s interior. The choice of colours, fabrics and designs therefore become a critical decision for the chief stew or interior manager.
Yachting Pages spoke to leading yacht crew uniform providers about the latest trends and technologies in the crew uniform sector, offering insight into new trends for stylish yet practical crew clothing.
Yacht crew uniform and clothing trends
With all clothing markets, there is fashion. In the crew uniform sector there are continually new fits, fabrics, designs and technologies evolving to meet the needs of the busy superyacht industry and its discerning guests.
Helen Smallwood, founder of Smallwood's Yachtwear said, “Uniforms have to be designed in a way that always has to look impeccable, but at the same time feel very comfortable. This is where the difficulty lies; they have to adapt to different scenarios throughout the workday in the same way that an employee does, becoming an ergonomic tool that facilitates his or her day-to-day routine, all while looking great. These factors are taken into consideration when selecting fabrics and developing new styles; they have to feel and move with crew like a second skin - which speaks volumes of the fabric selection and fit.”
This is where an experienced crew uniform supplier can step in to lend a hand. But what are the current style trends in the sector?
Kate Greaves, sales director at Deckers said, "Yacht uniform has certainly moved with the times. Over recent years, we've experienced a trend in sports brands becoming more sought after - footwear in particular. Slim fitting mens shorts and chinos are replacing the previous demand for wide and straight leg styles, and our Exclusive Range is continually developing as more female crew are turning to the stylish evening dress option for service.
"Also apparent has been the switch in the boys taking as much interest in fit and fabric as the girls. Essentially times have changed, and the classic yacht uniform is continually developing into modern, fashionable attire. We've seen nautical wear extend into mainstream fashion also."
Prudence Ellis, founder of Anchors & Dove argues that, with yachts themselves styled by world-renowned interior and exterior designers, it seems only natural that the crew’s attire should compliment and reflect this same level of style and quality. She said, "My decade-long experience as a chief stewardess and ‘uniform girl’ at sea was the light bulb moment. I saw a void in the market as a large percentage of yacht crew are young people; fashion and image is very important to them and many uniforms just don’t measure up, so it seems incomprehensible that style and fashion are often sacrificed rather than integrated. This is what inspired me to create my first collection."
Yacht crew uniform fabrics
As you would expect within the yachting industry, hard work and hot climates dictate that the emphasis is on fabrics that use moisture management and quick-dry technical fabrics to regulate the body’s temperature. In recent years, developments have also moved towards smart fabrics that are water-repellent, and those with SPF technology.
Kate said, "While one could argue that the superyacht world has a high impact on the environment, we'd all like to see an improvement in awareness in the future, and perhaps as a result a rise in ecological fabrics. Adidas, for example, has recently launched a trainer made from recyclable fabrics which caused quite a stir. These decisions however are ultimately down to the yacht owner, whose focus is likely to remain fixed on style and budget. With this in mind, we don't predict an earth-shattering changes to the uniform fabrics are styles that we're seeing today any time soon!"
With an increase in explorer yacht design, and venturing further afield into more extreme weather conditions, there has been a new need for crew clothing to be developed for colder and multi-climatic environments. Ed Taylor, founder of Taylor Made Designs (TMD) advised that because of this, light layering is now in favour; crew fleeces now have a tighter ‘microfibre’ weave, and soft shell jackets feature a three-layer bonded technology, which makes uniform both wind and water resistant.
Helen said, “Just as explorer yachts are built to travel to all parts of the globe and to endure all climates, it’s important to select uniforms that will also adapt. Many of the new fabrics not only keep you warm in cold climates, but also have properties that will keep you cool in warm climates. Layering can be an important component that allows crew to use some of the same items no matter what the climate, which saves both money and storage.”
Anna Bardakou, head designer at Suitform®, explained that silicone treatments are often used to create extra softness for fabrics and ‘easy-travelling’, helping uniforms to stay wrinkle-free during travel, while lightweight, easy-care fabrics will always be in demand in the sector.
Ed explained that there is no ‘one’ fabric that is more or less suitable for yacht uniforms than any other. He said, "It largely depends on the garment itself, its usage and placement on the yacht, who’s wearing it, how it’s being cared for and the environment which it is being used.
“Garments that can be easily cared for and turned around quickly are obviously popular, maybe this is why traditional uniform colours tend to be lighter in shade. In the past, yachts have avoided darker colours with high natural fibre content, as they are more difficult to control and look after. They would lose their colour and shape very quickly without proper care and maintenance.”
