“…this is not just about new livery and new uniforms, it is about hearts and minds,” asserts Diane Burke, GWR Sales and Marketing Director. “Our people have to behave differently and act differently.” So that was JSD’s exciting challenge: to create uniforms engaging, enabling and inspiring GWR’s staff to play a critical role in the UK rail operator’s brand and business transformation.
GWR is a major part of the First Group’s transport network, and this high-profile rebrand was part of GWR’s biggest overhaul since the steam age. The new uniforms needed to celebrate the 19th century heritage of ”God’s Wonderful Railway” but in a contemporary design entirely relevant to a modern rail company, its employees and today’s travellers. GWR had committed to being a leader among the UK’s Train Operating Companies, and that meant outstanding uniforms across every job grade promoting wearer well-being, safety, pride and productivity through style, fit and functional excellence. As GWR’s Managing Director put it: “The launch of these new uniforms was an important step in our renaissance of rail, with the biggest investment on the Great Western network in more than a generation.”
“Our designs brought back the deep, dark Brunswick green of GWR’s train livery,” says senior JSD designer Christina Burke, “but in a subtle and deliberately contemporary mismatch with black repeated throughout the range. A traditional herringbone tweed added a further touch of heritage to this stylish, even glamorous and romantic, yet ultimately highly functional range. The zip-in lining for all top coats is one very welcome feature, for example, on a rather less than romantic chilly platform!”
GWR’s New Uniform Steering Group of 50 staff – a complete mix of job grades, ages, gender and size – worked closely with JSD throughout a two-month wearer-driven design and development process. Wearer Trials followed to coincide with and showcase the designs during the launch of GWR’s new brand identity. At the end of the trial, JSD was was able to present exhaustive wearer feedback and a statistical performance report to the GWR marketing team before final designs went into manufacturing.
Right-sizing of garments for each individual wearer is as critical to the successful Roll Out of a new uniform as fit, fabrication and functional design. JSD worked with the GWR team at Paddington to co-ordinate a sizing Road Show of all 55 product styles and for all 3,800 on-board and station GWR staff at 20+ key UK locations; and in the largest stations, given the initial scale of the launch, GWR also appointed uniform coordinators. In parallel, JSD set up a dedicated JSD Helpline for all end-wearers plus the online ordering portal where all ongoing orders take place. GWR staff even staged their own catwalk show of the new staff uniforms at Bath Fashion Week.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, GWR has shown itself to be a brand leader in both staff well-being and building public trust and confidence in rail travel. GWR was one of the first clients to work with JSD on the development of Personal Proactive Uniforms [PPU] for their staff, including a 3-ply customisable barrier mask developed by JSD to support trust-building brand consistency and meet the specific demands and other well-being considerations of customer-facing staff in the service industries. Ths JSD reusable and antibacterial mask, which reduces cost and environmental waste for clients, also provides high breathability and audibility as well as long-wear comfort.
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The launch of these new uniforms was an important step in our renaissance of rail.
GWR MANAGING DIRECTOR