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Imperial War Museum

Imperial War Museums – branded as IWM – is a British museum organisation with five famous branches. As part of a major refurbishment programme, IWM identified the need for a corporate uniform for 160 staff across its five sites. Previously, employees at each location had worn different clothing, with no consistency of style or branding. When IWM approached JSD, the organisation was initially planning on a stock option for its staff uniform. But when the JSD team presented the option of a bespoke uniform, IWM was won over.

It was important to incorporate a sense of heritage and for the designs to be flexible – to allow staff to carry out their specific functional jobs. The uniforms also had to make the staff stand out at all times and keep them warm.

Rebecca Rhoades, JSD In-house designer

The brief was for a uniform that must be smart, yet casual – with a contemporary twist that would not look out of place in these historic museum settings. Uniquely, this family of museums  – the Imperial War Museum, HMS Belfast, and the Churchill War Rooms, all in London; Ducksford aerodrome in Cambridgeshire; and IWM North in Manchester – brings our heritage alive and helps visitors to understand the history of modern conflict, from the First World War to the present day.

The other important factor was timings: IWM was working to a tight turnaround and JSD had to deliver the uniforms for rollout in a few months.

“We researched the history of the museums and identified elements that could be incorporated into the uniforms,” explains JSD designer Rebecca Rhoades. “It was important to build in a sense of heritage, but for the designs to be flexible enough to allow staff to carry out their specific functional jobs. Staff need to be visible at all times, too.”

The emphasis was on layering to provide warmth, comfort and ease. JSD specified relaxed knitwear – a cardigan for women and a sweater for men, both long-sleeved and in a matching burgundy wool mix, worn over bespoke shirts and blouses. To offer the staff across all sites extra layers, we designed a black gilet as an additional wardrobe essential and an outerwear coat. The burgundy was used for contrast detailing to fit with the rest of the collection, with the IWM logo embroidered on the back.

Responding to the client’s tight schedule, our design team sourced stock fabrics available in these IWM colours and commissioned a factory in Europe for faster manufacture.

Timings did not allow for a wearer trial to be conducted. But drawing on our experience of designing uniforms for a range of other UK visitor attractions, JSD could confidently create designs that we knew would work well for IWM employees. JSD continues to manage the account, with stock held at the Davis Turner warehouse.

It took just six months from the time we received the e-enquiry for JSD to design, manufacture and deliver the bespoke workwear. This uniform continues to help promote the IWM brand across its five high profile museums  – and it is a uniform that staff teams across all five museums are proud to wear.

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