In recent years, the industry has seen more technical fabrics and fibre mixes available, which are treated appropriately before manufacture. Suppliers can therefore be more confident in what they are offering as they can give more attention to the styles and colours requested, and not be afraid of durability.
In such an active, hands-on job, movement must also be considered in fabric choice. More and more stretchable fibres – elastane, lycra, viscose – are going into the construction of fabrics today, helping comfort and durability.
Anna explained, “Our opinion mirrors our client requests, filtered through our experience. We suggest pure cotton items for day uniforms, as it is naturally breathable, fresh and friendly with the acidity of the body. Evening uniform requests are mainly for uniforms that look formal and elegant, ideal for the interiors as well as the decks. The preference is for dresses, jackets and bottoms made with cool wool fabrics.”
When it comes to crew uniform, there is unfortunalely no one-size-fits-all solution or standardised sizing protocol. Fit and fabric selection are vital to the end look, and turnaround vital to the successful of overall project, which is why it's often best to choose a supplier that has a showroom or representative nearby the yacht's location or frequent hangouts. Many will then be able to visit the yacht, meet the crew, bring samples and make professional sizing and design recommendations.
Helen explained, “Crew members come from all over the world. Customers step into our showroom with European, American and Italian sizes, but unfortunately there is no international sizing chart, and with each body being different, we ideally recommend that the customers try on the garments.”
Why go white? Dye sublimation printing
Ed explained that dye sublimination printing is a new trend that is transforming the 'traditional' white yacht crew uniform at Taylor Made Designs. He said, “When we think of yacht and crew uniforms, we instantly think of the traditional clean polo shirt with an embroidered logo on the left breast and the nape of the neck – but times are moving on, and so is the garment printing industry.
“Dye Sublimation is a specialised print process we are using, whereby an image or pattern actually becomes part of the garment itself. It results in an incredibly high quality, photographic finish design with extraordinarily brilliant colours, which simply looks amazing. The design can be printed all over the garment, all the way up to the seams and onto the sleeves if you wish. The only boundary to the design is your (or your captain’s) imagination!
“Due to the process involved, the pattern consistently looks impeccable, it does not crack or peel off and it will last numerous wears and washes, making it exceptionally popular for repetitive use. It is, however, currently limited to polyester fabrics only.”
Interactive ordering technologies
Many suppliers in the sector are in agreement that the biggest developments within the industry are now with intelligent and interactive ordering technologies.
Ed explained, “At Taylor Made Designs, those ordering uniform can compile orders using a bespoke password-protected order platform. Authorised users do not have to look up past orders to check codes, colours or sizes. Admin and reporting is all logged; there is no need to file historic orders, and managers know exactly what crew across the yacht should be wearing. It’s free to set up and brings so many efficiencies to the whole operation, not just the person who is responsible for maintaining uniform requirements.”
Helen agrees that interactive online templates and web spreadsheets have made it much easier to establish budgets and orders, allowing customers to gauge the cost of their potential investment as they progress. She said, “These tools allow customers to play with different products and quantities in order to get an idea of what they will be spending. Smallwood’s has introduced ‘My Portal’ to make the ordering process easy and efficient - your custom configured online store where the items and categories are tailored to your specific needs. It's the easiest way to keep track of your entire uniform program, right down to logo color size and placement. The items that you will see in here are your actual items, complete with the embroidery and/or printing.”
A good crew uniform supplier should be able to keep the relevant parties informed and up-to-date on the latest in design innovations, fits, fabrics and technologies, notifying them of new options to suit their crew uniform requirements.
Yacht crew uniforms: Style vs. practicality
With style trends in mind, where do practicality factors enter: Do sacrifices have to be made between design and practicality, or can the two be successfully combined?
Anna said, “Rather than ‘style’, at Suitform®, we prefer to use the term ‘design’, as this means the aesthetic issues have to be combined with practical matters. Aesthetically, the uniform should represent the identity of the yacht, while practically it has to be comfortable and functional, so that the people wearing it are able to work easily and feel good in doing so.
“Personally, as a fashion designer, I believe the extreme use of style or trends might make the uniform look ridiculous and so we choose to express the essence of our customers, while adding the timeless codes of fashion elegance and class for style.”