Yes, We Call It A Uniform

At J.A. Uniforms, the emphasis is on details, not labels

 Has “uniform” become a dirty word? 

There are all sorts of euphemisms that describe uniforms these days, used by those who sell to the more fashion-oriented segment of the industry. You've heard the terms: Career Apparel. Image Apparel. Business Wardrobe. There are others, of course, but the one word you rarely hear is what the garments really are: uniforms. 

Unless you're a customer of J.A. Uniforms. The Miami-based manufacturer is unafraid to call it as it sees it. “Uniforms serve a purpose,” co-owner Menchu Dominicis noted. “When I look at other industry websites, I sometimes wonder what they're selling. When you visit ours, it's pretty clear what we do. And authenticity and transparency is a big part of our company culture.” 

There's also another reason. Customers like the label, according to Menchu. “There's a sense of pride in the word. Pride about what you do, and that's not to be concealed or disguised.” 

Of course, much of the reluctance to embrace the moniker stems from a time when uniforms were, well, uniform, stiff in feel and prosaic in look. But much has changed in the twenty years since Menchu and her husband, Alex Arencibia, decided to go into the uniform business. “Today's fabrics are soft, comfortable, and garments are infused with performance features,” she said. “That's a huge difference.” 

Another big change according to Menchu is the move toward customization. A service that used to be exclusively for high end customers is now equally coveted by mid-tier accounts who appreciate what tweaking a standard look can do for a brand. Take for example, Towne Park, a company that provides parking services to hospitality and healthcare facilities throughout the U.S. By eschewing the standard valet polo in favor of other shirt options, J.A. Uniforms created a look that was different from others in the niche. Or Sedano's, the largest Hispanic-owned supermarket chain in Florida – and J.A. Uniform's oldest customer, whose outfits skew more creative than your average grocery store. 

“Thoughtful design isn't exclusive to boutique hotels,” Menchu noted. 

Better design is achieved through details, and even the smallest matter to J.A. Uniforms. Hems must be straight; collars perfect. In a hurry? They'll work nights and weekends to fill a custom order if necessary. “We don't like to say no,” Menchu said. Customers can't afford to have their staff show up without uniforms, after all. 

While bigger orders are fulfilled overseas, custom work and smaller orders are done in their in-house factory. Having such a facility is rare, and gives J.A. Uniforms an edge in a hyper-competitive marketplace. They're able to do samples quickly, or offer unique modifications. Menchu explains: “We can take a blue polo and put an interesting color button on that polo. All of a sudden you have something a bit more custom that doesn't cost that much more to do, but helps the customer distinguish himself.” They're also able to do the small fill in lots that are so critical to the hospitality sector. 

It should come as no surprise that J.A. Uniforms prides itself on service, something they believe sets them apart them from larger, better known suppliers. Relationships with customers are more intimate, less bureaucratic. Place a call to its offices and it won't be long before a live person picks up - Menchu is a stickler for not having the phone ring more than three times. Thank you cards – handwritten – are snail-mailed to customers and prospects. 

“Success to us is defined by the reaction from our customers,” Menchu said. “Much of our growth has come through referrals, because our clients know we'll take care of them. If you don't need service, we're not the right fit for you.” 

Organic growth has certainly served them well, but over the next year J.A. Uniforms will add a more strategic approach to scale up the business. And it will make good use of its website, which is already a big draw. Informed by the company's Miami roots, it is noticeably different from other uniform sites. “We're not afraid of color or doing something different, or even being a bit loud,” Menchu noted. 

Their success has enabled them to be proud corporate philanthropists, evidence of which can be found on the website. Menchu cites her personal favorite as Zara Center, an after-school safe haven for AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She and her daughter discovered the organization through a book club, and the company has been a supporter ever since. 

“Both my husband and I were raised to give back,” Menchu added. “Our ambition wasn't about money, it was always about feeling good about what you do, and helping others.” 

Which may help to explain an answer to a question posed during this interview. When asked what is the must have item for customers these days, Menchu replied the following: 

“Without a doubt, the staff must be happy. There is nothing worse than investing money into a uniform program and having your staff complain. That's why I consistently remind our factory staff that people are wearing these garments on a day to day basis. They want quality, because it affects their state of mind. This is where we can have an impact. The fact that we're not doing high end fashion doesn't matter. People still want to feel good about what they wear.” 

In the end, it's about the details, and the thought behind those details, no matter what the garments are called. 

You can learn more about J.A. Uniforms by visiting www.jauniforms.com