The chips are still stacked in favour of company clothing. The image has evolved over the years and now encompasses formal, semi formal and downright leisure wear as well as the protective and uniform sectors. The stringent performance criteria always demanded by corporatewear results in quality make, which is one reason why British manufacturing is still strong on the scene. Here is a run-down of some new developments and projects that are going on in this field.

The image that a company presents as its public face is now so important that time, effort, designer expertise and judgement is justified in the choice of clothes to be worn by the workforce. These days the approach to company clothing is almost subliminal. A discreet embroidered symbol or a small pattern picked up on a blouse pocket, a tie or a minute logo is enough to identify the fact that this is indeed corporatewear.

Even casually based collections are being customised. Women make up an increasingly large part of the workforce so special women's cut polos and T-shirts are being produced by such manufacturers as Kustom Kit, which has designed combed cotton pique polos with a shorter body length and shaping across the bust. There are also feminine touches such as mother of pearl buttons and twin needle stitching. The feminised T-shirt has a scooped neckline, and is more fitted than its masculine counterpart.

In the uniform area, fabric comes to the fore. Chefs have their inimitable style, and Lauffenmhle is one of the manufacturers that takes the innovative line to hospitality workwear. There are three new fabric styles, one of which - Gary - is a contemporary take on the traditional checks associated with screaming chefs on the TV, and promises to smarten up all the potential stars toiling in the top hotel and restaurant kitchens across the land. LauffenmŸhle has teamed up with Millenium Corporate Clothing to produce chef's wear with Coolmax. This is the ultimate use, one might say, of the dual faced polycotton moisture management system as heat and kitchens come to mind.

Klopman, another famous name to conjure with, has an extended range of comfort stretch to enable recovery for corporate hardwear, as well as leisure appeal qualities with a soft handle and freedom of movement.

Brook Taverner is using cloths in wool/polyester and Lycra which is also Teflon treated. Corporate clothing often blazes a trail in fabric finishes and treatments which are taken up in fashion later.

Rebranding of hotels often starts with clothing. Simon Jersey is paying attention to the hospitality market, teaming design features with fabric technology so that there is a corporate look for front of house staff that is efficient yet also approachable. Colour is to the fore, co-ordinated with the interior decor. As to styling, Simon Jersey has asked professional chefs for their opinions, and has come up with longer bodied designs, longer sleeves and improved necklines for a comfortable fit for male and female chefs.

De Baer is another famous name in the corporatewear field and is also focusing on hotel design with a new range for Corus Hotels. Orange and purple were the core colours at Corus, so a navy suit was chosen and the colour introduced through bright accessories. There is thus a purple food and beverage tie, and orange front of house tie in three shades, with a logo.

Strategic Partners Europe is active in the hospital sector - a growth area if ever there was one. With Trusts merging and consolidation all over the country, there is still a lot of scope here. The Cherokee range includes cartoon characters like Snoopy, Rug Rats and Garfield to encourage patients to relax. Great Ormond Street has already taken them up, as well as Yorkhill Health Trust. The emphasis is on comfort and fitness for purpose, as well as stylish qualities.

Lauffenmhle is also looking at hospitals with its Rebecca range of colour woven fabrics for uniforms, featuring seersucker stripes, checks and chambray effects.

Leisurewear brand Jerzees has introduced cotton twill shirts destined for both men and women in a choice of colours including white, french navy and classic red. Jerzees Outdoor includes a reversible jacket with fleece lining, zipped pockets and mobile phone pouch, as well as a lightweight ripstop jersey lined jacket.

Serious performance is required by the emergency services. Ten Cate Protect has aramid fabrics for use in high-risk situations such as the fire brigade and for petrochemical workers. Its Tecasafe has several applications, and provides protection against heat risks for industrial workers. The Teflon HT finish makes it resistant to water, oil and dirt and thus applicable to various end-uses. Ten Cate claims to be the largest supplier of fabric for professional and protective clothing in Europe.

Damart, long renowned for its thermal underwear, has introduced a range of non-thermal, l00 per cent cotton T-shirts, polos, roll necks and sweatshirts which are now being worn by members of the Northumbria Police Force.

3M reports that several workwear specialists have produced summer ranges of pure cotton polos and T-shirts with reflective fabrics. This move facilitates the same level of safety for workers who are near moving traffic in the summer months as in winter, and is to avoid non compliance, neatly described by the makers of Scotchlite as "hanging your reflective waistcoat on a shovel".

The big style boys are also getting in on the act. Paul Costelloe has designed the new Sainsbury's uniform with orange logo and stylised peppers and strawberries on a blue ground, and accessories such as baseball caps, fleeces and rugby shirts. Navy skirts and trousers, long and short sleeved blouses and maternity dresses will be part of the collection. A choice of four ties is quite significant since it is giving back to the wearer some degree of flexibility and involvement, and the Sainsbury's exercise reflects the move towards consulting staff to a greater extent which is happening throughout the industry.

Designer Sue Stedman has been turning her attention to Allders stores. A classic business look was the brief for a revamp, and there was staff consultation here too. A fitted navy blue tailored skirt and matching jacket with three gold buttons is teamed with a navy blue print on cream ground with revers collar and six panel skirt.
Marta Maratchi has created a similarly corporate look for shoe retailer Clarks, with caramel trousers incorporating a stretch woven element or a straight skirt with a reinforced back vent - both tailor-made for shop assistants who spend time on their knees. Green shirts complete the look; while children's staff wear burnt orange.

The brief dictates the garment in many cases. Wimbledon umpires apparently have to turn their heads 280 times in a match, and although Wimbledon has kept its formal approach to the umpire's uniform, Lycra springs onto the tennis scene with wool worsted fabrics, Teflon finishes and super soft shirtings. Cotton Pontella shirting, smooth seams, and a two-piece button down collar from Wood Harris provided the requisite comfort for overworked necks.
With such attention to detail, the market continues to move forward.