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Designing a chef jacket the right way, The Stratford Story

Posted on Jun 06th 2019

For you connoisseurs of the chefwear industry may well have noticed, there is a distinct, consistent design to all of our jackets. Unlike so many of our competitors, we do not have a huge variety of styles. Indeed, Bragard have 92 products under the jacket category. We have, including the Stratford, 18.  There are numerous reasons behind this more refined approach. Firstly, is our strategic decision on production. The more styles and designs we offer, the more complex our production process becomes and because so much of our manufacturing is done by hand it becomes more onerous on our cutting department and seamstresses to have to continue to change their operations to cater for more styles. But through this streamlining, we can ensure consistently higher quality for every jacket that leaves our site which we feel is of greater importance than variety for the sake of it.

Secondly, is due to our understanding of the culture of British professional kitchens. On our annual customer survey we often get asked why do we not do more colours for our jackets? The reason we don’t do it as standard is the vast majority of kitchens in the UK insist on white jackets for their chefs. We have, on occasion, used different coloured fabrics on large bespoke orders but these are only possible with our poly-cotton blends. We would always recommend a white jacket over a coloured one for practical reasons, although with denim fabrics this is less important. One reason for this is white is reflective and facilitates a demonstrable difference in preventing you getting too hot. Another reason, is that spills and stains show easier on white. Now this appears a mark against white jackets but in a professional kitchen, this is tremendously important as those stains could be raw chicken or other dangerous food stuffs and so acting and cleaning quickly could prevent cross-contamination. And with the recent Pret-A-Manger scandal, even seemingly harmless (for the majority of the population) foods like nuts could be catastrophic to your reputation.

So we have always offered white, double breasted jackets in both long and short sleeve. But we thought, like every chef, we’d alter our formula slightly to see what we could come up with. We have just illustrated above the advantages of white as the colour for the fabric so no need to change there. Sleeve length options too seemed unnecessary to alter, it’s a small change which gives our customers greater choice. So it had to be the double breast, or more precisely the new single breast.

Our reason behind this was that historically, double breasted chef jackets have offered greater protection for the wearer. However, with modern fabrics features and the rise of chef aprons in kitchen uniforms, the need for this extra bit of protection has been greatly reduced. Indeed, what we have been hearing from our surveys and relationships with chefs across the globe is the need to stay cool and well ventilated is more important. The impacts of “Heat Stress” on a person’s mental health are better understood now than they ever have been, so if maintaining a reasonable body temperature is the new priority then we must do what we can to provide that. This is why as well as adopting a single breasted front for our latest jacket, we also knew we had to add our hugely popular CoolmaxTM side panels and underarm vents seen on our Oxfords, Devons and Cheshires. As well as this, the single breasted fly front gives a much sleeker, sophisticated and contemporary appearance to such an extent that it doesn’t really look like a chef jacket at all.

But what other features to add to this new, ventilation orientated jacket? As always our signature red label and sleeve pen pocket because those are our key brand identifiers. After all, we all hope you want people to see you’re wearing Oliver Harvey! But what else?

When we released our Mozo Chef Trainer range back in January 2018, we were face with a similar dilemma. Then, we put it out to our social media community to great effect. The Grind, Finn and Floyd have all been hugely successful! So we thought we’d do the same this time around too.

 Single Breasted Chef Jacket Concept Drawings

Our resident graphic designer, founder and director Rick Shonfeld created some exciting and in some cases “out there” concepts highlighting a single product feature (see above) to be put to the vote on Instagram and Facebook. We got a fantastic response and it was surprising how close the poll was. Coolmesh fabrics won by a bit of land slide, then it was very close between the reduced collar height, ring stud fastening and zip fastening. We went with the studs to reduce the bulk with at the front of the jacket plus finding high quality zips is deceptively difficult.  What we didn’t expect was our customers requesting something out of the blue which we hadn’t considered, the back neck loop. As we said earlier, chef aprons are becoming more commonplace in kitchens so to stop a bib strap riding up onto your neck we added a handy ring studded strap to hold it in place.

Once we had decided on the features of the single breasted jacket it was ready to go to trial, to see how the composition performed in the rigours of professional kitchens over a few weeks. It was sent out to 6 head chefs with some having a few extra for their teams and we prepared a simple e-feedback form for them to complete to let us know how it did. The jacket received great feedback on its appearance, comfort and fit. The single breasted front and back neck loop in particular received really positive reviews. The trial was an enormous success. It allowed us to make slight adjustments to the cut at the sleeves and collar but also realise we had created something we knew was going to make a difference for chefs. We take this opportunity to thank Ben, Laurence, David, Chris, Ben and Luke for taking part, without their feedback the jacket would not be what it is today.

The only ingredient left missing now was the name. As you have no doubt spotted, all of our chef jackets and trousers are named after locations in the Britain. This is because we are tremendously proud of our status as the UK’s finest chefwear manufacturer. But with this ultra-modern design and conception, we thought drawing on heritage wouldn’t be appropriate for such a product. Incidentally, one of the triallists, Ben Harrington was opening a new restaurant called The Stratford. That really resonated with us because when one thinks of Stratford we think Olympics, Regeneration, Legacy, a symbol of modern London and indeed Britain. What better then, for our most forward facing jacket yet?

We hope what this article has shown is the care and thought we put into designing every single one of our garments. It is our job to listen to chefs to find out what matters to them so we can do what little we can to incorporate that into our chefwear. But it is also our job to maintain our values of great quality and we know what to keep and what to change. The feedback after just 2 months from owners of The Stratford has been incredibly positive and we are so grateful people have taken the time to get in touch to tell us what they think. If you are thinking of treating yourself to new whites, our Stratford is waiting to regenerate your chef uniform.   

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