CREAM Workwear was a runner up at Fine Food’s New Foodservice Product Award. We spoke with founder and creative director Pam Burnett about why she is bringing her organic and ethical business practices to the hospitality industry.
Why did you launch the business?
A friend of mine who is a chef was always moaning about the awful clothing he was expected to wear. He was always hot, uncomfortable and restricted by the fabric, shape and style of the uniforms. He asked me to design a chef uniform which would be cool, comfortable and that he would feel great in. I laughed off the idea at the time – I was a fashion designer and knew nothing of the hospitality industry.
That was seven years ago when I still lived in Cape Town. After coming to Australia I noticed that chefs were being acknowledged as the new rock stars of the hospitality trade. But these new stars were wearing the same old uniforms and I thought, ‘okay, maybe Pete’s (my chef friend) got a point. I’m going to do some research and find out more.’
What did you see was lacking in the hospitality uniform market?
There were no stylish, comfortable, trendy garments to match the celebrity chefs, the trendy establishments and their brand identities. Everyone works so hard on developing and promoting their unique brand but due to limited choice in the marketplace, their staff end up wearing the same uniform/apron that their competitors and neighbours do.
And staff want to be happy when they work. Looking good adds to staff morale but they need to be comfortable too. This was another thing missing in mainstream uniform options.
Why use organic cotton?
Have you seen the latest Blade Runner movie? When I was watching it, I thought ‘the way we’re going, it’s not impossible to imagine that in the year 2049 we may be living like that’ and I don’t think of any of us would choose that. If we chose an organic method of agriculture, we and our ecosystems will both be way healthier.
What sort of testing did you do?
Having been in the fashion industry for many years I had extensive experience in fabrics, but I was new to the hospitality industry so there was a steep learning curve. We gave our first samples to chefs and bakers to test in the kitchen, and this was an enormous help in perfecting fabric weight, style, functionality and longevity.
What has been the feedback?
Overwhelmingly good. We have very loyal customers who tested us in the beginning by buying one jacket or an apron, then returned back to buy for their immediate team, and now we’re dressing entire teams throughout their restaurants and hotels. Our garments are even purchased as gifts for visiting international chefs, this is a great testament to our market perception.
Are operators open to spending a little bit more on keeping their staff comfortable?
Yes. As we all know, one of the biggest problems in the hospitality industry is staff retention. It costs way less to dress a staff member in an awesome uniform which makes them feel proud, part of a team and very comfortable to work in, than it does to recruit and train new staff members. If staff are comfortable in their day, they will be more creative, efficient and deliver better results. Great uniforms help to promote team pride. We have heard this over and over again ‘these uniforms make me want to go to work’. Isn’t that what every operator wants to hear?