Imperial War Museum

“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. It was important that the staff stood out and were visible at all times, too.”

Rebecca Rhoades, Designer at JSD

Imperial War Museums – branded as IWM – is a British museum organisation with five famous branches: the Imperial War Museum, HMS Belfast and the Churchill War Rooms, all in London; Ducksford aerodrome in Cambridgeshire; and IWM North in Manchester. Uniquely, this family of museums brings our heritage alive and helps visitors to understand the history of modern conflict, from the First World War to the present day.

As part of its major refurbishment programme, IWM had identified the need for a corporate uniform that could be worn by 160 staff across all five sites. Previously, employees had worn different clothing at each location, with no consistency of style or branding. After researching online to gather ideas, they approached Jermyn Street Design in November 2013.   Initially, IWM was planning on a stock option for its staff uniform.  But when the JSD team visited and presented the option of a bespoke uniform, IWM was won over by the idea and we were awarded the contract in February 2014.

The brief was for a uniform that must be smart, yet casual – with a contemporary twist that would not look out of place in the historic museum settings. The other important factor was timings: IWM was working to a tight turnaround and uniforms had to be delivered for rollout in June 2014.

“During our visit to IWM London 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. It was important that the staff stood out and were visible at all times, too.”

JSD used the IWM brand guidelines to present two colour palettes – from burnt oranges to rich shades of red – that offered a diverse choice for the new uniform. IWM chose a deep burgundy with dark grey from its own house colour palette. Responding to the client’s tight schedule, our design team sourced stock fabrics available in the IWM colours and commissioned a factory in Europe for faster manufacture.

“The emphasis was on layering to provide warmth, comfort and ease,” says Rebecca Rhoades. “We 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. We wanted to offer the staff extra layers across all sites, so we designed a black gilet as an additional wardrobe essential and an outerwear coat, too. We used the same burgundy for contrast detailing to fit with the rest of the collection, with the IWM logo embroidered on the back.”

Timings did not allow for a wearer trial to be conducted. But drawing on our experience designing uniforms for a range of visitor attractions, JSD could confidently create designs that we knew would work well for IWM employees. JSD manages 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 uniform that now helps to promote the IWM brand across its five high profile museums  – a uniform that its staff are proud to wear.