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40 Years of jSD: An Interview With Susanne Malim

09 August 2021

Jermyn Street Design is an award-winning designer and manufacturer of outstanding uniforms. Founded 40 years ago, jSD creates bespoke uniforms that carry each brand’s identity while taking their individual needs into consideration. Here, we speak to founder Susanne Malim about jSD and the company’s journey and successes so far, as well as its impact on the industry.

 

Can you explain who you are and what your role is at Jermyn Street Design?

Founder of jSD. I started jSD in 1981, still own the business and continue to head up jSD’s leadership team. I am especially hands-on in terms of custom brand designs for clients, our current Green Thread Sustainability Initiative, and other workwear innovations.

I am honoured to have received 2 Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Textile Industry Awards.

“AFTER YEARS OF MODELLING, I UNDERSTOOD IN A VERY REAL AND PERSONAL WAY THE VISUAL LANGUAGE OF REPRESENTING DIFFERENT BRANDS DIFFERENTLY. BUT I ALSO UNDERSTOOD WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO WORK IN CLOTHES THAT FRANKLY WEREN’T DESIGNED FOR WORK – OR EVEN REAL HUMAN BODY SHAPES! THIS DROVE MY AMBITION TO CREATE WORKWEAR GOING FAR BEYOND FASHION TO PROMOTE NOT JUST BRANDS BUT THE WELL-BEING OF INDIVIDUAL WEARERS.”

jSD FOUNDER SUSANNE MALIM

Can you give us a bit of a background into who JSD are, what they do, and what sets them apart from their competitors?

The company was formed in July 1981 to design uniforms that wearers would actually like to wear. The name Jermyn Street Design came from Jermyn Street, London, known for the quality of the clothes it sells, and I started the business.

Our founding belief remains unchanged: No one is uniform. And this sets us apart from the competition in almost everything we do. For jSD’s clients, beautifully functional uniforms play a critical role in both staff well-being and the delivery of an outstanding customer experience.

What sets us apart?  The uniqueness of each new project and range we design. We rise to each new challenge, and our aim to understand a wearer’s journey – during their day, as they work. Retaining those origins and aspirations, we now dress 54 clients across 32 countries – each one has an entirely bespoke design and service. We truly understand that no two brands, no two clients’ needs, and certainly no two wearers’ needs are ever the same.

This core belief drives our wearer-driven design and commitment to wearer well-being, the creativity of our original brand designs, and our flexible operations managing the entire lifecycle of uniforms around both end-wearers and each client’s different operations. All these things together give us a competitive advantage vis-à-vis niche industry players without our range of experience and client services, or corporate players without our design creativity and operational flexibility.

We also marry 40 years of practical experience to industry-leading innovation. We are, in many ways, the industry-leading mavericks. Dare I say, misfits?

So, what is the big celebration that is currently going on at JSD?

We are celebrating 40 years of award-winning design, innovations, and being champions of sustainable design. But this anniversary comes at a time of exciting innovation and change in almost all aspects of the uniforms business.

So we are marking it by celebrating a host of current ground-breaking changes and creating an email series called “Uniforms Transformed” to share with our existing clients and those companies we hope to work with, as part of this celebration.

40 years is quite the milestone – has there been any particularly poignant moments within the company’s four-decade history, and is there anything that stands out as a major achievement?

jSD’s early contracts included promotional clothing for both motor and luxury brands such as Texaco, Cutty Sark, Christian Dior, and Lancôme. Designs for Max Factor, Pepsi, and Johnnie Walker soon followed as well as uniforms for QE2 and British Airways retail stores. Classic brands like Revlon, YSL, Segaworld, Chanel, Virgin Vie, Orange, The London Clinic, Gucci, Holiday Inn, and Guerlain all had uniforms designed by jSD over the next two decades – to which jSD has added further iconic brands such as Eurostar, World Duty Free, GWR, Jet2, Liverpool FC, Ocado, Dyson and additional IHG hotels.  We have worked with so many exciting and world-leading brands.

Right now, I am particularly proud of our current work on sustainability. This is much-needed by clients and welcomed by their staff today, but our work in this area dates back to 1994 and our eco-uniform project with Anita Roddick [see history].

Other key highlights for me personally are jSD winning awards every year for our designs and service.

The pandemic has obviously thrown a considerable curveball to the workwear industry – what has it been like trying to navigate such a turbulent time?

We have had to rely more than ever on our strengths: resilience, flexibility, and adaptability. Not only is no one uniform, but no two clients and no two years have ever proved the same for jSD. The pandemic was an extreme instance of this.

Our expertise in all aspects of wearer well-being lent itself to the development Personal Protective Uniforms and meant we were not only able to supply masks and other protective clothing as integral parts of a uniform design and at short notice, but we were also able to manufacture and source much-needed supplies for the NHS at a time when rogue suppliers were not helping.

Has there been anything in particular which JSD, as a business, has committed to in order to overcome the inherent challenges presented by the pandemic?

In many ways, the adoption of innovations like 3D design and visualising tools have not only made remote working easier but have been accelerated by the pandemic and are now here to stay. This has enhanced our creative process and helped us to interact with our new and existing clients in new and exciting ways.

As restrictions are eased, we are super-keen to get back to our practical on-the-job research, brand immersions, and receive direct feedback from wearers.

Are you able to tell us a bit more about catering to a more sustainable future and why doing so is so important if the brand is going to continue in such a successful fashion?

In many ways, this is a case of the market coming to us and our internal values. In fact, uniforms done right have always been inherently good for sustainability: fewer better-made clothes fit for purpose with enhanced durability.

What is important is to help clients transition step-by-step to more sustainable uniforms without disruption to their business or added cost but also starting now without delay. Our focus is on helping clients understand the relevance of sustainable options and how they and their businesses can benefit from these.

Our 12 Steps to Sustainability document and process lays out this migration for clients and our Sustainability Audits, another part of our Green Thread Initiative, help clients frame the 12 Steps specifically for them and to benchmark for measuring progress.

Finally, as a parting message, is there anything you’d like to say to the customers and partners of Jermyn Street Design, who’ve helped mould such a fruitful forty years?

As a design company, jSD can only ever be as good as our clients, their own brands and, above all, their commitment to staff well-being and related workwear issues such as sustainability.

We are very lucky to have amazing and inspiring world-leading brands as our clients both today and throughout our 40 years. We are proud to support them but also continue to learn so much from their company values, business successes, and from their staff who wear the uniforms themselves.

UNITED KINGDOM

34 GALENA ROAD,
HAMMERSMITH,
LONDON,
W6 0LT

TEL: +44 20 8563 5000

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