At CanadaFashionLaw we love learning about interesting facets of the fashion industry and love to help fashionistas become aware of different career paths within the industry. So when we met Laura DiMarcello, the Supervisor of Uniforms at Porter Airlines, we had to share her story. Laura gives insight into the important role that uniforms can play in corporate branding. We hope you enjoyed this interview, as much as we enjoyed putting it together!
How did your career path lead you to head up the uniforms department at Porter?
When I was in my early 20’s, my career started in beauty. I loved make up, color, and the creativity of being an artist. I had recently graduated from the Humber College Fashion Arts program, and was managing “Faces” – a beauty retail shop. One day a good friend had an opportunity for me to work in the fashion wholesale industry. I didn’t know much about the business and I was thrilled by the possibilities, so I immediately accepted the position.
My career started in showroom sales as an Administrator and over 7 years I grew to become brand Manager; dealing with buyers across the north American market, creating distribution strategies, visiting international tradeshows, and trying to sell your line as the next best thing Beyoncé ever had. Throughout all my sales adventures I was privileged to work with some of the greats –Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Belstaff. I learned about quality, luxury, heritage and innovation in design. It was only natural that I became interested in design and product development, which eventually lead me to study a degree in design at OCAD University. When presented with the opportunity to head up Porter Airline’s uniform department, I immediately saw the value and potential of working with such a dynamic airline. The brand is innovative, the product had to be modern, and I had a good idea of where we could find it.
How integral are uniforms in the corporate branding strategy?
Canadian based ready-to-wear designer Pink Tartan originally designed our uniforms. The image has been a huge part of the corporate branding strategy from day one, and that’s something that will never change.
It is very important that we are “on-brand” with our look, to the point that it can be challenging to bring about change. Our product development process involves many departments from Marketing, People and Culture, and Safety Operations. The look must reflect the Porter brand, but uniform performance is just as important. This is where fashion meets function and where creativity can reach innovation.
Porter is “flying refined”. How much has this been reflecting in the uniforms?
Refined to me is defined by taking an existing design and changing it to make it better.
I reflect that statement by following criterion defined by quality, functionality, sustainability, innovation, and cost. At Porter, I can think out side of the box and use resources from the fashion industry rather than strictly uniform manufactures. For example, we recently partnered with Brooks Brothers Corp. as our private label manufacture of cabin crew dress shirts. We all can respect the quality of a Brooks non-iron 100% cotton executive dress shirt. Fashion houses are interested in the corporate business too. Giving business to commercial brands who know their product eases my mind, since I know that the product will be quality inspected and deliver the results I’m looking for.
What has surprised you as the biggest challenge and greatest delight?
I had never dealt with uniforms before joining Porter, and the business has grown at such a rapid pace. My biggest challenge is to manage inventory. Dressing the entire company is like a dressing a little city of 1,200 navy blue citizens. This can be difficult if not organized. In order to keep up with our growth, we have had to change certain processes. After some initial growing pains, we are finally able to maintain a consistent inventory. Other challenges like sourcing new software and developing an in-house showroom have provided valuable learning experience and resulted in significant improvements to the department so far. Who else can say they have a fashion showroom in a hangar?
What is your favourite Porter destination?
Home base YTZ (Toronto) is always # 1 but…….. EWR (Newark) has stolen my heart with a 20 min ride to NYC.