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Building Identity at iD by Landau

The world is filled with spin offs. Some are successful, like spin off TV show “Frasier” after the sitcom “Cheers” ended or spin off product Post-It Notes, which was discovered by accident at 3M and has become one of its most popular products. Other times spin offs don’t quite make it, like the sitcom “Joey” after the “Friends” series came to an end or New Coke as a replacement for the original Coca-Cola recipe.

So it can be a tricky endeavor to create an entire sister company and have it succeed without reducing the necessity of the original business or drawing exclusively from the same customers. The spin off has the benefit of a vast pool of knowledge, but as a rule it also needs to wade into a new pool of products.

One shining spin-off success story is iD by Landau, the award-winning corporate identity design company that was born from Landau medical uniform manufacturer. With ten years under its belt already, iD by Landau has a growing base of new and repeat clients as well as product offerings and program capabilities.

“When we started, our sole purpose was to provide custom uniform programs from start to finish,” says Vice President of Sales Kim Cooper. She has been with iD by Landau for more than seven of its ten years. “We were doing business under the name Landau Identity Apparel. When we decided to change to make our product more ready-to-wear, we decided to change our image as well. And that’s what it’s all about your image, your ID so we renamed it iD by Landau.”

After analyzing what most of its customers were interested in, iD by Landau developed a line of products that would address multiple customers’ needs. It includes the standards of uniform apparel programs, like polos, camp shirts, casual/dress shirts and pants, aprons and chef coats. But there are also surprises in the line, like zipper-front tops, empire-waist shirts, short-sleeve mock turtlenecks, cardigan sweaters and a skapron (skirt apron hybrid). Cooper credits the subtle features in the garments with separating iD by Landau from its competition. One example is the men’s Terry polo with tag-less design and a signature snap instead of a third button. These little touches have pleased customers by offering a sharp look and unexpected comfort, which leads to very happy employees.

“We’ve also changed our fit,” Cooper says. “We don’t have that old boxy polo fit that’s been around forever. Our fit is much closer to the body, so we’re appealing to that young 20-something employee. We still have polos with the standard, more relaxed fit.”

The fact that different age groups prefer different fits is a new trend that Cooper is seeing in the apparel industry. In her 19 years of uniform apparel experience, she has seen a growing difference in outfitting an older person, who mostly prefers looser, more traditional fits versus outfitting a younger person, who tends to prefer more fitted, casual tops and low-rise pants. She also says women are more vocal than in the past about getting garments cut to their shape.

“They want to wear garments made to fit and flatter women. And they are right; men’s shirts don’t fit right in the shoulders, the sleeves are too long, the chest may fit but then the waist is baggy,” she says. “There is so much to be gained by outfitting female employees in a female-fit garment from an appearance standpoint, from a confidence and comfort level, and for the overall image. You will make your employee happier and you will be much happier if you outfit your employees in a garment that fits them.”

Because colors and fabrics carry over across different iD by Landau styles, clients are able to vary their fits while still clearly identifying their employees to their customers. Many of the tops are available in numerous colors, allowing clients to mix and match apparel pieces and fabric choices within the same color. iD by Landau also has created what it calls “color stories,” collections of colors that work well together and create an overall feel that can reflect the end-user’s color scheme and reinforce their identity.

The colors and styles fit into a variety of business industries. iD by Landau outfits restaurants, retail stores, casinos, daycare facilities and others. A restaurant owner, for example, may call iD by Landau and say, “My restaurant is earth tones: rust and moss,” and the design team will match a palette of colors that will work well in that environment. They also consider timeline, price points and fabric features to create a working uniform solution. The client can then decide whether he wants to outfit all his employees in the same color with a variety of styles to distinguish managers and team members, or he can instead select a single style and use the different colors to make that distinction. Or, he can do a combination, mixing styles, colors, stripes and layers to create a custom look for his restaurant. The key is to place the same logo on all uniform pieces to link the entire uniform program together.

Cooper says, “You have to take pride in what you’re wearing, and the logo on that garment is the most important piece to it. You can have the greatest shirt or jacket, but if that logo doesn’t look crisp and sharp, you’ve ruined the look. That’s what our customers are paying for their image on our garment.”

Those garments are warehoused in the 180,000-square-foot distribution center and corporate offices that iD by Landau shares with other divisions of the Landau corporation in Olive Branch, Miss. The different Landau divisions share many synergies including machinery, raw materials, facilities and labor. The iD by Landau division offers customer embroidery, hemming, monogramming and design assistance to its customers.

The design and production teams at iD by Landau meet with prospective clients to determine their wants and needs in a uniform program. When asked what is important about their business and image, Cooper says a surprising few ever mention employees, which is a mistake since employees usually make the biggest impression on customers. If the employee is attentive, clean, well dressed, polite and friendly, the customer is more likely to return.

Selecting the right uniform program may also attract better employees, she says. Many restaurant and retail locations have a competitor close by that offers roughly the same pay, hours and job duties. The uniform may make the difference in attracting those applicants who are more reliable and better suited for the job. And the longer an employer can keep an employee, the less time is spent training a new one. The bottom line is improved by offering a variety of uniform options and selecting styles that are similar to what the employee would chose to wear when he or she is not working.

“Blue may be your favorite color, but if you have to wear it every single day, you’re going to get pretty sick of it really fast, which is another reason why we have the collections. If we can give you multiple choices that all look good in your store or restaurant or whatever the location may be, then that will give the employee greater satisfaction and make them feel better about being at work,” Cooper says.

One of iD by Landau’s repeat clients is contract food vendor Valley Services. Over eight years, Valley Services has turned to iD by Landau three times to help design and implement its uniform program including T-shirts and polos as well as culinary apparel products. Two of those three resulting programs have won Image of the Year awards from the NAUMD.

Cooper spends much of her day monitoring existing accounts, checking progress on new designs, tracking sales and shipments, ensuring enough inventory and proposing redesigns to those who need a fresher look. She also works with the design team to conceive custom-designed garments for some customers as well as pursuing new customers. Monitoring stock is an important element because, she says, many customers don’t want to take the liability nowadays of buying a full supply of logoed items.

“Fast turnaround is very important these days because people don’t want to keep a lot of inventory on their shelves. They want us to do that. So if we get an order today by 10 a.m., a lot of times it’s on its way by the end of the business day. If we need to logo it, it may take just a couple of days longer.”

iD by Landau has made quick work of establishing itself both as a branch of Landau and separate from it. This spin off is the model of success in an industry of high demands, changing trends and impeccable detail. It’s been able to help its clients solidify their own identity and image while building its own.

P.O. Box 516
Olive Branch, MS 38654
(866) 608-4343

Above story first appeared in MADE TO MEASURE Magazine, Fall & Winter 2008 issue. All rights reserved. Photos appear by special permission.
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