Workwear: Uniforms for the Future

” Some time ago, the cowl did make the monk, the metalworker and the lawyer “


Most companies in the uniform industry strive to outfit employees to look and feel their best while maximizing their ability to perform. Sales targets, manufacturing capabilities, program roll-outs, and tech design are often the things that fill our days and keep our businesses running. However, it is not often that we take a step back and consider the wider implications of our work. Uniforms have had a rich history over time, and have greatly influenced our concepts of identity and occupation.

Currently showing at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto is Workwear, an exhibition curated by Milan-based architect, designer and artist Alessandro Guerriero. Workwear displays the work of 40 international artists, designers and architects who sought to reimagine the concept of uniform in an ever-changing society.

Guerriero investigates the origins of workwear in order to posit its future trajectory. In fact, as Guerriero  states, the “exhibition is not a display of ‘work clothes’ but of garments for hypothetical, invented, coveted, imaginary jobs that actually invent new jobs for a new and different society.”

The concept of both uniform and occupation is thus playful and avant-garde in its tempering. Angela Missoni’s Uniform for a Dreamer [Image 1] or Antonio Marra’s Cloud Hunter [Image 2] are made for fantastical jobs that may or may not exist in a future, imaginary society. In contrast to the whimsical and hypothetical examples of workwear are also pieces with a more critical attitude towards the themes of uniforms and work. Faye Toogood’s Workers of the World Unite [Image 3] consists of 14 hand-painted smocks; each one associated with a different profession, yet superficially identical and lacking personal diversity. Her work, often based in Communist theory, aims to communicate the destruction of the soul and identity in the workplace.

Noted fashion designer Issey Miyake’s work, Extreme Film [Image 4], has also received significant attention in the exhibit. What at first appears to be a gold lamé jumpsuit made for a Ziggy Stardust-inspired traveler was in fact created for the exhausted African migrants docking at the Italian island of Lambedusa. Guerriero heralds this work as “the most profound and important piece in the whole project”.

A fresh perspective can be one of the most valuable business tools. Art can be that lens that allows us to see the world we live in, or even, the one we may inhabit in the future, in a completely different way.  So, what will your business look like in the future? And perhaps most importantly, what will you wear?

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