Creating safe workwear for women
Designing new workwear takes time and requires a lot of expertise. That is why Anne Vääri, with her 20 years of experience in product development, is the key person in Lindström’s new line of protective workwear for women.
As a product manager, Vääri’s job is to develop and improve the global workwear offering for Lindström Protective Clothing. She is passionate about her job and loves even the hardest challenges and pays attention to the smallest details. Both qualities came in handy when Anne Vääri, in collaboration with a team of experts, was faced with a tricky task of designing the first-ever Lindström protective workwear clothing line for women.
“To understand the different needs and tasks of the user wearing the garment is the most critical part of any garment design process. To develop functional clothing, designed to protect the person and keep her/him safe is very demanding because you also need to know the requirements of the applicable legislation and standards.
Protective clothing must protect the user, and it must be both comfortable and ergonomic. You need to understand the different movements and positions, what tools are used, etc. in order to place the seams and the critical details, like pockets, in the best possible way. Women have different proportions than men, we are usually smaller, and we do have a bit more curves than our male counterparts – so, there are some challenges, for example, when trying to include all the necessary pockets onto a smaller space of available material,” explains Vääri.
In the past, women had been accustomed to using men’s protective workwear, which usually meant that the clothing would not fit properly.
“Having hips or bit of a bust means that you have to size up on the clothing, which in turn means that the pants or jacket will be too big on other parts. Excessively large garment size can cause safety issues, e.g., inordinately long trouser length could make the movement more difficult, not to mention the sparks and spatter gathered to pleats in flame retardant clothing. So, when a customer asked us about protective clothing designed for female workers, we decided to give it a go, to make their working days more comfortable and protected.”
Passion for challenges
Development of new workwear takes time and good, open communication with the project group is critical to guarantee the best possible result. Several sample rounds, fitting sessions and washing tests are needed. The result is a team effort of different professionals, from product managers to designers, garment technicians, pattern designers, and manufacturing specialists. These professionals create the design, the specifications, the product patterns, the sewing of prototypes, and the preparation for mass production.
In addition to the above, there are requirements and standards that especially protective clothing needs to follow.
“To make sure the garment is truly safe, you especially need to exceed the minimum requirements of the protective clothing standards. The best solution is the one that has the optimised fit, ergonomic details, a durable and comfortable material – a garment that enables the user to focus on the work without compromising safety.“
The hunt for the perfect fit
Creating a fitting garment in one size isn’t enough as people come in different shapes and sizes.
“We usually make the garment fit with our own people, and with as many different body types and sizes as possible, to make sure clothing feels and acts as intended. To make the fitting sample in only one size is simply not enough. For women, our focus was to find the best fit for all different sizes, and it did take two years to go through all the sample rounds and fitting sessions – from the idea to the launching of the line for users,” Vääri recalls.
Even though the protective workwear line for women is now released and available for the customers, Anne’s work is never over. Every time she sees a person wearing Lindström workwear, she observes how the garment fits and looks, and how the garment reacts to the movements of the person.
“Whenever I see a person wearing Lindström’s workwear, I secretly look at the fit, the look, the behaviour of the material, and how the garment reacts to the movements of the person. You are never truly finished with product development, you must improve it all the time – it is the driving force of your work. When people can forget what they are wearing and can do their work comfortably,” adds Vääri, “then I know my work has been a success!”